Quick turnaround this week! The fellas have been fishing clear, green water for the last week. Sightfishing dominated the event after Day 1, and the anglers who were in the areas that replenished as the tournament went on, ended up near the top.
In comparison to Hartwell, Winyah Bay is a completely different type of fishery. Swap out the clear, deep reservoir for a shallow, dirty-water, tidal river system. Look to the river guys who understand grass fishing to shine here. Being able to follow the tides will be critical as well.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there seems to be a big population of small keepers with some downright monsters mixed in. There are not very many fish between 3 and 6 pounds. Expect to see a lot of two- to three-fish limits.
Put your money on guys who aren’t afraid to fish for big bites though. One 7-pounder can nearly overtake an average limit in this derby.
BUCKET A: ZALDAIN
The Californian grew up fishing vast, expansive waters like the California Delta. Just because he has excelled in the first part of the year on the clear-water lakes, don’t be fooled into thinking he can’t power fish his way through this one. He finished 10th in 2016 when the Elites were last here. He is not afraid of a long run and will likely find some water to himself and go to work.
ALSO CONSIDERED: LEHEW
After a monster day three on Hartwell, Lehew managed to land a fifth-place finish. Momentum is critical in this game. Also, he is from that part of the country and his knowledge of this fishery is likely above average.
BUCKET B: CREWS
Back in 2016, Crews caught 31-3 over three days to finish 23rd. He isn’t afraid of throwing big fish baits for just a few bites. If he can get one or two bites over three pounds in his limit per day, he’ll be fishing Sunday.
ALSO CONSIDERED: THE REST OF THE BUCKET
This bucket is absolutely jam-packed with solid picks. If I were to predict it, there will be a bunch of these guys in the top of the standings. If I had to narrow it down, I’d look at Mark Menendez, Bill Lowen, Lee Livesay and Matt Herren. Menendez finished 11th here in 2016, Lowen has great momentum right now and is always a threat on tidal river systems. Lee Livesay is a hammer with a bladed jig and Herren finished in 22nd in 2016 is a big-fish specialist who isn’t afraid to go a long way to find ‘em. Phew! I need a nap.
BUCKET C: COMBS
Combs is the perfect mix for a place like Winyah Bay. He always seems to catch a limit everywhere we go. He missed the Day-3 cut by one pound at Hartwell and I’m sure that has him lit up. He was one of seven guys to find a limit each day here in 2016 and his knack for finding above average bites should help him finish strong.
ALSO CONSIDERED: CLUNN
This place reminds me of the St. John’s River back in 2016. It’s shallow, dirty, river fishing and whether they throw a spinnerbait or a bladed jig, those baits will play big time this time of year. Clunn stumbled here last time, but being around this game for this long, I can promise you he won’t make the same mistakes twice.
BUCKET D: PRINCE
I’m a little scared of this bucket. There are some guys who probably should do well here, but are struggling to find a foothold in the Elite Series. That said, I’m sticking with Prince who not only has history here with a 38th-place finish in 2016, but is a veteran Elite Series angler who knows how to turn around a rough start to his season. He is also stout when it comes to fishing shallow grass. I’d expect him to fish like a Floridian … flip, throw bladed jigs and maybe even sling a topwater around.
ALSO CONDISDERED: DIPALMA
DiPalma is one of those who is having a very difficult season so far. He understands tidal water better than anyone else in this bucket. But it’s tough for a rookie to make the proper adjustments to turn it around midseason. For his sake, I hope I’m eating my words once this one is over.
BUCKET E: HUDNALL
Being from Louisiana and fishing shallow water fisheries his whole life should be enough reason to pick him here. However, I guarantee there isn’t an angler in the field who is chomping at the bit more for Day 1 than Hudnall. After having to sit in the penalty box (Steve Bowman’s camera boat driver) instead of fishing, he’s ready to put his river fishing skills to the test.
ALSO CONSIDERED: JOCUMSEN
Carl Jocumsen smashed a monster 19-11 bag on Day 1 in 2016. He struggled to follow it up and only managed less than half of that over the next two days combined and landed in 36th place and cashing a check. However, Jocumsen is having a difficult season this year, but be prepared for a comeback. His skills far exceed his results thus far.