Linwood Thornhill of Pineville has fished the Santee Cooper lakes for more than 50 years, and that experience paid off as Thornhill pocketed $40,000 for winning the FLW Rayovac Tournament out of John C. Land Landing March 14-16. 

During the 3-day event, Thornhill was the only angler to bag over 20 pounds on each day. His overall weight was more than 72 pounds.

Thornhill caught most of his fish on a ¼-ounce green pumpkin football jig with a crawfish trailer of the same color on 15-pound test line. While some anglers divided their casting time between lily pads, cypress trees, deep holes, brush piles and bank structure, Thornhill spent his three days along the wall of riprap that lines the Diversion Canal, and timing was a key.

“There is a little period of time after winter when the big bass get up on those rocks and feed heavily just before they spawn,” Thornhill said. “In a week or so, they’ll all be gone and sitting up on beds somewhere.”

Thornhill said most of his fish bit as he cast into the rocks, then worked his jig down into 10 to 12 feet of water.

Ben Moon of Danielsville, Ga., finished second overall with 60 pounds, which netted him $15,000. Brian Thrift of Shelby, N.C., took third with 58-2, winning $12,000. Clent Davis of Montevallo, Ala., was fourth with 55-10, winning $10,000, and Trevor Fitzgerald of Belleview, Fla., took fifth with 51-1, good for $9,000.

Winning $40,000 for three days of fishing may seem like good luck, but it was just another day at the grindstone for Thornhill, who guides out of Black's Camp for catfish and striper. The lucky angler was Marvin Reese of Gwynn Oak, Md., who fished as a co-angler. He didn’t weigh in a fish on the first day, but he fished with Thornhill the next two days, and he won the co-angler division and a fully rigged Ranger boat.

Dave Hammer of Taylorsville, N.C., took a distant second among co-anglers with 31-7, winning $5,000. Bryan New of Belmont, N.C., finished third with 22-3 and took home $4,000.