How a local honey hole helped Arkansas fishermen secure big payday at Winyah Bay
By Gregg Holshouser
April 19, 2019 04:50 PM
At every Bassmaster Elite event, the competing anglers have one big decision to make heading into the tournament — where to fish.
In the days leading up to last weekend’s event at Winyah Bay, the 75 anglers spread out from the launch site — the Carroll Ashmore Campbell Marine Complex in Georgetown located on the Sampit River — in search of good concentrations of big bass.
One of the options was to make an approximate 100-mile run each way to fish up the Cooper River north of Charleston, an area revered for its population of lunker largemouth.
Of course, the local rivers that feed into Winyah Bay — namely the Black, Pee Dee and Waccamaw — were another possibility to consider.
The prestigious tournament’s eventual winner, Stetson Blaylock of Benton, Ark., chose to stay close, avoiding the long runs, and proved that the local waters of Georgetown County surrounding the Waccamaw River also hold a pretty darn good population of big bass.
“I think that’s one of the farthest runs we’ve ever had the option of making,” said Blaylock on Thursday, after having a few days to let his $100,000 pay day sink in. “There’s places we can make long runs but I think that one is definitely the biggest.
“For me, I’ve never been as successful when making long runs. Too many things can change, too many things out of your control can happen. I chose to stay close and was fortunate enough to find one area that had a good concentration of fish.”
Blaylock tried two different areas during his pre-fishing days.
“I spent the first day of practice on the Santee (River), and it was terrible,” said Blaylock. “The floods had that river out of its banks, high with a lot of current. It didn’t fit right. I wanted to fish there and didn’t get bit. I spent the second day (pre-fishing) in the Waccamaw. It seems like I got bit in there a little better. I got bites in one particular area and it seemed like it held a good concentration of fish.”
That location was The Fingers, an area between the Waccamaw and Pee Dee rivers on the south end of Sandy Island.
After the first two days of fishing, Blaylock found himself in sixth place with a two-day aggregate of 23 pounds, 13 ounces, well over three pounds behind leader Bill Lowen (27-3).
Last Saturday, Blaylock found the bigger fish.
“That third day it was just different,” said Blaylock. “Every other bite I got was a good fish. I knew there were definitely some big ones living in there. It was a perfect combination of deeper water and those fish moving up in there to spawn.”
Blaylock weighed in a bag of 17-15, the heaviest of the tournament, to take the lead with a 41-12 aggregate entering Sunday’s final round, which saw the field trimmed to 10 anglers.
Blaylock primarily threw a 5-inch green pumpkin YUM Dinger stickworm with a 1/32-ounce nail weight and occasionally pitched a white YUM Christie Craw on a 3/0 hook and a 7/16-ounce weight.
“I caught 90 percent of my fish on the YUM Dinger and when I saw them on bed I caught them on the Christie Craw, just a few,” said Blaylock.
On Sunday, action slowed down for most of the 10 finalists, except for Scott Canterbury of Odenville, Ala. Canterbury weighed in 16-2, easily the heaviest bag of the day, but Blaylock came in with a 9-3 to barely hang on.
Blaylock’s four-day aggregate for 20 fish was 50-15, just nine ounces above Canterbury in second place with a 20-fish aggregate of 50-6.
A week after finishing in second place in an Elite Series event at Lake Hartwell in Anderson, Blaylock finally had his hands on the coveted blue trophy awarded to Elite Series winners.
“Other than the Bassmaster Classic, winning those blue trophies is what it’s all about,” said Blaylock, who earned $126,500 over the two tournaments. “I was finally able to bring that blue trophy home, and man it feels good.
“As an angler I try to fish and live one day at a time. To be able to seal that deal and win that trophy, it doesn’t make me want to slow down, it makes me want to mash the gas that much harder. Once you win and get that feeling, what it means to your career and financially and everything involved, it makes you want to do it that much more.”
Blaylock found fishing out of Georgetown challenging, and praised the venue.
“It’s definitely a top-notch facility — the crowds were awesome, the fans were awesome,” said Blaylock. “For me being there, the Winyah Bay fishery is one of the most challenging. And one of the most rewarding. Once you see success in a place like that you definitely want to go back again.”
The next few weeks feature a number of tournaments being held along the Grand Strand. The details follow:
GSSWAA Flounder Tournament: The 18th annual Grand Strand Saltwater Anglers Flounder Tournament will be held April 27 in Murrells Inlet.
For more information, contact Ed Skowysz (843-450-8218, Chick McDaniels (843-651-2076), or David Rapp (937-207-4018).
Meatfish Slam: The 11th annual Georgetown Meatfish Slam will be held out of Georgetown Landing Marina in Georgetown April 25-27. For more information, call (843-546-1776) or visit www.georgetownlandingmarina.com.
Far Out Shootout: The event out of Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., allows competing boats to fish two days during a stretch from April 27 through June 1. For more information, call (910-575-3474) or visit www.OIFC.com.
IFA Redfish Tour: The Atlantic Division of the trail returns to the Campbell Marine Complex on April 26-27. The tour features divisions for boats and kayaks. For more information, visit www.IFATours.com.
Grand Strand Fishing Report: A crew out of Marlin Quay Marina in 2018 displays a large king mackerel. The migratory king mackerel arrived in local waters this week. Photo courtesy of Marlin Quay Marina
King mackerel have arrived off the Myrtle Beach coast
By Gregg Holshouser
April 18, 2019 06:32 PM
Look For: Flounder, red drum, black drum, spotted seatrout, sheepshead, bluefish.
Comments: “It’s been the attack of the bluefish,” said Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions in Murrells Inlet. “The blues are just crazy. It doesn’t matter where you are, the creeks, the jetties or the reefs.” Spring flounder action is good with most fish under the 15-inch minimum size limit, as expected. “There are good numbers of flounder but just small,” said Connolly. “It’s a little early though, too.” On a Thursday trip, Connolly’s crew caught one 3-pounder out of 11 flounder using mud minnows on a Carolina rig. Connolly has also produced black drum on cut shrimp. Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service has had to deal with very high tides and thus muddy conditions this week in the Winyah Bay area. Still, McDonald’s clients caught black drum on cut shrimp Wednesday. Then on Thursday, McDonald and crew found some spotted seatrout action on soft plastic grubs, namely Opening Night by Matrix. McDonald noted a water temperature of 67 degrees.
Look For: Black sea bass, sheepshead, black drum, flounder, weakfish, whiting.
Comments: A few weeks ago, it was Spanish mackerel invading near-shore waters off the Grand Strand from the south to hang out for the season. This week, the kings showed up. “They’re here,” said Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Fishing Charters. King mackerel have been caught in good numbers on typical bottom spots in 50-60 feet of water. “I started at Belky Bear (Thursday) and then went a little deeper (to 60 feet of water),” said Maples. The crew wound up with 12 kings in the 5-10 pound range plus caught Atlantic bonito while slow-trolling cigar minnows. The near-shore artificial reefs, such as Jim Caudle, Paradise and Ron McManus, have been hot spots this week, holding a combination of bluefish, Spanish and large weakfish. The numbers and size of the weakfish have been astonishing. “It’s looking like it’s going to be a heckuva year,” said Maples. The magic springtime water temperature of 65 degrees has been breached, and the fish have also shown up along the beach. Tony McElveen of Cherry Grove Pier reported a water temperature of 66 degrees Thursday afternoon and noted good catches this week of bluefish, Spanish, whiting and black drum. “They’ve been tearing it up since Tuesday,” said McElveen.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, dolphin, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, porgy, amberjack.
Comments: Jeff Martini and crew aboard Dirty Martini had a super day offshore on Wednesday while fishing in the S.C. Wahoo Series, landing five wahoo, a 26-pound blackfin tuna and two king mackerel. With the big push of dolphin expected anytime, now is the time to get in some offshore trolling. “It’s red hot right now,” said Little River Capt. Danny Juel of Fish Screamer Charters and the Atlantic Star party boat. Juel reported a great catch aboard the Atlantic Star last Saturday, with plenty of vermilion snapper, triggerfish, black sea bass, white grunts, almaco jacks and a few red porgy. Juel said four red snapper were released along with about 15 grouper. Of course the annual shallow-water grouper spawning season closure ends on April 30, with recreational anglers once again able to harvest grouper starting on May 1.
Look For: Bream, bass, catfish, crappie.
Comments: The rivers remain high, but springtime fishing is good on local rivers, particularly the Intracoastal Waterway and Waccamaw. “It’s high as a Georgia pine,” Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle said of the river levels. “They need to drop and stay dropped. The Pee Dees have been flooded for seven months.” April is prime time for bream fishing on the rivers, and considering the current caterpillar hatch, it’s on. Find the caterpillars and find the fish, Stalvey says. “They’ve been catching some nice bream,” said Stalvey. “I’d recommend using crickets (on floats) in 2-4 feet. Find what they’re feeding on and they’re pretty much stacked up.” Stalvey says catfish action is very good. “They’ve been amazing on eels and bream – eels have been the best,” Stalvey said. The winner of the Bassmaster Elite event at Winyah Bay last weekend fished the lower Waccamaw, and Stalvey takes pride in that. “The (bass) are here,” said Stalvey, who recommends using buzz baits, Senko worms or Texas-style rigged worms.
Who is leading a field of 74 competitors in the Bassmaster Elite at Winyah Bay
By Gregg Holshouser
April 12, 2019 03:45 PM, Updated April 12, 2019 03:53 PM
Conway banker John Proctor has qualified for the World Championship of bass fishing, The Bassmaster Classic. Proctor is heading to Tulsa, OK to compete against 54 of the biggest names in the fishing world on March 3-6 at Grand Lake O’ the Cherokee By McClatchy
The Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Elite at Winyah Bay began Thursday morning with the field of 74 boats zooming in a variety of directions after takeoff from the launch at the Carroll Campbell Marine Complex in Georgetown.
Winyah Bay, considered the third-largest watershed on the East Coast, offers rivers such as the Waccamaw, Pee Dee and Black as options for the Elite Series bass anglers to find the heaviest limit of five lunker largemouth possible. About 10 miles south of the bay, the Santee Rivers are another option.
Numerous anglers even prefer to take the long ride down the Intracoastal Waterway to Charleston Harbor and then as far as 40 miles up the Cooper River, revered for its population of big bass, to fish.
Sometimes, though, it pays off to stay close to the launch site, and the extra fishing time that affords.
That is the route Jason Williamson took on Thursday, opting to fish the Waccamaw and Pee Dee rivers, a relatively short run from the launch site on the Sampit River, according to his Marshal, Chris Jones of Conway.
Williamson, of Wagener in Aiken County, is a Bassmaster veteran who has Elite Series wins at Lake Amistad in Texas in 2009 and Clarks Hill Reservoir on the border of South Carolina and Georgia in 2010.
Bass in local waters are in spawning mode, with some in pre-spawn, some post-spawn and some currently spawning.
Williamson wound up with a five-fish limit weighing 15 pounds, 11 ounces to take the early, slim lead over Hunter Shryock of Newcomerstown, Ohio in second place with a five-fish bag of 15-8.
“I feel like the two bigger fish (Williamson) caught were getting ready to spawn,” Jones said. “He wasn’t sight fishing, just blind casting. He’s got three more days to go, but he’s off to a good start.”
Williamson’s lunker, a 6-10 fish, was the largest weighed in during Thursday’s opening day of fishing.
Williamson and Shryock were the only two anglers to top the 15-pound mark Thursday.
Jones enjoyed the experience of riding with the early leader, and was happy with where Williamson caught his fish.
“I think that’s a great thing,” said Jones. “Our rivers would have won the last time (the Elite Series was) here (if not for) one or two lost fish.”
The weigh-in for the second day of the tournament was underway Friday afternoon. The tournament continues through Sunday with the field trimmed to the top 35 anglers for Saturday and the top 10 on Sunday.
The tournament can be followed live at www.bassmaster.com.
With the Winyah Bay Heritage Festival joining the festivities Saturday and Sunday, Georgetown will be, well, one festive place over the weekend.
“It’s great for the economy and great to showcase our area,” said Jones, the vice president of the Conway Bassmasters. “There’s no downside to it at all.”