GEORGETOWN, S.C. — Only ounces separate Sgt. 1st Class Mark Pierce from second place angler John Proctor going into the final round of the Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Southern Divisional underway on the Pee Dee River Basin.
Ounces might separate the leader today and winner tomorrow. However, include pounds in the equation of who will be declared the overall champion.
Pierce, of Tennessee, has the lead with 22 pounds, 13 ounces. Just 12 ounces behind is Day 2 leader John Proctor of South Carolina. Three pounds behind is fifth-place angler Hayes Hudson with 19-4. Take away the 4-11 big bass caught today by Pierce and you have a wide-open race.
Pierce earned $200 for catching the day’s biggest bass. He earned a $250 bonus for the Livingston Lures Leader Award. The angler catching the biggest bass of the tournament earns $300 and a Pawley’s Island Hammock.
Proctor, of nearby Conway, S.C., has the edge with experience on this challenging tidal fishery. Pierce, of Radcliff, Ky., is applying a practical approach to his strategy.
“I never fished a tidal river before this tournament,” said the Montgomery Bass Club (Tennessee) member. “What I discovered is a lot of black, stained water that I’m not accustomed to fishing.”
By the process of elimination and intuition he found something different.
“The tide does not affect where I am fishing,” he added. “And it has plenty of current with two feet of visibility.”
Even familiar conditions require a persistent presentation for Pierce, who is fishing for the Tennessee team.
“I’m having to grind it out because the fish are so spread out,” he said.
Even so, consistency is on his side. That is a plus in this tournament with narrow weight margins across the scoreboard. Yesterday Pierce weighed 11-7 compared to his catch weighing 11-6 today.
With the scores so close and much at stake Pierce declined to disclose his location and lures. The same applied to runner-up Proctor, although he abandoned a bed-fishing pattern in favor of expanding his fishing area.
That’s a good idea on a tournament fishery with five river systems available to the competition. The Pee Dee River Basin includes the Sampit, Great Pee Dee, Waccamaw, Black, Santee and Little Pee Dee rivers. The area covers 232 river miles.
South Carolina widens its lead in the competition between states. The team’s cumulative weight is 187-11. Alabama is second with 164-5 and Georgia has 157-7 for third place. Tennessee is fourth with 147-6.
The winning state team is awarded a Triton 189 TRx rigged with Mercury outboard, Lowrance electronics and a MotorGuide trolling motor. The complete package is valued at $33,340.
The contestants from seven states qualified from local bass clubs and state championships to be here. Each team has 14 members. Two of them are part of another competition underway also concluding tomorrow.
State championship high school teams are competing alongside the adults to hone their skills. Cumulative weight caught is added to the overall score of the state team. The winning team receives $500 with $250 going to the runner-up. The big bass award is a Pawley’s Island Hammock.
Leading the high school rankings is Jake Mims and Jace Garrett of Alexander High School. The Georgia anglers caught 8-9 to take the lead. Caden Watson and Cole Sams of Tennessee are second with 7-15. The anglers represent Marion County High School.
Each adult angler winning his state here advances to the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship in November on the Ouachita River in Louisiana.
Tournament host is Georgetown County with the weigh-in site at the Carroll Ashmore Campbell Marine Complex.