Just how good are Santee Cooper Lakes?

Obviously, the Bassmaster Elite Series anglers showed out last week during the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Santee Cooper Lakes. This surprised a lot of people, considering the 20-degree air temps at the start of practice. But there were a few optimistic anglers early in the week who were able to peer through the below freezing temps to see the silver lining of a perfect storm brewing.

And that perfect storm came to fruition, as the Santee Cooper Lakes exploded with spawning activity. But just how good was stop number three of the Bassmaster Elite Series? We decided to compare this most recent Elite event against the first two Elite stops of the season held on the St. Johns River and the Harris Chain. Here’s what we found, by the numbers.

Ascending weights

Last week, we saw something a little different at the Santee Cooper Lakes. Often, the weights go down or hold steady each day of an Elite Series event. Let’s look at the St. Johns River and the Harris Chain for examples. Day 1 at St. Johns, we saw 1,045 pounds, 09 ounces of bass weighed by the entire field of 94 Elite Series anglers. Day 2, only 887 pounds, 09 ounces came across the scales. That’s a 16% drop-off in the weight from Day 1 to Day 2. The Harris Chain saw more steady numbers, with 1312 pounds, 14 ounces caught on Day 1 and 1338 pounds, 09 ounces on Day 2, a slight uptick.

The same 94 anglers outpaced total weights each day as well as surpassed Day 1 weights with their Day 2 weights on the Santee Cooper Lakes. On Day 1, 1462 pounds, 06 ounces crossed the scales, drastically more than Day 1 on the St. Johns or Harris Chain. And on Day 2, the Elites actually brought in nearly 100 more pounds than they did on Day 1, with 1557 pounds, 06 ounces of bass brought to the weigh-in.

Weights went up per angler

Weights also went up per angler at Santee Cooper Lakes. On Day 1, the 94 anglers averaged an astonishing 15 1/2 pounds per person. On Day 2, that went up a pound to 16 1/2 pounds. After Day 2, the field was cut in half, from 94 anglers down to 47.

On Day 3, the 47 anglers brought in just under 19 pounds apiece on average. Going into the final day, the field was cut to the Top 10. On Day 4, the average weight of those 10 anglers was just over 19 pounds per angler. That’s nearly a 4-pound average per fish weighed in on the final day of an Elite Series event, and that is amazing.

Just how good was the final day?

When comparing the final day weights from the first three Elite stops, you can see just how good the final day was on the Santee Cooper Lakes. The average bag per angler on Day 4 of the St. Johns River Elite came in at just over 16 pounds per angler, which is impressive. At the Harris Chain, the Day 4 average weight was a little over 14 pounds per angler, still solid. But again, on the final day of the Santee event, the Top 10 anglers averaged over 19 pounds apiece.

There were five bags over 20 pounds on the final day at Santee Cooper, compared to only one at the St. Johns and only two at the Harris Chain.

Now these numbers aren’t intended to diminish the quality of fishery at the St. Johns River or the Harris Chain — both historic and awesome big fish factories as well. Instead, these stats show just how special what we saw transpire at the Santee Cooper Lakes really is. B.A.S.S. officials intentionally try to schedule these events to where we can see a perfect storm of spawning activity, and they hit the nail on the head with this one. Kudos.