By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
First-year Bassmaster Elite Series competitor Austin Felix posted the best finish of his seven-year pro career last week at the Santee Cooper Lakes. Bernie Schultz, who's fished with B.A.S.S. since the early 1980s, logged his best-ever placement on the Elite Series (dating to 2006) and his highest in 17 years.
Following are some pattern details for the 4th- and 5th-place in the seventh Elite Series event of 2020.
4th: Austin Felix
> Day 1: 5, 20-09
> Day 2: 5, 12-02
> Day 3: 5, 17-02
> Day 4: 5, 11-01
> Total = 20, 60-14
Felix has finished among the top half of the field in the past six events after starting the campaign with a 64th at the St. Johns River. He's up to No. 6 in the Angler of the Year standings.
He caught a 20 1/2-pound bag (highlighted by a 6 1/2-pounder) on day 1 by flipping docks, but that was the only day that tactic was effective. He spent the vast majority of the last 3 days sitting on one deep hole.
"It was nice and calm and sunny on the first day and the fish weren't overly pressured," he said. "But then the weather changed and the wind was beating on the docks and it just shut that whole pattern down. I caught one fish doing it the rest of the week."
He describes his deeper-water spot as "a typical ledge situation like you find on the Tennessee River." It was next to a main-channel point that had stumps and laydowns on the front side and water in the 10- to 17-foot range.
He found it on the first day of practice when he spent most of the day graphing. It was the only deep-water locale he discovered where the fish were even somewhat cooperative and he had it all to himself.
"There weren't tons of fish there, but there was a decent-sized school of 30 or more. There were still some left (on the final day) but they didn't bite very well."
The fish were roaming around and actively feeding during the early morning hours and he caught a couple of nice ones on a swimbait. When that frenzy subsided, he'd spend the rest of the time dragging a shaky-head.
> Shaky-head gear: 7'6" medium-heavy 13 Fishing Omen rod, 13 Fishing Concept A casting reel (8:1 ratio), 12-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, 1/4-ounce jighead, 7" Roboworm Straight Tail worm (margarita mutilator).
> Dock-fishing gear: 7'4" medium-heavy 13 Fishing Envy rod, 13 Fishing Concept Boss casting reel (8:1 ratio), 17-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, 3/16-ounce bullet weight, 3/0 straight-shank worm hook, same bait as shaky-head.
> Swimbait gear: 7'4" 13 Fishing Envy Chattercrank rod, 13 Fishing Concept Boss reel (6:1 ratio), 15-pound Seaguar InvizZ flurocarbon line, 3/8-ounce All Terrain Tackle swimbait head, Keitech Swing Impact 3.5 (sexy shad).
Bernie Schultz's 5th-place finish was his best in 17 years.
5th: Bernie Schultz
> Day 1: 5, 12-08
> Day 2: 5, 17-10
> Day 3: 5, 17-13
> Day 4: 5, 12-06
> Total = 20, 60-05
Schultz caught two quality fish from lily pads on day 3 that helped him make the Top 10. Otherwise, his focus was entirely on cypress trees.
"(Fellow Floridian) Cliff Prince and I worked together and the bite was tough as nails in practice, but we both got some bites doing the same thing and we knew it'd work in parts of the lake," he said. "I really had nothing else to do, so I just settled in with it. It was kind of a blessing that I wasn't on a whole lot.
"The lake's full of trees – they're everywhere. I stayed on the upper lake (Marion) and had fish on both sides. It was best on the takeoff side where the major creeks are developed, but when we had the bad wind on day 3 I had to improvise and I went to the other side and caught some over there."
He caught 90 percent of his fish by skipping an unweighted Senko to the base of a tree. Most of them bit in 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 feet of water and never deeper than 3 feet.
"Patience was a big thing. It seemed like I'd have to hit 300 trees to get a bite."
> Senko gear: 7' medium-action Shimano Ci4 Complex rod, size 3000 Shimano Sustain spinning reel, 10-pound Sufix 832 braid (main line), 10-pound Sufix Advance fluorocarbon (10' leader), 2/0 VMC Ike Approved Neko Weedless Hook, 5" Yamamoto Senko (green-pumpkin/watermelon laminate).
> Buzzbait gear: 7' medium-heavy Shimano Expride rod, Shimano Chronarch or Calais casting reel (7:1 ratio), 30-pound Sufix 832 braided line, 3/8- or 1/2-ounce Hildebrandt SqueakEasy buzzbait (black).
> His smaller buzzbait had a black silicone skirt and he threw the larger one with a Zoom Horny Toad trailer.