Risk Vs. Reward At Winyah Bay Bassmaster Elite

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Marty Robinson will be one of six South Carolina anglers competiting in a full field of 110 anglers at the Huk Performance Fishing Bassmaster Elite at Winyah Bay out of Georgetown, S.C., April 7-10Photo by James Overstreet/Bassmaster

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GEORGETOWN, S.C. — Long boat rides for bigger river bass will likely set the pace for the second stop of 2016 season at the Huk Performance Fishing Bassmaster Elite at Winyah Bay in Georgetown, S.C., April 7-10.

Following an exciting season opener on the renowned St. Johns River out of Palatka, Fla., the 110-angler Bassmaster Elite Series field will be challenged by an unfamiliar destination. Winyah Bay and its tributaries, including several rivers that dump into Charleston Bay to the south, will be open game for this tournament.

The primary rivers include the Pee Dee, Waccamaw, Santee, Cooper and Black, among other smaller tributaries in the region.

Daily takeoffs will occur at 7 a.m. each morning out of Carroll Ashmore Campbell Marine Complex in Georgetown, S.C., and some competitors will make a long risky run to Charleston, S.C, and then up the Cooper River, which is a two-plus-hour trip one way. But it’s a risk that might be worth the $100,000 first-place payout.

“You can bet that there will be a number of anglers who choose to make the long-distance run to the Cooper River,” said the 1999 Bassmaster Classic champion Davy Hite of Ninety Six, S.C. “That’s the risky part of this game. By choosing to make a long run, an angler is sacrificing large amounts of fishing time, gambling mechanical failure, empty gas tanks or a myriad of other potential obstacles.”

Hite says that the payoff, however, could certainly be worth the risk.

“We don’t know much about the fishery as a whole,” he continued. “But, we do know that the rivers will play a critical role in the event. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone manages to weigh an 18-pound limit of bass from the Cooper River, but the question still remains: Can that be replicated four days in a row? We’ll have to see.”

Typically, playing it safe can pay off at the end of a tournament, said Hite. But, he hasn’t ruled out a long run just yet, especially if the fishing requires it.

Winyah Bay is essentially a delta where several rivers converge before completing the journey into the Atlantic Ocean. With a tremendous amount of water at their fingertips, the anglers who do their homework and locate the biggest bass during the official practice days of April 4, 5 and 6 will fare the best.

“I think having an Elite Series tournament at a destination like Winyah Bay was a great idea,” said Marty Robinson of Lyman, S.C. “I firmly believe that the unknowns of a fishery like this levels the playing field, which will make the outcome very interesting. As a group, we know so little about the fishery, and that means there will be little room for errors. Executing a well-laid-out plan will be the key to winning this event”

Local tournament angler John Proctor of Conway, S.C., won the 2015 Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Southern Divisional on the Pee Dee River Basin. Proctor clinched the title with a three-day total of 34-11, which included a hefty 7-pound, 9-ounce largemouth bass that also earned him big-bass honors at that event.

“With the expansive water available to the Elite Series, estimating daily weights is somewhat difficult,” said Proctor. “If a pro decides to fish within relative close proximity of the main launch, I think it will take an average of 8 to 9 pounds per day to make the Top 50 cut on Saturday and 10 to 11 pounds per day to make the Top 12 on Sunday. To win in the same region, 15 pounds or better per day will be required.”

Proctor said that the Cooper River is the wild card.

The Cooper River is capable of producing 17 to 18 pounds per day, but, deciding to make that journey will require substantial risk assessment. That’s what makes the sport so exciting to fans and anglers like Proctor. Sometimes you have to put it all on the line and take the big risk for the sake of the title.

“I know what Winyah Bay and the Pee Dee River are capable of producing, and I’m always amazed at how the Elite Series pros can compete on any venue and demonstrate the true potential of each fishery,” he said. “I have no doubt the results will be the same here, and I’m excited to see it unfold.”

Proctor said that the bass population is in excellent health, and there will be plenty of fish caught. He believes the average big bass will weigh about 4 pounds, but seeing a fish in the 5- to 6-pound range, if not a little heavier, would not be a surprise.

Launches are scheduled daily for 7 a.m. ET at Carroll Ashmore Campbell Marine Complex, and weigh-ins will take place at 3:30 p.m. ET at the same location.

A total purse of $638,000 will be paid to the Top 50 anglers. Those anglers will also earn points toward the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title and qualification for the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.

2016 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Toyota, Berkley, GoPro, Huk, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha

2016 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Academy Sports + Outdoors, A.R.E. Truck Caps, Carhartt, Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Power-Pole, Rapala, Shell Rotella, Shimano

About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, B.A.S.S. Nation, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.