Floyd paces field, Lucas lands lunkers in Knockout Round at Santee Cooper - Major League Fishing
Floyd paces field, Lucas lands lunkers in Knockout Round at Santee Cooper
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Floyd paces field, Lucas lands lunkers in Knockout Round at Santee Cooper

Image for Floyd paces field, Lucas lands lunkers in Knockout Round at Santee Cooper
Cole Floyd won the Knockout Round with 14 bass weighing 46 pounds, 9 ounces. Photo by Phoenix Moore. Angler: Cole Floyd.
February 24, 2024 • Mitchell Forde • Bass Pro Tour

CLARENDON COUNTY, S.C. — For most of his first three days on the water during Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick, Cole Floyd lurked just behind the leaders – safe from the cut line but never really threatening to overtake the top spot on SCORETRACKER®. He qualified for the Knockout Round by finishing ninth in Group A, then hovered in the middle of the Top 10 throughout Saturday’s action.

Until the final few hours, that is. 

During an explosive Period 3 that saw Santee Cooper’s big bass start snapping for just about everyone in the field, Floyd boated eight bass weighing a combined 28 pounds, 6 ounces. That brought his total on the day to 46-9, vaulted him into the top spot on the leaderboard and sent a clear message to the rest of the field that he’s not to be overlooked during Sunday’s Championship Round.

Seeking his first win as a touring pro, Floyd will have his work cut out for him. Looming within the top five were Justin Lucas, who stacked up an epic 42-6 on just six bass; Jacob Wheeler, the six-time Bass Pro Tour champion; and James Watson, who caught a pair of 8-plus-pounders Saturday.

Weights will reset overnight before the Top 10 duke it out for the first-place trophy and accompanying $100,000 paycheck. Watch all the action unfold on the MLFNOW! live stream from 7:50 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

Full results can be found here.

Floyd flying under the radar no more

Floyd, who hasn’t had a camera in his boat all week, doesn’t mind operating outside the spotlight. He said he relishes the underdog role.

In fact, he wasn’t necessarily trying to finish the Knockout Round in first place. He spent much of Saturday running new water, and he just happened to hit a productive area in Lake Marion during the final couple hours. He added to his total as he sampled the bass population living there.

“Every time I got off pad with my boat, it seemed like I could get a bite,” Floyd said. “Everything was just kind of going my way.”

Like much of the field, Floyd has caught his fish winding a bladed jig – in his case, a Strike King Thunder Cricket – around cypress trees, “trying to cover as much water as (he) can.” He believes the key to his hot afternoon was the west wind, which picked up speed as the day progressed and pushed water into his section.

“The wind just seemed to blow in all that mud, that dirty water from the other side of the lake, and it just helped my area a lot more,” Floyd explained. “Stained it up and got it more active.”

Floyd is optimistic that the area he found has plenty of bass to carry him through the Championship Round. However, the forecast – sunny skies, cooler temperatures and a light breeze out of the north – has him concerned that he might have to switch up techniques.

“Obviously, I had a good day today,” he said. “I feel like I’m in a good area to possibly win it, but I feel like the weather is going to hurt me more than anything. I think it’s going to be calmer tomorrow, and it’ll just make the bite tougher.”

Floyd, who will compete in his second career BPT Championship Round, is no stranger to tournament success. He won multiple events at the college level, plus took home three straight Angler of the Year titles in the LBL Division of the Phoenix Bass Fishing League from 2017-2019.

A BPT victory, however, would represent a whole new frontier. Floyd called the prospect of landing his first national win “life-changing.”

“It would be a dream come true,” he said. “I’ve worked my ass off – I’m not super old – my whole life just to have this opportunity, so it would be something very special, that’s for sure.”

Lucas hits mother lode

Justin Lucas finished second with six bass weighing 42 pounds, 6 ounces. Photo by Garrick Dixon

He might not have ended up atop SCORETRACKER ®, but it would be tough to make the case that anyone had a better day on the water than Lucas. The 15-year national tour veteran called it “the best day of tournament bass fishing I’ve ever had in my life.”

During a magical 65-minute stretch – which included a 15-minute period break – Lucas landed on an area teeming with Santee Cooper studs. He boated five bass that weighed a combined 33 pounds, 7 ounces, vaulting to the top spot on SCORETRACKER®. Then, early in Period 3, he added an 8-15 giant for good measure, which tied him with Watson for the Berkley Big Bass for the day and brought his total to 42-6. 

Lucas’ average fish weighed a whopping 7-1. His biggest five combined for 37-3. Perhaps the craziest part is he likely could have added more but opted to spend most of the afternoon scouting new spots for the Championship Round.

“Weight-wise, it’s the best day of fishing I’ve ever had in my life,” Lucas said. “And I kind of quit, which is crazy to think. Like, who knows what I could have caught? But with the weight starting back over at zero, I had to kind of conserve the best that I could.”

Lucas did it by bringing new-age tactics to Santee Cooper. Despite the dirty water and abundance of shallow cover in the fishery, Lucas used forward-facing sonar to find bass away from the bank and a mid-strolling minnow to coerce them into biting. His soft plastic of choice was a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flatnose Jerk Shad, which he wielded on an Abu Garcia spinning rod.

Lucas didn’t plan to turn to the hottest (and most controversial) technique in bass fishing on the power-fishing paradise that is Santee Cooper. He caught his 36-3 Friday by fishing a Berkley Frittside crankbait and CullShad swimbait around shallow wood. But when he could only muster a few short-strikes on those baits in the first 90 minutes of the Knockout Round, he knew he needed to change tactics.

“I could just tell with the weather that something wasn’t right,” Lucas said. “And actually, where I caught some fish today, I marked when I came here to pre-practice over a month ago. It just so happened that those fish were on a couple of those spots, and everything worked out.”

No surprise, Lucas plans to resume ‘Scoping during the Championship Round. He marked some new spots during the afternoon that he thinks could produce, and he believes another chilly night should help his pattern.

“I think the weather tomorrow is going to be perfect for what I’m going to try and do,” he said.

Becker’s clutch catches cap frantic final period

For just about everyone except Lucas, it looked for much of the day like the sunny, post-frontal conditions that greeted the Knockout Round competitors had dampened the bite. But as they have all week, the lunkers that live in Santee Cooper showed up in a major way down the stretch.

Seven of the 14 bass that weighed more than 6 pounds hit the scales during Period 3, including four of the five 8-plus-pounders. No surprise, that action resulted in a roller coaster ride around the cut line. Watson, Dave LefebreCasey Ashley and Matt Becker all fell out of the Top 10 at various points in the final stanza before finishing the day above the elimination line.

No one rallied in a more dramatic fashion than Becker. The reigning Fishing Clash Angler of the Year spent virtually the entire afternoon outside the Top 10. With less than five minutes left before lines out, he still needed a 3-14 to claw his way inside the cut. 

So, Becker returned to the spot where he’d caught most of his fish and picked up a Bill Lewis Hammer Trap. A few casts in, the decision paid off with a bite, but the bass weighed 3-13 – one ounce shy of what he needed to overtake David Dudley.

Instead of wasting precious seconds by asking his marshal to re-weigh the fish, Becker quickly made the same cast and hooked up again. This time, his catch, a 2-12, proved plenty big enough to clinch him a spot in the Championship Round – with less than two minutes to spare. 

Talk about clutch.

Fishing Clash Angler of the Year

Bass Pro Tour anglers will compete throughout the 2024 season for the prestigious Fishing Clash Angler of the Year award and its $100,000 payday. Following Sunday’s Championship Round, there will be a new leader in the points race. Dustin Connell, who won Stage One, missed out on the Top 10, finishing 15th. Meanwhile, Wheeler, Becker and Jesse Wiggins each clinched their second Top 10s in as many events this year.

Fishing Clash, an interactive 3D fishing simulation game that’s played by more than 80 million people worldwide, is the official AOY sponsor of the Bass Pro Tour, Tackle Warehouse Invitationals, Toyota Series and Phoenix Bass Fishing League. You can download Fishing Clash for free in the App Store and on Google Play, or log on to www.fishingclash.game for more information.

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