To say I am satisfied with my place in the KBF Santee Cooper Open would be false; I will never feel ok with 69th place…and this was my worst performance since discovering KBF. Last week I placed 5th on Kentucky Lake….69 was a major let down.
I kept telling myself that even Babe Ruth struck out…not that my level of angling equals his level of baseball…
….by the end of day one, I was so far in my head that I found memories from the womb!
To be honest, I am shocked to have placed that high. For two days of fishing, I came away with two fish; both on the second day. I called Joy after catching the first to tell her that I was officially in some place…..not another “0” at the bottom…..
Day one – leaving Clarksville…(with Dishrag on board!)
Just before the interstate, a metal trash can flew off the back of a truck and under the left tire of our R-Pod camper. Everything looked ok, so on to South Carolina. Come back to that tire in a bit.
Day one (pre-fishing)…
The locals told me the water was up a bit on Lake Marion, and the water was getting muddy. Pulled into a field of lily pads just outside of Santee State Park with a white Stanley Jigs Ribbit Top Toad tied on at day light. Pulled away with 90+ inches in thirty minutes just random wide casting, trying not to pick it apart.
As I left, I counted four alligators. One which seemed to be at least 12 ft – posted some video of that beast. Before Toledo Bend, this would have kept me away, but 90 + inches….I was coming back.
Loaded up Dishrag and Joy by ten; headed to Isle of Palms just outside of Charleston to give them a little beach time. My wife has given so much of her time to support me chasing the tournaments I had to give her some time at the beach…she loves the sun and sand…and dishrag is such a blessing, and loves to be with his Bomma and Boppa at the ocean.
Stopped on the way back looking for a Z-man chatter bait, I had nailed a 19.75 on a dock while pedaling out of the pads – then lost the bait in 8ft of water…I had landed a 17 the evening before (my first chatter bait fish) with it….they did not have the color I had lost; brown/black/with orange and white highlights.
Day two and three (pre-fishing)…
The water was getting muddier on the upper end, I hit several spots; each produced at least 1 fish. To that point I had caught nothing smaller than 17 inches. And the fish at Santee Cooper; they love to fight! I don’t think I have ever caught fish that refused to give up like these….fun to say the least.
Those fish were caught on a Z-man dark green/brown chatter bait, a Yamamoto black w/blue flake senko, and an Academy square bill bream pattern crankbait. I had my fish lined up, so I was experimenting and learning the lake….
The current had picked up a lot, the color was changing with each passing minute…and the level appeared to be dropping a bit.
During the last day of prep, I helped some folks right a canoe and get it back to shore. They had no idea about being on the water, but they were smart enough to wear their life jackets! I was thankful they were ok, and the canoe rental guy was thankful I was there to help.
Day one (tournament)…
I always wake up early, always get to the ramp early; there is a real possibility that I will be early to my death and subsequent funeral/cremation. Anyway……..early, no one there. PERFECT!!!
Pedaled down to the pads, alone; early. Waited till 6 a.m., then made my first cast with the Stanley frog. Then my second, third….fortieth. Then my first blowup came, set the hook, and landed a 3 ft chain pickerel. My heart dropped.
About an hour in – there was a tiny channel in the field that led to a deeper hole – a boat came roaring past me, and through the pads to the back. Ok, not roaring, he did stop to talk; but he did cut through the center of the pads.
Cast fifty, sixty….bunches more. Then a worm, a brush hog….my boat was filling with lures and crushed hopes. 90+….dang it! Senko….lizard…
More casts, and more……and more…
I fished the pads, I beat the pads, I kicked and choked the freaking pads…I cussed the pads…and caught not a single bass. I did manage to pull a yellow perch out on a senko, shoulda just thrown him in the bottom of the boat for dinner and switched to shell crackers then! The guy in the back was wearing them out.
Moved to the docks…the cypress….
….my buddy Kirt Pequinot made a statement about the cypress where he had fished the first day; too many trees, you are not sure what to do! That was where I was. This was my first venture into the cypress world, and I was overwhelmed. He nailed it. Everything looked like it should have a 20 plus hawg laying in its shadows, so what to do…what to do!
I had caught fish on the isolated clumps pre-fishing other places….but nothing in the area where I was felt isolated! Nothing but me!
I felt like I was sitting in a class on differential equations, having never taken basic math, and handed a pop quiz on day one! I failed….day one total = 0.
But I can promise you, I will be studying. I will not fail in that environment again!
Day two (tournament)…
When you lay a golden goose egg, and the only smell at your campsite is skunk….what to do? I moved to Lake Moultrie, just to learn more about the Santee Cooper system.
I was fishing for experience, and ego. I would not let a lake (in an evil villain Dishrag voice) CRUSH ME (followed by Boppa from him – I will CRUSH YOU BOPPA…love that little guy).
At the ramp, a fellow angler was unloading his boat. We talked, and he said he was in 8th after day one. I told him I would give him all the space he needed – I was just trying to learn new water, asked which way he was headed…he said right, so I went left. I saw him later, but never went close. It felt like that is what a guy holding down a tie for last place should do; I would need 5 uber, world record, non-existent fish to even hope to place.
So about left…stump field. I love the Hobie, it is an extremely stable and solid boat. But running wide open, and crossing a stump barely below the water on your left…in any kayak…I thought I was goin’ over! I caught myself, leaned hard left, and rode it out. Had come close once before, at Toledo Bend.
Five more minutes, I found myself stuck on another. On top of the stump, watching the alligators, thinking this is perfect! Finally standing at the right angle, pushing with my paddle (why I carry a full size Bending Branches Pro Angler Carbon, not a partial paddle), I was able to get off the stump.
The next part of this adventure…now, I am going to ask you to Google “alligator roar” if you have never heard one! I had not, I kept thinking I would round the turn and see a boat that couldn’t crank. It was not, it was an alligator laying along the bank…now I know why (learning a lot about them lately). And somewhere deep in the bushes – an echo of another. Telling you, in the first light of day, a spooky sound. Don’t have lizards that big here in Tennessee. Anyway…
Fished a bit, realized why my fellow angler had turned right, and decided to move on out toward deeper water.
Stump number three.
After that collision, I struggled to turn the Hobie right. I had bent one fin straight back about 10 degrees, and another about thirty degrees off center.
Side Note : The Hobie is a great piece of equipment…and the mirage drive – wow, so I was still able to fish all day long in spite of me!
Fished a few hours….I finally hooked an eighteen inch bass…got it almost to the boat….my line broke. This was the point I almost loaded up and called it.
I was fishing a baby bass colored Yamamoto Senko so slow that I was dying with each cast….so not my strength…and had lost the first real bite from a bass in two days!
But, I was determined to not be last place. I was going to catch a fish, dang it….
Spare you the hours…but I finally landed two. A 15.25 and a 15.5….I was officially on the board!!!
Even Hank Aaron struck out….and others still didn’t find two fish….doesn’t help typing it either, no more than saying it to myself on Saturday…
The ride home…….on top of the rest………
That left tire, the one where I hit the trash can………..blew out, ripped the fender off the camper….along with the lights connected to it. Fortunately, we were close to and exit and made it there (to discover that my tire tool was still in my garage where I had helped our daughter fix her brakes)…PERFECT!
And that was my Santee Cooper Open adventure…….
….on to the next one – most likely LaCrosse……after the Caney Fork Waterpalooza next weekend ….
….y’all come on out…