GEORGETOWN, S.C. — Self-proclaimed river rat Bill Lowen found himself right at home in the Cooper River Friday and leveraged his current-born insights to catch a limit of bass weighing 13 pounds, 15 ounces and take the lead on Day 2 of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Elite at Winyah Bay.
After catching 13-4 during Thursday’s opening round, Lowen has a two-day weight of 27-3.
Lowen, who grew up fishing the Ohio River, made a nearly 100-mile run south and avoided the broad rice fields that have seen significant traffic this week. Instead, he targeted a 3/4-mile stretch where he focused on creek channels with marsh drains and current that helped optimize his bite.
“Yesterday, they were on the deep channel swings; today they were on the shallow swings,” Lowen said. “It’s either going to be one or the other. You just have to figure it out fast enough which one they’re on. And tidal fish are notorious for — if that’s what they’re doing — every single one of them is doing it.
“It seems like those two hours before the low tide is the real deal. I saw a lot of 2 1/2-pounders in practice, and I haven’t seen very many of those in the tournament, so they’re still hiding in there somewhere.”
With the tide falling upon his arrival, Lowen started catching fish almost immediately. His fortune shifted significantly around 11 a.m. ET when he caught a 5-pounder.
A spinnerbait produced all of his bites. Lowen said presentation speed and covering just the right amounts of water were the keys to his success.
“You have to fish thorough, but you have to fish fast to cover water in that four-hour timeframe (available fishing time after accounting for round-trip travel and fuel stop),” he said. “Some of the guys in the area, I feel, are fishing too fast. They want my spinnerbait up high in the water column and they want it slow.
“If I burn it along, I won’t get a bite. But if I just fish it slow and float it around that grass, they’ll flush it like a toilet bowl. After making that long run, you get over there and for the first hour you almost have to make yourself slow down because you’re going so fast. As soon as I started slowing down is when I started catching them.”
Notably, Lowen cut his day short to allow for the long return and any complications from the increasingly windy weather. The time cushion proved beneficial for Lowen and his Xpress Boats teammate Harvey Horne, who ran out of gas and needed a ride to the weigh-in.
Horne had bounced back from a dismal opening round — one bass for just 1-16 — by catching 15-10 Friday and desperately needed to weigh his fish and gain valuable points in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.
“He was telling me to go on and go, but I wasn’t going to leave him,” Lowen said. “I put him and his fish in my boat and we came in early.”
In second place, Oklahoma angler Luke Palmer added 12-6 to his Day 1 bag of 14-2 and gained one spot with his total weight of 26-8. He ran to the Cooper River and returned to the same spot he fished on Day 1.
Again, slow presentations with soft plastics produced his bites.
“The spot is in a canal and it’s just a ridge with hydrilla that has 4 feet of water on one side and 7 on the other,” Palmer said. “I’m still trying to figure if fish I’m on are coming or going.
“This may be a spot they’re hitting on their way out of the creek. We still have fish spawning because I caught one off a bed today. Hopefully, that ridge will reload and I can get one more day out of it. If I can get lucky and catch 12 pounds out of it, I’d be tickled to death. I’d lay up and go fish another area on the final day, but I’m going to swing on them tomorrow.”
In third place, Lee Livesay made a big move from 44th place on Day 1 by catching 17-3 and pushing his two-day weight to 24-14. The Texas angler ran to the Cooper River and targeted alligator grass and hyacinth inside the hydrilla lines — a scenario many were overlooking.
Two different reaction baits produced his fish.
“There are some guys catching them out of hydrilla, but the bigger ones are suspended under the mats of gator grass and hyacinth,” Livesay said. “There might be 8 to 9 feet of depth where the mats are, and the bass are 6 inches underneath them. The winning fish are in there because I’m seeing them every day.
“I had a bunch of big ones miss my bait (Thursday). I should have had 20 pounds, but they were missing it. Today, I had three big ones eat it.”
Rounding out the Top 5 are Jason Williamson with 24-6 and Jesse Tacoronte with 24-5.
South Carolina angler Jason Williamson leads the $1,500 Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award competition with a 6-10 largemouth.
Daily takeoffs will occur at 7 a.m. ET out of Carroll Ashmore Campbell Marine Complex, and weigh-ins are scheduled at the same location beginning at 3:15 p.m. ET each day.