Zell Rowland won at the Santee-Cooper BASSMASTER by milking one spot in Lake Moultrie for 4 days. How good was that spot? Here's how he did -- not bad for 4 days of fishing:
Day 1: 5, 28-10
Day 2: 5, 30-04
Day 3: 5, 16-13
Day 4: 5, 22-14
> Total: 20, 98-09

Heavenly Sandbar

Rowland said the biggest key to his victory at Santee-Cooper was that he had the spot all to himself. No other competitors or locals fished there except for Friday, when a local angler came into the area.

"I think no one found this place because it was tucked in behind an island in a small nothing-looking bay," he said.

"You couldn't just ride down the shoreline and see this place like so many of the other canals and pockets that attracted tournament anglers."

His hot spot was a sandbar hidden from view behind the island. "You had to fish into this bay and around the backside of the island find this place," he said. "I found it on the second day of practice."

The sandbar was about 75 yards long and had about a foot of water on top. It was marked by clumps of sawgrass that grew on top of the bar.

"For the most part, the bay was shallow, but there were two little deepwater troughs – with 3 to 6 feet of water that extended off the bar – and that's what made it so awesome," he said. Those fish were funneling – I mean by the hundreds – in those ditches and around that bar. It's like a spot you find when you go to heaven."

Playing Defense

During the first two days he caught his big limits by 9:00 a.m., then guarded his spot the rest of the day. "It was a small area," he said. "One or two other boats on that deal would have really messed it up. I would stay out front and kind of guard it from any other competitors that tried to come in there."

Fortunately only one other competitor tried to come in, and when he realized Rowland was there, he left. "The locals were a different matter," he said. "They have as much as right to fish in there as anyone. On the second day, when I had the 30 pounds, one local boat did come in there. I had to retreat to the prime sand bar and start fishing around it to guard it. But I didn't want to start ripping 5-pounders in front of him, so I just shook the fish off. I had 14 bites that I shook off. It was killing me."

On day 3 he was affected by a combination of falling water and spectator boats. "There were some local boys that followed me in there, not to fish, but to watch," he said. "Once I went in behind the island to fish the bar, the only place they could watch me from was out at the mouth of the trough. Once I realized the water had dropped, I figured the bass had basically pulled out to where the spectator boats were. All those trolling motors in there didn't help. It was a small area."

On the final day he decided to fish his honey hole for all it was worth. This time he started in the deeper water and slowly fished his way towards the bar. "Just as I had suspected, the dropping water had pulled the fish down into the deeper trough and along a deeper edge in the bay," he said. "There were still some fish up around the bar, but the bigger ones were out in 3-6 feet of water. I switched to a Yum lizard (watermelon seed) on the final day to fish out deeper."

Rowland estimates he caught about 40 keeper bass on day 4.

Winning Gear

> Rowland mostly used a 3/8-ounce Excalibur spinnerbait (No. 4 gold willow, No. 3 silver willow) with a chartreuse/white skirt, and also pitched a Yum tube (black/blue/purple) rigged on a 1/8-ounce Excalibur tungsten weight around the sandbar. On the last day he resorted to the Yum lizard.

> Most of his baits were fished on Silver Thread's new Excalibur fluorocarbon in 20-pound test. The only exception was the lizard, which he fished on 12-pound fluorocarbon.

> His spinnerbait rod was an 6' 8" All Star Zell Rowland signature series (SBR-2). His rod for the tube and lizard was an 7' 6" All Star T-40 flipping stick. His reels were all Quantum PT 600 baitcasters.

Excalibur
Photo: Excalibur

One of his winning lures was an Excalibur spinnerbait.