Chase Byars of Ashley Ridge High School and Kyle Austin of Woodland High School teamed up to win the first VIP Adventures Youth Fishing Tournament on Dec. 20. The duo weighed in a three-fish limit that tipped the scales at 14.4-pounds, which was almost 4-pounds heavier than the second-place team.

Wando High took the runner-up spot with 10.8-pounds. Fort Dorchester took third with 10.2-pounds, and Summerville finished fourth with 8.8-pounds.

Byars and Austin followed the advice of tournament director Marc Deschenes, who owns VIP Adventures and fishes several local and national tournament trails. 

“These fish are on the same pattern that the largemouth bass on Santee are on. They are chasing schools of shad. A lot of anglers, especially young anglers, just can’t get away from fishing along the banks. It’s something they can easily see and relate to, and throughout much of the year, it’s possible to catch largemouth along the banks. But this time of year, when the shad are schooling thick, the bass are chasing them,” said Deschenes.

Byars and Austin caught their fish on Zoom Brush Hogs and soft plastic lizards. They fished them Texas-rigged, and instead of casting them along the banks like many of the other tournament anglers did, they focused on the middle of the water.

“We knew the schools of shad were out in the middle were there was deeper water,” said Byars, who said locating these schools of baitfish were critical to catching quality fish. 

Deschenes said in any body of water with shad, this is the most consistent pattern during this time of year, even when it is unseasonably warm.

“When it gets warm like it has been lately, some bass are going to move shallow, but the majority of the bass in any body of water that contains shad will be following those schools. They know winter is coming, and they know they can get a belly full easily as long as they stay near these schools of shad. Most of the bass won’t stray more than 10-feet from the school they are chasing,” he said.

Deschenes will be holding another tournament during the third weekend in January. He plans to make this a monthly event, and the tournaments will be open to youth anglers that range between high school and college ages. 

VIP Adventures is a series of ponds that range from 70-acres to over 150-acres, and Deschenes manages them for trophy bass. He said this is the perfect place to get today’s youth interested in competitive bass fishing. 

“These ponds have plenty of fish in them, and they are quality fish. And you can send a group of young anglers to Santee this time of year, and the fishing can be tough. Even though these are big ponds, they are still a lot smaller than a lake like Santee, and these kids are going to catch fish here. Every team in this tournament brought a full 3-fish limit to the scales, and every team had to cull throughout the tournament. That’s going to keep them interested and keep them in the boat, off the streets, and doing something productive,” said Deschenes.