MANNING, S.C. Twenty pounds? Twenty-five? Maybe 30?
The 104 anglers who launched this morning to kick off the Santee Cooper Showdown presented by MotorGuide had varying opinions on how much weight it would take to seize the first-day lead here at the third stop of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series.
But the pros' comments were similar in one way each of them expects today's catch to be big.
"It's going to take 30-pounds plus to lead today," said Robert Hamilton Jr. "It's going to be big. There will be a lot of 20-pound bags."
Several factors figure to play a role in today's anticipated haul. After a cold snap last week, the weather is warming here in central South Carolina, with temperatures expected to reach the low 70s this afternoon. That has bass moving to their beds and, combined with crystal-clear water conditions, sight fishing figures to be the key to success.
If the catch is as large as many anglers anticipate, it would be in stark contrast to the practice days at Santee Cooper when cool weather hindered what the pros saw.
"There will be a couple of big sacks," said Britt Myers. "But practice was tough, so a lot of the guys aren't going to have them all lined up. I think this will be one of the tournaments that is rare because the weights will go up each day."
Hamilton didn't make a cast the final two days of practice. Instead, he watched the bass, which he said are definitely moving onto their beds.
"That's where this tournament is going to be won, on the beds," he said. "I've probably got 100 marked on my GPS. So now, I'm just going to go fishing for them."
Back-to-back for Hack?
Greg Hackney, who won the Lone Star Shootout in Texas two weeks ago, said he plans to target the staging fish.
"I'm still practicing, really," Hackney said. "This tournament is going to change drastically day to day. It's been cold. The water (temperature) jumped 10 degrees yesterday. So every day is going to be different. Chances are it's going to be won sight fishing because the water is so clear. There's no way around it. This place is full of giants and they're fixing to be everywhere."
With the fish likely concentrated on key bedding areas, it's also possible that many of the anglers will find themselves fishing in close proximity to one another. Myers said that was the case during practice.
"I went into a couple of places that were really small and there were 20 boats stacked up," he said. "I'm staying away from that because there's going to be some drama in there. I promise you that."
If you can't beat 'em...
Randy Yarnall wasn't crazy about the prospect of sight fishing for most of the tournament. It's not his preferred style, he said.
"It's not conducive to my nature," Yarnall said. "But it's just the way this tournament is going. The water is so clear you don't have anything to go to out in the open areas. So they're going to be in the cuts, going for whatever cover they can find."
Yarnall has fished on Santee Cooper six or seven times before and can't remember the water being clearer than it is now.
"I can see the bottom in five or six feet," he said. "And in eight feet, if there's something clean down there, you can see it."
So, though he would rather not, Yarnall plans to join his peers in the sight-fishing brigade.
"My saying is that I got murdered by the Romans two and three weeks ago at Del Rio and Rayburn. So when in Rome, do as the Romans do."
Weigh in is scheduled to begin this afternoon at 3 p.m. (EST).