Story by Justin Brouillard | Photos by Tanner & Travis Lyons
After a tough practice period, Oklahoma angler Sheldon Collings takes the lead on Santee Cooper with a day-one weight of 23 pounds, 12 ounces. Focusing his efforts shallow for most of the practice, it was a short time fishing offshore that turned his event around.
“I fished shallow and had 6 bites over three days,” said Collings. “The one area that produced gave me four keepers this morning and then I just went fishing. I fished some cypress trees that looked good and caught the big one, and then fished a creek I had located some offshore stuff and caught two more big ones there.”
Unsure about tomorrow and forecasted high winds, Collings will plan on doing more of the same by getting an early limit and moving to more isolated structure as the day progresses.
“I’ll do what feels right,” he added. “I love fishing offshore and watching them eat. When I do get bit, they are the right size.”
With plenty of history on Santee and experience fishing under tough conditions, Patrick Walters did what he does best and hunkered down in an area and just fished. His 22-pound, 8-ounce effort on day one landed him in the second-place spot with two days remaining.
“It was typical Santee for me today,” said Walters. “I only got seven bites and moved all around to catch them. I caught fish shallow, caught fish chasing bait, caught some on structure, and fished both shallow and deep.”
Walters’ plan for day two is simple.
“I will just keep fishing around where I am comfortable and do what feels right,” he added.
With 20 pounds, 4 ounces on the day, Will Harkins relied on “off the wall” areas to catch his fish. He rotated through 10 or 12 keepers to cull up to his final weight and ended the day in the third-place spot.
“I found some different type of stuff in practice and I also fished shallow with not much luck,” he said. “Today, I hunkered in an area where I got a couple of bites and it worked out for me.”
With wind expected tomorrow, Harkins will keep fishing with two rods on his deck and expand on his area. He noted his is fishing very specific and is not mixing up his approach too much.
With a limit weighing 19-pounds, 15 ounces, Tim Cales sits in the fourth-place spot after day one on Santee Cooper
Todd Goade caught a five-bass limit on day one weighing 18 pounds, 14 ounces which has him in the fifth–place spot. He spent his Sunday practice period learning how to catch five bass. The other two days, after one or two bites in an area, he put the rods down and tried to dial in other productive spots close by,
“Once I got a few bites, I was done fishing,” said Goade. “This place is like Florida where if you get bitten, you need to hunker down, and that’s exactly what I did today.”
Goade protected his area by getting a quick limit for over 17 pounds and leaving lots of productive water alone. His goal was to catch five a day and then go practice as much as he could. His one mistake on the day was making a cast he knew would be dangerous.
“I flipped in there and knew I shouldn’t have,” he said. “The boat was in the wrong position and it was just a weird angle. As soon as it hit the bottom, she ate it and I did my best but with everything the way it was, it pulled off – it was over 6 pounds.”
Goade is dialed in his approach and has two rods on deck. The first is an ARK Reinforcer 7’ 1” MH with a Gravity 7 reel, and the other is an ARK Randy Tharp King Cobra series rod and Ark Gravity 5 reel. Both were paired with Zoom worms and a 15-pound Seaguar line.