Outdoors

Who is leading a field of 74 competitors in the Bassmaster Elite at Winyah Bay

Conway Angler Preparing For Bassmaster Classic

Conway banker John Proctor has qualified for the World Championship of bass fishing, The Bassmaster Classic. Proctor is heading to Tulsa, OK to compete against 54 of the biggest names in the fishing world on March 3-6 at Grand Lake O' the Cherokee
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Conway banker John Proctor has qualified for the World Championship of bass fishing, The Bassmaster Classic. Proctor is heading to Tulsa, OK to compete against 54 of the biggest names in the fishing world on March 3-6 at Grand Lake O' the Cherokee

The Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Elite at Winyah Bay began Thursday morning with the field of 74 boats zooming in a variety of directions after takeoff from the launch at the Carroll Campbell Marine Complex in Georgetown.

Winyah Bay, considered the third-largest watershed on the East Coast, offers rivers such as the Waccamaw, Pee Dee and Black as options for the Elite Series bass anglers to find the heaviest limit of five lunker largemouth possible. About 10 miles south of the bay, the Santee Rivers are another option.

Numerous anglers even prefer to take the long ride down the Intracoastal Waterway to Charleston Harbor and then as far as 40 miles up the Cooper River, revered for its population of big bass, to fish.

Sometimes, though, it pays off to stay close to the launch site, and the extra fishing time that affords.

That is the route Jason Williamson took on Thursday, opting to fish the Waccamaw and Pee Dee rivers, a relatively short run from the launch site on the Sampit River, according to his Marshal, Chris Jones of Conway.

Williamson, of Wagener in Aiken County, is a Bassmaster veteran who has Elite Series wins at Lake Amistad in Texas in 2009 and Clarks Hill Reservoir on the border of South Carolina and Georgia in 2010.

Bass in local waters are in spawning mode, with some in pre-spawn, some post-spawn and some currently spawning.

Williamson wound up with a five-fish limit weighing 15 pounds, 11 ounces to take the early, slim lead over Hunter Shryock of Newcomerstown, Ohio in second place with a five-fish bag of 15-8.

“I feel like the two bigger fish (Williamson) caught were getting ready to spawn,” Jones said. “He wasn’t sight fishing, just blind casting. He’s got three more days to go, but he’s off to a good start.”

Williamson’s lunker, a 6-10 fish, was the largest weighed in during Thursday’s opening day of fishing.

Williamson and Shryock were the only two anglers to top the 15-pound mark Thursday.

Jones enjoyed the experience of riding with the early leader, and was happy with where Williamson caught his fish.

“I think that’s a great thing,” said Jones. “Our rivers would have won the last time (the Elite Series was) here (if not for) one or two lost fish.”

The tournament continues through Sunday with the field trimmed to the top 35 anglers for Saturday and the top 10 on Sunday.

The tournament can be followed live at www.bassmaster.com.

With the Winyah Bay Heritage Festival joining the festivities over the weekend, Georgetown will be, well, one festive place over the weekend.

“It’s great for the economy and great to showcase our area,” said Jones, the vice president of the Conway Bassmasters. “There’s no downside to it at all.”

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