SUMMERTON, S.C. – There aren’t many lakes in the country that fish as good as Santee Cooper, which is why it is the perfect venue to get things rolling for the Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine South Carolina Division. Known for producing monster bags of bass, Santee Cooper shouldn’t disappoint come the end of February.
Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine South Carolina Division
Feb. 26, 2022
Marion and Moultrie, which make up the Santee Cooper fishery, are vastly different lakes in terms of shape and layout, but they fish similarly. Marion (to the northwest of Moultrie) looks like a fairly typical river impoundment – long, somewhat narrow and dammed up at the eastern end of the lake. It’s connected to the more circular, bowl-shaped Moultrie by a diversion canal about two miles in length.
Both lakes offer an abundance of shallow-water cover and structure, including cypress trees, backwater ponds, stumps, bridges, docks and riprap. While Marion is the largest lake in South Carolina, it isn’t that deep, averaging about 13 feet, and Moultrie only averages out slightly deeper at 18 feet.
According to local ace Bradford Beavers there will be plenty of prespawn fish to be caught, but he’s not overlooking the fact there could be the first wave of spawners pulling up on beds.
“I’ve seen fish spawning in January when we have warm weather,” Beavers said. “And truthfully, it looks like we might have some days in the mid 70s, so it could be won not necessarily sight-fishing but catching them near beds. It doesn’t take but a few days of warm weather for them to show up.”
With weather being the biggest factor for triggering fish to pull up and spawn, Beavers said that the plentiful cypress trees that adorn Santee Cooper will likely be the ticket to catch fish regardless of the phase of the spawn.
“There could be guys catching them in the backwaters around grass where they spawn, but 90% of people are going to be fishing trees,” he said.
With prespawn fish likely to be the focus in the event, Beavers is a believer that this tournament could be won almost anywhere on the lake.
“I truly do believe that a tournament on Santee can be won anywhere on the lake,” said the Summerville, South Carolina, pro. “If you named a place on the lake, I wouldn’t feel confident saying it couldn’t be won there, which is something you can’t say for a lot of lakes in the country.”
Given the time of year and caliber of fish in Santee Cooper, there’s little doubt this tournament will produce some stout bags.
“I know a tournament just took 27 (pounds) to win,” Beavers said. “So I’ll say it’ll take between 26 and 31 to win.”
Santee Cooper is essentially a shallow-water angler’s paradise. So expect to see plenty of spinnerbaits, vibrating jigs, lipless and square-bill crankbaits and jerkbaits.
For a more methodical approach, pitching Texas-rigged plastics is always a solid choice around vegetation and timber.
Though, in all reality, it’s hard to beat a Yamamoto Senko fished just about any way you like.
“Senkos on trees is a staple on Santee and it doesn’t matter the time of year,” Beavers said. “A Senko will always be a No. 1 bait on Santee, there’s no doubt about it. I didn’t throw that thing forever because I hated it. But buddy, when I started throwing it, I realized why so many people throw it.”