Lucas reflects on massive Santee Cooper Knockout Round  - Major League Fishing

Lucas reflects on massive Santee Cooper Knockout Round 

Image for Lucas reflects on massive Santee Cooper Knockout Round 
Justin Lucas caught six bass weighing 42 pounds, 6 ounces during the Stage Two Knockout Round. Photo by Garrick Dixon. Angler: Justin Lucas.
March 2, 2024 • Tyler Brinks • Bass Pro Tour

There was something for everyone in South Carolina at Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick on Santee Cooper Lakes. A legendary fishery that featured cypress trees, old-school power fishing and forward-facing sonar as all part of the storyline, big bass aplenty showed up on SCORETRACKER®.

Despite Jacob Wheeler notching his seventh career Bass Pro Tour win and David Dudley giving us an incredible called-shot highlight of a monster last-minute bass, Justin Lucas might have made the most noise of the event with his phenomenal Knockout Round performance. He caught just six bass, but in doing so, recorded 42 pounds, 6 ounces – an average of just over 7 pounds per fish. His weight was more than some anglers who caught twice as many bass, with his best five fish weighing an impressive 37 pounds, 3 ounces.

A week later, Lucas is still amazed at his magical day, especially considering the bulk of his catches came in a roughly one-hour flurry.

Switching gears

Justin Lucas switched it up for the Knockout Round and used a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flatnose Minnow. Photo by Garrick Dixon 

On the first day of the event, Lucas spent his time shallow and caught fish with a drop-shot and a Neko rig on docks and the brush piles in front of them. His second day of fishing was all about the Berkley Frittside crankbait and Berkley PowerBait CullShad swimbait.

Lucas knew those bites were fading and switched gears. The move led him to the best tournament day he’s ever experienced.

“The day before, I had a really good day, and my best five fish (were) almost 30 pounds; I thought that was phenomenal,” he said. “Little did I know I was about to have the best day of fishing in my life the next day.”

He was fortunate to have a few different things going in the same proximity. Lucas changed techniques when he sensed the bite changing and with colder temperatures having already arrived.

“I had a few different things going in one area, and it made it easy to switch things up,” he said. “I knew the shallow bite was going away and started looking for brush piles for bass staging in the mouth of the creek. What I fished during the Knockout Round was brush piles in 12 to 17 feet, and I caught all of my fish with forward-facing sonar and a 1/8- and 3/16-ounce jighead with a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flatnose Minnow in the blue pearl black hologram color.”

A flurry to remember

Once he decided to target prespawn bass, it didn’t take long for Lucas to load the boat. His first fish, a 5-3, came at 9:47 a.m. His fifth fish was a 7-pounder at 10:51 a.m., giving him over 33 pounds.

At that point, Lucas spent the next three hours looking for more areas, marking 20 to 30 more prospective spots. Late in the day, just after 2 o’clock, he started fishing again and caught his biggest and best, an 8-15 that tied for the Berkley Big Bass of the day.

On the final day, Lucas was fired up to return to the water but found things changed again. 

“The fish ghosted me,” he said of catching just one keeper for 4-8. “I was all-in on the bite and must have picked my trolling motor up 60 or 70 times, rotating through my spots. I had four or five follow my bait and was hoping for more to show up, but I also had nothing else to go to that I had confidence in.”

Still, his Knockout Round performance is one of his fondest fishing memories. 

“Before that, I’d caught 35-4 on Lake Fork during one of the Toyota Texas Bass Classics and a 31-10 on Guntersville in a Toyota Series back in 2011 or 2012,” he said. “This one was different. It was such a crazy day because it all happened so fast.”