Final day on Winyah Bay

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Andrew Canulette

GEORGETOWN, S.C. – And then there were 112.

It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but that’s how many anglers survived the cut to compete on the third and final day of the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Eastern Regional presented by Magellan Outdoors.

There are 56 boats tournament boats on the water Friday, with each carrying a boater and a non-boater. They include the Top 34 competitors in each division that fell within the money line after Thursday’s action was complete. The remainder of the field is fleshed out with those who weren’t in the money line but are among the Top 3 boaters and non-boaters from 17 U.S. states and the Canadian province of Ontario.

There’s no sure-fire way to predict what today will bring, but if the past two days are any indication, a double-digit limit of bass is the goal. There are big bass in the Winyah Bay system here in coastal South Carolina, without a doubt, and fishing fans have seen some of them this week. Pennsylvania boater Brad Bressler has the heaviest bass of the event so far with a 5 pound, 5 ounce beauty he weighed Thursday.

But many anglers have found the tidal rivers here tricky, or so their catches this week would indicate.

Take Dave Turner – a Florida boater leads the field with a two-day total of 21-3. He produced a very nice limit of five bass weighing 14-4 on Wednesday, but slipped Thursday with another five fish that totaled 6-15.

And still, Turner (who readily admitted his struggles on Thursday), has the tournament lead by more than a pound catch.

The boaters closest to him are West Virginia’s Tyler Webb with 19-15, Florida’s David Boyd with 19-10, Delaware’s Jason Vaughn with 18-8 and North Carolina’s Norman Mullinax with 18-5. Realistically, that quartet has the best chance of catching Turner, but anything is possible in a tight competition -- and in late June, at that, when scorching Southern temperatures put the grind on anglers from all locales.

Georgetown’s very own Gary Pope also struggled on Thursday in the non-boater field, but clung to a narrow lead in his division. He has a two-day maximum of six fish weighing 13-13, but Pope added only 3-9 to his weight total yesterday.

Some morning problems with bow lights on Thursday added to Pope’s difficulties, but if he draws the right boater today (or at least someone who asks the local for input on where to fish), then he would be considered the favorite.

Jimmy Myers might have something to say about that, however. Myers was part of Team Delaware, which won the team competition of this regional yesterday. Myers is fishing for individual honors today, and his ability to read tidal areas like those he sees at home could pay dividends.

Closest behind that to duo on Friday are Virginia’s Travis Lugar with 11-14, Georgia’s Weston Wilkes with 11-6 and Maryland’s Brandon Forsman with 11-0.

There are quite a few spoils at stake. The top 34 boaters and non-boaters will win cash prizes, with the leading boater earning $6,000 and the top non-boater winning $3,000. There’s a total cash purse of $53,100 to be divided, and Team Delaware already won a Triton 189 TrX boat powered by a Mercury 150 Pro XS engine with the victory.

Also, the top angler from each state after today’s weigh-in will clinch a spot in the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship which will be held later this year at an undisclosed fishery. Once there, anglers will compete for spaces in the 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

There’s also a $500 Big Bass Award to the boater with the heaviest bass of the tournament. The non-boater Big Bass Award is $250.

The final weigh-in of the final B.A.S.S. Nation regional of the year will begin at 2 p.m. from Carroll Ashmore Campbell Marine Complex. Watch the action live right here on Bassmaster.com.