The Santee Story 2019

I’m heading to an obscure kayak launch point after a day of painful fishing wondering if I’ll run into Barry Davis and his son who put in at the same ramp. It’s been a day of bad decisions and missed opportunities so I’m well into the process of beating myself up and second guessing everything I’ve done. And, of course, there’s that persistent voice saying “why the hell would anyone drive a thousand miles to get embarrassed on a lake filled with monster bass”? I don’t have the answer but I know I’ll be hearing that question again and again on the long drive home.

Barry seems pretty upbeat at the launch point – he’s got four fish on the leaderboard but came up one short of his limit. His son had a tougher day. One bass and one pike. Same as me but my bass only measured 11 1/2 inches.

There’s a temptation to hit the road for Houston and just blow off the check in. But I’ve swallowed my pride and snapped a pic of an empty measuring board with the notation .01 and sent it off to TourneyX. That’s 120 points. Turns out that little action will get me showing up in the standings at 83 instead of dead last at 122. Thoughts of kicking ass on Santee Cooper have come to this. Sad.

I’m at the very lower end of the lake and it will take nearly an hour to get to Manning. Do I really need to rush back to lock in those 120 points? Last year it did matter when I checked in with one minute to go. Man, what a difference a year can make. Maybe I should have brought my wife with me again. But the truth is I needed more than a good luck charm to salvage this day.

The Manning High School Gym seems like a strange place for check in. A bunch of fishermen sprawled out on the bleachers and Amanda along with the KBF crew seated at a table just inside the door. A bar would have worked so much better for me today. Amanda asks that dreaded question “How did you do?” I give her my best suck it up smile while flashing the thumbs down sign. She’s seen that one a few times before and goes back to her laptop.

It seems my luck is changing. I only see one person I know (Nick Booth) – a new friend who drove all the way down from Rhode Island. He’s had a challenging day too but not as bad as mine. We briefly compare notes and then I head for the truck as fast as I can. I don’t want to repeat a story I’m trying to get out of my head.

I usually try to stay for the ceremony. Just basic respect and the best time to chat with others who have the same insane addiction to tournament kayak bass fishing. But I want to get about five hours of driving in so I can make it home by suppertime tomorrow. The weather is going south and the drive from Santee to I-20 is a bunch of backroad small highways. That’s what I tell myself at least.

Back on the road – it’s time to think, analyze, calculate, replay. I almost always keep the radio off when I’m by myself unless I’m in songwriting mode. So what the hell happened today and why? There’s no getting away from that question. Not far into the trip I already know the answer. It’s so simple, I almost laugh. Like the old man used to say “if you want to catch fish, you got to fish where the fish are”.

I could see the bait and nearby bait-eaters on my cheap depth finder the first day out. Most were in 10 to 15 feet of water, some on the very edge of the wild canal current and others in more calm water not far from the cuts, passes and nearby backwater coves. Even with reality looking me in the eye, I didn’t want these fish to be here. I wanted the fish to be where they were last May tucked into those shallow backwater mazes and grassy little humps/clumps just off the channels. You’d think I would know better after all these years.

I finally cried uncle with less than two hours left to fish and caught that dink I saw on the graph out away from the bank. Still not willing to commit to reality, there was some minor surface bait movement in the middle of the cove. The wacky Senko was met with a heavy fish instantly taking the bait before coming unglued. Another cast to where I didn’t want the fish to be and another solid bite along with another lost fish. Man, what was I thinking? The phone is blinking 2:17 pm. Time to log that .01 catch.

It’s about 9 pm – rainy, dark, windy and cold driving through Atlanta. I’m a space cadet at this point and really shouldn’t be driving. Not sure if it was that big church I just drove by but I’ve seen the light. I’m not beating myself up anymore. I’m through with Santee but Santee has taught me a valuable lesson. I know what happened and why.