Fantasy Fishing: Wild rides and wise decisions at Winyah Bay

All it took was one Bassmaster Elite Series event to tell us a crucial detail about Winyah Bay, the Cooper River is a player, which means long runs and risk will be featured on the South Carolina coastal fishery.

One other thing it taught us was there are indeed fish close to takeoff in the plethora of creeks and rivers nearby. Don’t bank on everyone making the run to the Cooper, but consider some anglers who could play it safe and smart to maximize time by fishing closer.

BUCKET A: WALTERS

My pick: Patrick Walters

I never go chalk. In fact, I have a tendency to go against the grain in my picks sometimes out of spite, but this week it’s so very difficult to ignore Walters’ knowledge. The Elite Series rookie figures out fish across the country, so the events in his backyard are almost like pets. All kidding aside, I saw him slowly but surely dominate a College B.A.S.S. Regional at Winyah Bay as he pulled tricks out of his hat. At minimum, he will have a positive and confident outlook on this event and won’t get frustrated when the going gets tough because he knows a lot of high-percentage areas on this body of water.

Considered: Brad Whatley

This could be the week for Brad Whatley. He has made the Top 35 cut in all three Elite Series events, and his worst finish is 27th. He could finally break through this week and notch a Top 10. Winyah Bay suits his style for the most part, so be on the lookout for the Texas pro.

BUCKET B: LOWEN

My pick: Bill Lowen

The chances are pretty high for Bill Lowen to have back-to-back Top 10s in South Carolina. After coming off a great showing at Lake Hartwell, he could certainly back it up at Winyah Bay. He tends to turn nothing into something on tough fisheries, and he finds a way to stretch two or three bites into limits every day. Lowen could also be a pro that plays it smart one of the days — or all for that matter — and fishes closer to Georgetown than most. If Lowen finds a population of fish in a stretch of the river, watch out, because it will be right up his alley.

Considered: Matt Herren

Flipping and pitching is a great way to catch bass at Winyah Bay and that is Matt Herren’s favorite way to catch them. After a mid-50s finish in Florida he has two top 20s. Can he keep the momentum train rolling on the South Carolina coast? I think it’s a bet worth considering

BUCKET C: PALMER

My pick: Luke Palmer

It can be hard to identify the strengths of many of the new anglers on the Bassmater Elite Series. Luke Palmer may be a mystery to some, but he is a shallow, dirty-water power fisherman at heart. If a squarebill crankbait or flipping bait is in his hands, he is happy and at home. Coming from Oklahoma, Palmer knows how to grind it out when you might not get too many bites. Grinders are going to grind. Siding with someone with 0.4 percent ownership is risky, but this week it could be worth the risk.

Considered: Keith Combs    

Keith Combs made Championship Sunday in 2016 at Winyah Bay. He probably knew he wasn’t around the fish to win back then, but he was around some solid fish for a great finish. If all else fails and he doesn’t want to make the risky run to the Cooper River, or if his plan falls apart, he does know some of the rivers close to Georgetown enough to fish with confidence.

BUCKET D: LATUSO

My pick: Robbie Latuso

Fresh eyes. A lot of my picks will include those with fresh eyes on Winyah Bay. I may end up talking out of both sides of my mouth because having some kind of history here is probably crucial, but maybe not in 2019. Everyone fishing this week has watched the 2016 Elite Series show over and over. They know the general areas, but with the extremely high water lately, things may have changed. New anglers won’t settle because of history, they will possibly fish free and look for spots that are working in 2019 and not past years. Robbie Latuso is one of those guys for me. Plus, Winyah Bay is basically a Louisiana fishery transplanted to South Carolina. There are a lot of similarities between it and the Sabine River.

Considered: Cajuns (Carriere and Rivet)

I’ve gone with a somewhat Cajun mindset in these latter buckets. Tyler Rivet and Tyler Carriere are on my mind here as they are used to this type of fishing. It can be daunting trying to break down a big system like Winyah Bay, but Rivet has grinded out top 10 finishes in the Opens and College Series on ultra-tough fisheries. Rivet and Carriere also have some great mojo after fantastic Hartwell events, too.

BUCKET E: HUDNALL

My pick: Derek Hudnall

Derek Hudnall is chomping at the bit to wet a line. After an error in judgment and a subsequent DQ at Lake Hartwell, he took it like a champ and made the best of it. This week he is back in the game at Winyah Bay and is as motivated as they come. His passion for the sport is noted, and he will put everything he has into making this a great event to gain some valuable points.

Considered: Rick Morris

Rick Morris lives near the James River in Virginia. He has a lot of experience there and other tough tidal rivers. He has a good amount of patience and could really prosper if he finds and area where he can get a few bites in practice.

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