Super stats for Winyah: Second verse same as the first

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Shane Durrance

Three years ago, almost to the day, Bassmaster.com’s Steve Bowman photographed and blogged about Britt Myers’ final day of the Elite Series tournament at Winyah Bay. Myers struggled. He left for the weigh-in with only 9 pounds, 5 ounces in his livewell, thinking he’d lost any chance of winning the tournament.

Last Sunday, Bowman followed Day 3 leader Stetson Blaylock on the final day of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Elite at Winyah Bay. Blaylock struggled. He left for the weigh-in with only 9 pounds, 3 ounces in his livewell, thinking he’d lost any chance of winning the tournament.

The more things change, the more they stay the same at Winyah Bay. Myers won by 4 ounces on April 10, 2016. Blaylock won by 9 ounces Sunday, April 14, 2019. And there has been an incredible amount of change since Myers’ victory, both in Winyah Bay itself and in the Bassmaster Elite Series.

Last September Hurricane Florence smashed ashore along the Carolina coast. The Category 4 storm dropped as much as 36 inches of rain in some areas of the Carolinas, caused an estimated $24 billion in damage and took 57 lives. While North Carolina took the brunt of the storm, South Carolina was slammed too, and much of the water that fell in North Carolina as well as South Carolina flowed from the headwaters of the Pee Dee River and the Waccamaw River into Winyah Bay. Both rivers crested at record levels. 

There was a Category 4 storm in the bass fishing world last year too. If you’re reading this here, you know the details. But the key statistic is this: There were 109 anglers in 2016 and 75 this year, but only 30 anglers fished both the 2016 and 2019 Elite Series events. And yet the results, from top to bottom, were remarkably similar.

That held true to the hundredth of an ounce on Day 4, for example. There were 12 finalists on the final day in 2016, all of them struggled and the heaviest limit was only 11 pounds, 10 ounces. Those 12 anglers brought 49 bass to the scales that averaged 1.93 pounds per fish. There were 10 finalists on Day 4 last Sunday. All but one, Scott Canterbury (16-2), struggled. They brought 47 bass to the scales that averaged, you guessed it, 1.93 pounds.

Winyah Bay was consistent in its inconsistencies both years as well. This huge estuary, reportedly the fourth largest on the East Coast, like all tidal fisheries is difficult to pattern. For many anglers, the bass were there one day, gone the next. For instance, Carl Jocumsen led on Day 1 in 2016 with 19-11. He caught only a single 1 1/2-pound bass on Day 2. This year, veteran Lake Wylie, S.C., angler Todd Auten was the ultimate example of the down-up-down yo-yo of the tides.  Auten started in 72nd place with one bass that weighed 3-1 on Day 1, vaulted to 29th place with 15-10 to make the top 35 cut after two days, then zeroed on Day 3 to finish 35th. There were plenty more similar examples both years.

And then there was Matt Herren. He should get some sort of award for being Mr. Consistency on the most fickle Elite Series tournament site in history. In spite of all the changes – from both Mother Nature and the bass tournament fishing world, plus the daily differences in tides and weather – Herren finished 22nd with 31-5 in 2016, and he was 18th with 30-14 this year. 

The more things change at Winyah Bay, the more things stay the same.

In the following comparisons, remember in 2016 there were 109 anglers on the first two days, 50 on the third day and 12 on the final day, and in 2019 there were 75 anglers on the first two days, 35 on the third day and 10 on the final day in 2019.

2019
Day     #Bass             Avg. Wt.         Limits/Pct.   Big bass
1          342                 1.85 lbs.          62/82.7%        6-10
2          347                 1.94 lbs.          60/80.0%        6-8
3          159                 2.19 lbs.          28/80.0%        6-7
4          47                   1.93 lbs.          9/90.0%           6-1 

2016
Day     #Bass             Avg. Wt.         Limits/Pct.   Big bass
1          400                 1.95 lbs.          58/53.2%        8-9
2          470                 2.08 lbs.          75/68.8%        7-10
3          235                 2.28 lbs.          41/82.0%        7-8
4          49                   1.93 lbs.          8/66.7%           6-1