South Carolina offers up chilly reception

Anglers brave freezing conditions, steady winds during opening day of EverStart Eastern Division tou

MANNING, S.C. – It wasn’t supposed to be like this. When EverStart anglers checked this year’s schedule and saw Santee Cooper as the second tour stop of the season, they envisioned warm spring weather, a perfect spawn and some huge stringers. Unfortunately, what they got instead were bone-chilling temperatures, a face full of driving wind and the realization that 25-pound limits will be a near impossibility all week.

“It’s going to be nasty,” said FLW Tour pro and Santee Cooper angling veteran Ricky Shumpert of Lexington, S.C. “We were expecting some big weights. But it’s been really cold for about a week, and it looks like it’s going to stay cold for the rest of the tournament. I don’t see it getting warmer any time soon.”

Welcome to the unpredictable world of EverStart tournament fishing.

Bundled from head to toe, the 200 pros and 200 co-anglers competing in this week’s four-day event made their way past John C. Land III marina shortly after 7 a.m. Wednesday morning. However, for many anglers, the key to unlocking this week’s tournament puzzle will be how well they adapt their fishing game to the unexpected conditions on Santee Cooper – which usually boasts some of the best fishing in the nation. With weights almost certain to be much lower than the norm, strategies almost certainly will have to be refined, or even changed outright.

“There’ll be a few fish caught, but weights are going to be way down,” said Shumpert. “With this weather, I don’t believe it’s going to take a lot of weight to make the cut. I think if you can catch 20 to 21 pounds (over two days), you’ll make it.”

Although the cold temperatures and steady winds have dampened some spirits, anglers should have plenty to keep them focused. With a total purse of $262,000 on the line during this week’s event – featuring a top award worth as much as $60,000 in the Pro Division and a first-place incentive of up to $35,000 in the Co-angler Division – anglers will have to reach deep into their arsenal of bait and tackle in order to compete for the lion’s share of the bounty.

Per tournament rules, the top 10 pros and top 10 co-anglers will advance to the final round – Friday and Saturday – based on their two-day accumulated weight. Weights are then cleared for the final round, and anglers compete for two more days. Winners in both divisions are ultimately determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from days three and four.

Action continues at today’s weigh-in, scheduled to take place at 3 p.m. at John C. Land III landing, located at Lake Marion in Summerton, S.C.

Wednesday’s conditions:

Sunrise: 6:48 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 26 degrees (20 degrees with wind chill)
Expected high temperature: 53 degrees
Water temperature: 48-50 degrees
Wind: from the west-northwest at 15-25 mph
Humidity: 61 percent
Day’s outlook: sunny

This week’s EverStart tournament on Santee Cooper lakes is presented by Evinrude Outboards.