Canadian: Cory Johnston 6th
Drew Cook of Cairo, Ga., is leading after Day 3 of the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite on Santee Cooper Lakes with a three-day total of 80 pounds, 12 ounces. ( Photo: BASS)
BASS Press Release
CLARENDON COUNTY, S.C. — When the threat of strong winds and storms postponed the third day of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Santee Cooper Lakes, Drew Cook watched from his rental house as boat after boat entered the area where he has dominated the event.
But despite the local boat traffic and a day off with no idea what happened to his area, Cook sacked a limit weighing 24 pounds, 3 ounces to maintain his lead with a three-day total of 80-12. With previous bags of 31-13 and 24-12, Cook holds more than a 4-pound lead over Idaho's Brandon Palaniuk (76-6) and Oklahoma pro Luke Palmer (76-3).
“I’m staying across the creek from the cove I’ve fished every day, and it was pretty brutal to sit there and watch it happen,” Cook said. “I can’t complain. I still have a 4-pound lead and we are one day away.
“Having that lead is nice, but a 4-pound lead here really isn’t much. I could go catch 20 pounds tomorrow and Luke (Palmer) could catch 24 pounds and there goes my lead. That is one bass here and there is a pile of 4-pounders.”
The Georgia resident continued sight fishing for bedding bass on Day 3, catching eight total fish with his biggest weighing approximately 7 pounds on BassTrakk. Throughout the week, Cook has struggled during the morning hours and one big bass he saw on Friday was gone when he went back Sunday.
While there are new fish, both males and females, Cook was surprised he didn’t see more.
“If you would have said there was going to be a day off, you would think there would be more bass pulling up than there was,” he said. “A lot of that could have been from the local pressure. There were still new ones up there, and I’m sure there will be new ones tomorrow too.”
Cook plans to start Championship Monday in the same area on a big bass he saw Sunday and give the rest of the area a look. But he will likely be fishing new water much of the day.
“I still have some stuff on the other side of the lake I haven’t been to yet,” he said. “I won’t be going to any fish I have marked anymore after my first one in the morning. I marked some males, but they were only 3-pounders, and we are going to need more than 3-pounders.”
With multiple 25-pound-plus bags weighed Sunday, Cook knows he will need to catch a big bag Monday to claim his first Elite Series victory.
“To win one would be a dream come true,” he said. “I have really busted my butt my whole career and been close a couple of times but haven’t had that event where everything goes right.
“I have had opportunities to win tournaments, but it has always been from behind. To finally not dig myself a hole on Day 1 and come out swinging has helped tremendously.”
While a tough morning on Day 2 left him scrambling to find bedding bass, Palaniuk started Day 3 strong and weighed in 27-7, increasing his three-day total to 76-6. He did most of his damage during the first two hours with a crankbait and a jerkbait.
After filling his limit, he made a crucial cull around 12:30 p.m. to fill out his bag.
“I changed it up today,” Palaniuk said. “Hopefully that plays out tomorrow. I could catch 30-plus in 15 or 20 minutes if the right ones would just bite. Or, I could go there and catch nothing.
“I thought I wasn’t going to catch anything and then I caught a 4-pounder. I made a change and caught a 6-pounder and a 5 1/2-pounder on back-to-back casts.”
The higher winds Saturday resulted in a cooler night, which Palaniuk believes helped his bite on Day 3. He is hoping an even cooler night Sunday will keep those bass in place.
“The nastier the better for me because I’m doing something different than most of the guys,” Palaniuk said. “I feel like that will give me the best chance. I hope we have a freeze warning tonight. That would be the best thing for me.”
Palaniuk also fished more than two hours Sunday for a bass that he believes could be bigger than the 8-12 he caught Saturday. But the smaller male bass bit instead, and he was unable to catch the lunker he wanted.
“I promise you I will go check it again tomorrow,” he said. “We are within striking distance. I mean someone is going to win with a 30-pound bag tomorrow.”
Palmer landed the current VMC Monster Bag of the Tournament on Day 3 with 33-5 — the biggest bag of his career and one that launched him into third place with a three-day total of 76-3. He also landed the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day with a 9-4 largemouth.
With a Falcon Cara Amistad flipping stick in hand and Sunline spooled on his reel, Palmer said he finally got to fish to his strengths.
“It is almost like dreaming,” he said. “We don’t have that type of sack in Oklahoma. To do it with stuff I have used my whole life, it was fun. I have never gotten to do it (on tour) the way I really want to catch them.”
After ending Day 1 in 43rd place, Palmer recovered with 26-7 on Day 2. He tried to make the upper end of Lake Marion work on the first and second days. But with much dirtier water moving through that area, he found a home down lake and pitched a Yum Bad Mamma and Wooly Bug to catch the majority of his bass.
He added that many of the bass he is catching are spawning and while he can’t see them with his eyes, he can see them on his fish finder.
“It was my time today,” he said. “I have one more stretch where I caught a three, broke one off and then went to ‘Scoping trees and didn’t even flip for them because I could see how big they were.
“I thought if I could get to 75 pounds, I would have a chance at a Century Belt. I would love to have a trophy over the belt. Everything today was a big blessing.”
The Top 10 will launch from John C Land III Sport Fishing Facility starting at 7:30 a.m. ET and return for weigh-in at 3:30 p.m., with the winner earning a coveted blue trophy and a $100,000 first-place prize. Live coverage can be streamed on Bassmaster.com.
The Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce is hosting the event.