Heading out for that morning take off.
Santee Cooper Everstart - Feb. 27 - March 5
Practice Day 1:   The drive to Santee is a short one compared to most.  I haven't fished Santee in years, perhaps since it had grass in it.  Its completely void of most of the vegetation that made it famous.  The big fish are still there though.  The weather when I arrive is warm and mild.  The first day, I will put in at the upper end of Santee.  Santee is actually two huge lakes, with a diversion canal connecting them.  Most tournaments are either won up river on the upper lake, or on the lower lake.  Today's practice will not be very productive.  I manage a few small fish, not the kind needed to do well at this place.  Big stringers will be common. 

Practice Day 2:  Here comes the wind and cold.  Wind on this lake can be killer.  There's no getting out of it here.  The lake is full of standing timber, making all movement on lake either idle or only in the designated boat lanes.  Today I am fishing the lower lake.  I haven't got allot of experience on the lower lake, but history tells me its where I can win it.  Today the wind will increase in strength, but I do manage to find an area that I think I can do well in.  I'm not getting allot of bites, but they are all quality, with one today almost reaching 10 pounds.

Practice Day 3:  Holly Cow Bat Man, the wind today will reach gust of 50 and sustained at 30.  I'm sure if it was a competition day, it would be canceled.  I decide to go anyway, trailer to an protected area, and that means only swells of 5 feet.  Its brutal out today with wind, cold rain blowing in your face.  It will also be a very unproductive day.  Tomorrow is first day of tournament.  I will go to the area I had the quality bites and work it for all its worth.  I know there's some good fish there if I can get them to bite.  At the registration meeting, some are feeling pretty good if the wind will lay, most are crying the blues.  I hear a local say that today was the roughest he has ever seen Santee in the 20 years he has lived here.  There was atleast 10 ft waves out there.  My first day co-angler partner is from South Carolina.  I tell him to bundle up for a ride to the lower lake.
Tournament Day 1:  The wind is forecast to blow 20 with gust up to 30.  Not quite as bad at yesterday, we will go out on time.  Its about a 30 minute numbing ride to my area.  Its a little ditch that runs into a spawning flat.  Not long after we arrive,  my co-angler catches almost a 5 pounder on a small jerkbait.  I tell him "that's the size when they bite, just not many bites".  Not long after that, I land one about 3 lbs.  There was a boat within 200 yards of us, he makes a very noticeable beeline toward us.  I don't say anything to him, hoping he will just work thru.  Not so lucky, he starts making circles around me as I work parrallel to the ditch.  As he gets within yards of my boat, I land one about 4 lbs in front of him.  I whisper to my co-angler, "I guess hes here to stay now."  But to the guys credit, he proceeds to move back from where he came.
The day will go about as expected, few bites but quality.  I will end the day with 3 fish and in 25th place.  Some impressive stringers were caught, but overall it was tough.  Almost half the pro side blanked, and few limits.  I think if the sun will come out, warm the shallow flat around my ditch, I can catch a big bag.

Tournament Day 2: Today the weather is supposed to warm up and the winds be only around 15 mph.  My co-angler partner is from NC and did not catch a fish yesterday.  He makes the comment to me as we idle thru boat check that he just hopes to catch one today.  He hasn't ever weighed a fish in one of these events.  I always get a few cautious chills when I hear this.  When we arrive to my little ditch, surprisingly, there is nobody on it.  Before I can even get my trolling motor down and my rod up, my co-angler says, "I got one"!  I net a really nice fish and can see a big smile on his face.  He makes the comment that "I don't know how good that finally feels".  Well, I do.  The day will go slow, with little bites for me accept an occasional mullet.  We work up and down the ditch, I can tell the water is warming from the sun.  Suddenly my co-angler gives off a big "Whoa"!  Hes got a big one on.  I will net it for him.  I tell him that he just went from zero to hero, probably just made the top ten cut.  He's a little sketical but when the day ends, I will have blanked and he will have made the top 10 cut.  He will fish another day.  Me, I will pack my gear and hit the road for Louisana FLW.  Not sure why I didn't connect with a fish that day.  Guess the lack of numbers over quality got me.  I will go on to finish just over 2 pounds out of the money.  A bitter pill to swallow.  I wish my co-angler good luck the next two days, and hit the road for a 14 hour drive.
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