Hudgins leads at Santee Cooper - Major League Fishing

Hudgins leads at Santee Cooper

Bryan Hudgins takes early lead at EverStart Series Eastern Division event
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Bryan Hudgins of Orange Park, Fla., leads the Pro Division with 23 pounds, 15 ounces after day one. Hudgins also took the big-bass award with a 7-pound, 7-ounce bass. Photo by Rob Newell. Angler: Bryan Hudgins.
April 21, 2004 • Rob Newell • Archives

MANNING, S.C. – Lake Santee Cooper just keeps producing bass. Although there were no giant bags of fish weighed in during the first day of competition at the EverStart Series event on the famous fishery – marking the third stop of the 2004 Eastern Division season – a steady stream of anglers weighed in solid catches of bass for nearly three hours.

Leading the event is pro Bryan Hudgins of Orange Park, Fla., with 23 pounds, 15 ounces. The key for Hudgins today was locating a fresh group of unpressured fish.

“We’re at the tail end of the spawn here, and the fish have been beat up pretty bad over the last few weeks,” Hudgins said. “The key for me was finding a group of fish off the beaten path that haven’t had a lot of pressure. I caught a couple off the bed and few guarding fry this morning; I had all my fish by 11:30.

“I don’t have a lot of fish, but the ones I do have are aggressive,” he continued. “There are other places that have a lot more fish, but they’ve been pressured and they’re real spooky. I’m trying to key on places that others have not found. I’ve got one place that I don’t think any other anglers have found. Hopefully I can scrape together 10 or 11 pounds tomorrow in other places and save my good place for Friday.”

Pedigree pro Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., is in second after day one with 23 pounds, 1 ounce.Kennedy on prespawn fish

With water temperatures moving into the mid-70s and several major waves of fish already spawned out, it’s hard to believe that there are any prespawn fish left.

But Pedigree pro Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., who is in second place with 23 pounds, 1 ounce, thinks he has found some prespawn fish.

“The fish I caught were still fat and clean; their tails were not burned up yet like a lot of the postspawn fish are right now,” Kennedy said.

“I had 20 pounds in about an hour this morning,” he added. “Then I just went practicing and every new place I pulled into I caught one and just kept culling up. I’ve got a lot of confidence in my technique, I think that’s got a lot to do with it.”

Fuji pro Wesley Strader of Spring City, Tenn., is in third after day one with 22 pounds, 5 ounces.Strader sight-fishing

In third place is Fuji pro Wesley Strader of Spring City, Tenn., with 22 pounds, 5 ounces.

Strader sight-fished this morning to catch roughly 18 pounds then ran down to the lower lake and started flipping. His flipping pattern produced a 6-pound bass, which culled him up over 20 pounds.

“I think the weights will drop off drastically tomorrow,” predicted Strader. “These shallow-water pockets have been beat to death and the fish are leaving. Maybe some new ones will move in, you can never tell on this lake, but if they don’t I think the bottom will fall out of the sight-fishing bite.”

Ellis in fourth

Past Santee Cooper EverStart champion Ken Ellis of Bowman, S.C., is in fourth place with 22 pounds, 1 ounce.

Ellis is a local favorite on Santee Cooper and his knowledge of the lake could to play into his favor over the next several days.

Bennet in fifth

In fifth place is another Santee Cooper local, Micah Bennett of Summerville, S.C., with 21 pounds, 2 ounces.

“I’m on the lower lake, and I’m fishing out a little deeper than I did in practice,” Bennet said. “I think the fish are starting to move out. I had been fishing in a foot or 2 of water, but today I moved out to 3 or 4 feet of water and it seemed to have made a difference. I’m fishing really slow. I’m not getting a lot of bites, but I’m getting some good ones.”

The rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 in the Pro Division are Bill Brendle of Wake Forrest, N.C., in sixth with 20 pounds, 4 ounces; Dale Evans of Ridgeville, S.C., in seventh with 19 pounds, 13 ounces; Greg Pugh of Cullman, Ala., in eighth with 18 pounds, 12 ounces; Koby Kreiger of Okeechobee, Fla., in ninth with 18 pounds, 2 ounces; and Derrick Millirons of Seale, Ala., in 10th with 16 pounds, 13 ounces.

The top-20 cut in the Pro Division after day one is 15 pounds, 9 ounces.

Co-angler Brent Long of Sherrills Ford, N.C., leads after day one with 14 pounds, 14 ounces.Long leads co-anglers

In the Co-angler Division, Brent Long of Sherrills Ford, N.C., leads with 14 pounds, 14 ounces.

Long caught his fish on spinnerbaits and soft plastics.

“I had a really great day,” Long said. “I caught eight keepers and the bigger ones came on a spinnerbait.”

Phillips lands a lunker

Co-angler Roger Phillips of Delta, Ala., shows off his 8-pound, 9-ounce Santee Cooper behemoth that took big-bass honors in the Co-angler Division. Phillips is in second after day one with 14 pounds, 9 ounces.Roger Phillips of Delta, Ala., only landed three keeper bass today, but they weighed 14 pounds, 9 ounces thanks to an 8-pound, 9-ounce lunker, which won him the big-bass award.

He is currently in second place.

Phillips was reluctant to say exactly what he fooled the big bass with, but he did say he was doing something different from his pro partner and that he had lost another giant bass just before he landed the big one.

Hampson in third

Co-angler Jason Hampson of Cartersville, Ga., is in third after day one with 14 pounds, 6 ounces.Jason Hampson of Cartersville, Ga., fished Texas-rigged plastics to catch five bass weighing 14 pounds, 6 ounces for third place.

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers are Reginald Pickett of Greensboro, N.C., in fourth with 14 pounds, 4 ounces; Tony Haymon of West Palm Beach, Fla., in fifth with 12 pounds, 13 ounces; Joseph Webster of Fulton, Miss., in sixth with 12 pounds, 7 ounces; Sammy Orr of Maryville, Tenn., in seventh with 10 pounds, 3 ounces; Stephen Semelsberger of Mt. Airy, Md., in eighth with 9 pounds, 13 ounces; Ed Clark of Wayne, W.V., in ninth with 9 pounds, 6 ounces; and Randol Stone of Marianna, Fla., in 10th with 8 pounds, 14 ounces.

The top-20 cut in the Co-angler Division is 7 pounds, 3 ounces.

Day two competition of the 2004 Eastern Division EverStart begins tomorrow at the John C. Land boat launch at 7 a.m. Eastern time.