Canadians: Cory Johnston 14th, Chris Johnston 38th & Gustafson 47th
|Drew Cook of Cairo, Ga., is leading after Day 1 of the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite on Santee Cooper Lakes with 31 pounds, 13 ounces. (Photo: BASS)|
BASS Press Release
CLARENDON COUNTY, S.C. — Drew Cook has a history of making life difficult for himself with tough Day 1 performances.
But by catching 31 pounds, 13 ounces, Cook shed his streak of bad opening rounds and leads the field of 94 anglers after the first day of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite Series on Santee Cooper Lakes.
“I said I was going to act like I was 12 pounds behind from the get-go,” Cook said. “I have never won one of these things and have never really had a good start to an event. Hopefully, with a good start, we can keep it going.”
Cook secured his catch a couple of hours after takeoff at John C. Land III Sport Fishing Facility, all by sight fishing. He found many of the bass he caught on Thursday during practice, but they had not locked onto a bed. There was one male, however, that had locked on during practice and Cook located those females around that male on tournament day.
“I only had two females to start on, and I caught one of them right off the bat and then I caught the next one,” Cook said. “A couple of the ones I had seen swimming around had moved onto bed. We were done at like 11 a.m. I watched every one of them (eat it). It was a lot of fun.”
Right before the beginning of the official practice period, a front moved through the area bringing colder temperatures and rain to Lakes Marion and Moultrie, which have been a few feet lower than normal. But the subfreezing lows for the weekend and the beginning of the week have now been replaced with warmer days and nights.
Storms also blew through on the scheduled off day Wednesday, which allowed the water to rise some in Cook’s area, a key for getting those big females to commit to spawning. But the news wasn’t all good.
“What also happened with the water level coming up is carp are spawning in a lot of the areas now,” Cook said. “So, the water is kind of a chalky color.”
After the quick start, Cook used the rest of the afternoon to look for more bass that had moved up to spawn and found two that might help him Friday.
“I caught one male that I had marked today and I threw him back,” he said. “I found two more 6- or 7-pounders. It was really hard today because I had a 5-8, but I found a 7-pounder. I left both of them and hopefully, they made it through the afternoon.
“We are going to give it a shot. There still should be fish coming.”
Kuphall, meanwhile, had a much different approach to the Santee Cooper Lakes, targeting prespawn bass he could not see. It was a relatively slow day for the Mukwonago, Wis., native, but the ones that did bite were the right size.
“I only caught eight fish today,” he said. “It was really one area. I caught an 8-pounder, a 5 1/4 and a 6-pounder within probably 20 minutes just in one little stretch. I’m not sight fishing, I’m just pitching at cypress trees.
“These were prespawn fish. That 8-pounder I caught was ready.”
Kuphall said the fish he caught Thursday were not there during practice. The water level has stayed mostly stable in his area, and with warmer weather continuing, he hopes the fishing improves.
“I’m hoping more fish pull up throughout the night tonight,” he said. “We are going to have another warm night. I have fish in my areas that are coming to me, I’m just not getting that many bites. My morning bite has been really bad, and as the day progresses it gets better.”
During the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk earlier this month on Lake Hartwell, Hackney’s wife suggested to him they should retire to the host city of Greenville, S.C., but he rejected that idea for one reason.
“If she had said she wanted to come to Santee Cooper and retire, I would be all in,” he said. “I love this place. It is like where I grew up at home. It is the only place we go that is like that. I just enjoy fishing here.”
Hackney certainly made himself feel at home Thursday with 27-14. With water levels expected to rise more and air and water temperatures rising as well, the Gonzales, La., native said it should be the “perfect storm” for giant bags.
“I didn’t know I was going to catch that,” he said. “I had a much better day than I expected. I think things got better today, honestly. I was very fortunate and got the right bites.”
With conditions improving, Hackney hopes he will be able to move around some and capitalize in other areas.
“I’m afraid that it is going to get better in other places,” Hackney said. “Every time I’ve been here, it has been cold in practice and then warmed up and fish just start showing up everywhere.
“I fished where I had the best chance of catching 20 (pounds). I looked a lot and probably saw lots of bass the second day of practice, but never saw one I thought weighed 6 pounds.”
Lake Wylie, S.C., native Todd Auten anchored his 27-2 fourth-place bag with an 8-15 largemouth, earning him Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day honors.
Heading into Day 2, John Cox of DeBary, Fla., has taken over the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year lead with 271 points while Japan's Masayuki Matsushita is leading the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Rookie of the Year race with 210 points.
The full field will take off from John C Land III Sport Fishing Facility at 7:30 a.m. ET Friday and return for weigh-in starting at 3:30 p.m. The field will be cut to the Top 48 after the Day 2 weigh-in, with the Top 10 anglers from Day 3 advancing to compete on Championship Sunday for the first-place prize of $100,000.