Late-Day Cull Lifts Cook To Wire-To-Wire Win At Bassmaster Elite On Santee Cooper Lakes

CLARENDON COUNTY, S.C., March 22, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Before the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Santee Cooper Lakes began, Drew Cook had never led a single round of an Elite Series event.

Apparently, he was just saving up for the best event of his career.

The Cairo, Ga., pro grabbed the lead on Day 1 of the tournament with an astounding catch of 31-13 and then never relinquished the first-place spot, as bags of 24-12, 24-3 and 24-9 pushed him to a four-day total of 105-5. He earned one of the blue trophies that every pro covets, a $100,000 paycheck and a Century Belt for catching more than 100 pounds.

Cook and second-place pro Caleb Kuphall (103-1) became the 33rd and 34th different anglers to reach Century Club status — and Lakes Marion and Moultrie have now produced eight Century Belts, the second-most in Elite Series history, with only Falcon Lake in Texas producing more (15).

“I completely forgot about the Century Belt. That’s cool,” Cook said. “It was a perfect storm this week. I had a blast. I did really well keeping my composure. There were a couple of times this week the wheels could have fallen off. I acted like I had been there before and it all worked out.”

Cook spent his entire week doing what he loves best, sight fishing for spawning largemouth using a Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog.

“That is what is so awesome about it,” he said. “All my friends joked with me and said I was going to win my first tournament either at a place like the Sabine or with a spinning rod smallmouth fishing.

“To be able to win my first one wire-to-wire with my favorite rod doing my absolute favorite things, it is a blessing.”

Spending his time in the Potato Creek region of Lake Marion, Cook caught the majority of his weight in lily pad fields that were located next to deep water.

In practice, the female bass he found had not locked onto beds. But come tournament time, they settled close to the only male he found on bed.

“The area was very special. I didn’t know it was that special,” he said. “Because it had deep water that went all the way to the back of it, it reloaded every day. It really did surprise me. I didn’t know that was going to happen. Having 6 feet of water up against the bank in the back is the reason those fish kept coming in there.”

Cook used two different-sized Fighting Frogs, a 4-inch and a 5-inch. The smaller bait was paired with a 1/4-ounce weight and a 4/0 Gamakatsu G-Finesse Heavy Cover hook, while the bigger frog was rigged with a 3/8-ounce weight and a 5/0 Gamakatsu G-Power hook.

With 22-pound Sunline Shooter spooled on his reels, Cook used a pair of rods — a Dobyns 754 Xstasy and a Dobyns 744 Champion Extreme. He said the rods were just the right length for keeping bass pinned when they jumped and fought.

When he thought a bass was ready to commit to his tilapia magic-colored Fighting Frog, Cook put slack in his line and repeatedly tapped the butt end of his rod to make the bait’s appendages move in the bed without moving the lure out of the strike zone.

He added that the silver fleck in that particular color creates a reflection that catches the eye of a bass and irritates it.

“The bait isn’t moving toward me,” he said. “The bait is staying where it is.”

Entering the day with over a 4-pound lead, Cook started Championship Monday by catching a 5-pounder he had left the previous day in the first hour. But he was still slow to fill his limit, not doing so until around 1 p.m.

“Not having those fast starts the past two days probably saved me today,” he said. “When it got to be about 1 o’clock, there was a little concern, but I wasn’t too worried.”

Although he had a limit, Cook still did not have his biggest bass until just before 2:30 p.m., a 7-14 that won the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day award and an extra $1,000.

“I don’t even remember what happened,” Cook said about landing the big bass. “I think I kissed (cameraman) Jake (Latendresse). It was in slow motion whenever I set the hook until I got it in my hand.

“I knew that was going to be the one that gave me a shot. It was a big sigh of relief and a big weight off my shoulders.”

With a Day 1 bag weighing 29-10 and a 31-4 limit on Day 3, Kuphall reached the 100-pound mark by catching 29-3 on Championship Monday to lift him into second place. The feat was most impressive, considering the Mukwonago, Wis., pro only caught four bass that weighed 13-0 on Day 2.

“It feels great just to be able to adjust,” he said. “Where I caught them on the third day, I didn’t really fish on the first and second day. To adjust and catch them on something totally different and have that kind of weight, I’m really happy with that.”

Catching mostly prespawn bass with a couple of spawners and postspawners mixed in, Kuphall targeted deeper cypress trees in Lake Marion.

“Those deeper trees right on the edge on a dropoff into deeper water were the ones I was keying on,” he said. “There was nothing about the tree itself. There was no real pattern there, just where they were situated (in relation) to deep water.”

Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, finished third with a four-day total of 98-0, falling just shy of the century mark. The 2020 Santee Cooper Lakes Elite Series champion mixed things up in the Potato Creek region, fishing offshore bass with a Rapala OG Slim crankbait, jerkbaits, jigs and an X Zone Lures Blitz Worm before searching for big bedding bass with an X Zone Lures Adrenaline Craw.

“I knew I was going to need four or five big ones if I wanted to make a run at this thing,” Palaniuk said. “I caught a 6 3/4- and a 4-pounder (on my starting spot) and then it died off quickly and I couldn’t get any more big bites there. I felt like I was making good adjustments. I just couldn’t catch enough.”

Pat Schlapper of Wisconsin earned the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Tournament award with the 9-10 largemouth he caught on Day 2, winning $2,000.

Oklahoma pro Luke Palmer, who finished fourth with 95-7, earned the $2,000 VMC Monster Bag Award with his Day 3 catch of 33-5.

South Carolina’s Brandon Cobb took home an additional $3,000 for being the highest-placing entrant in the Toyota Bonus Bucks program, while John Cox of Florida earned $2,000 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

As part of the Yamaha Power Pay program, Cook claimed an additional $4,000 and Palaniuk earned an additional $1,500 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

Ed Loughran III won the $1,000 BassTrakk Contingency award for the most accurate weight reporting.

Heading into the fourth stop of the season, the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite Series at Chickamauga Lake, Cox leads the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 285 points. Tennessee pro David Mullins is second with 265, and Arkansan Stetson Blaylock is third with 257.

Wisconsin pro Jay Przekurat leads the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Rookie of the Year standings with 232 points. Alabamian Joseph Webster is second with 183 points and Pennsylvania pro Jonathan Kelley is third with 167.

The Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce hosted the event.

Finish

Name

Hometown

Total lbs-oz

Earnings

1

Drew Cook

Cairo, GA

105-05

$101,000

2

Caleb Kuphall

Mukwonago, WI

103-01

$35,000

3

Brandon Palaniuk

Rathdrum, ID

98-00

$30,000

4

Luke Palmer

Coalgate, OK

95-07

$28,000

5

Cory Johnston

Cavan CANADA

88-09

$20,000

6

Brandon Cobb

Greenwood, SC

85-06

$19,000

7

John Cox

DeBary, FL

84-06

$19,000

8

Greg Hackney 

Gonzales, LA

82-01

$17,000

9

Drew Benton

Blakely, GA

78-13

$16,000

10

Pat Schlapper

Eleva, WI

77-15

$17,000

11

Clifford Pirch            

Payson, AZ

64-11

$10,000

12

Bryan New

Saluda, SC

64-03

$10,000

13

Chad Morgenthaler

Reeds Spring, MO

63-04

$10,000

14

Steve Kennedy            

Auburn, AL

62-03

$10,000

15

KJ Queen

Catawba, NC

61-04

$10,000

16

Joseph Webster

Hamilton, AL

60-12

$10,000

17

Gerald Swindle            

Guntersville, AL

60-07

$10,000

18

Skylar Hamilton

Dandridge, TN

60-01

$10,000

19

Patrick Walters

Summerville, SC

59-11

$10,000

20

Chris Zaldain

Fort Worth, TX

58-06

$10,000

21

Stetson Blaylock

Benton, AR

58-02

$10,000

22

Matt Arey

Shelby, NC

57-15

$10,000

23

Clark Wendlandt

Leander, TX

57-11

$10,000

24

Jay Przekurat            

Stevens Point, WI

57-02

$10,000

25

Mike Huff        

London, KY

56-12

$10,000

26

Jonathan Kelley

Old Forge, PA

56-04

$10,000

27

Taku Ito

Chiba, JAPAN

55-12

$10,000

28

David Williams

Newton. NC

55-09

$10,000

29

David Mullins

Mt Carmel, TN

55-03

$10,000

30

Brandon Lester

Fayetteville, TN

54-14

$10,000

31

Hunter Shryock

Ooltewah, TN

54-05

$10,000

32

Marc Frazier

Newnan, GA

54-03

$10,000

33

Carl Jocumsen              

Queensland AUSTRALIA

53-05

$10,000

34

Kyle Welcher

Opelika, AL

52-15

$10,000

35

Seth Feider

New Market, MN

52-14

$10,000

36

Shane LeHew

Catawba, NC

52-03

$10,000

37

Tyler River

Raceland, LA

51-08

$10,000

38

Josh Douglas

Isle, MN

51-05

$10,000

39

Hank Cherry

Lincolnton, NC

50-15

$10,000

40

Jacob Powroznik

North Prince George, VA

49-02

$10,000

41

Matt Herren

Ashville, AL

48-07

$10,000

42

Derek Hudnall

Denham Springs, LA

48-07

$10,000

43

Todd Auten

Lake Wylie, SC

47-15

$11,000

44

Jason Williamson

Wagener, SC

45-10

$10,000

45

Wes Logan

Springville, AL

42-02

$10,000

46

Ray Hanselman Jr

Del Rio, TX

41-02

$10,000

47

Koby Kreiger

Alva, FL

35-09

$10,000

48

Clent Davis

Montevallo, AL

32-15

$2,500

49

Gary Clouse

Winchester, TN

32-14

$2,500

50

Scott Canterbury

Odenville, AL

32-07

$2,500

2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha

2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Huk Performance Fishing, Marathon, Strike King, Triton Boats, VMC

2022 Bassmaster Conservation Partners: AFTCO, Yamaha Rightwaters

Media Contact: Emily Harley, B.A.S.S. Communications Manager, 205-313-0945, [email protected]

 

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SOURCE B.A.S.S.

Late-Day Cull Lifts Cook To Wire-To-Wire Win At Bassmaster Elite On Santee Cooper Lakes WeeklyReviewer

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