FLW angler Bryan Thrift of Shelby went down to Santee over the weekend looking to improve on what has been a rough 2016 season for him so far. He did just that, winning the Santee Cooper Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division tournament, which netted him $48,200 and a Ranger Z518 bass boat with a 200-horsepower outboard.

Thrift started the year off with two tournaments in which he finished below 100th place, so this win means a lot to him.

“After starting the year with two finishes below 100th place, this makes me feel a little better. We are building a new house and I have not had a paycheck since August, so this is going to relieve a lot of stress for me,” said Thrift.

Thrift’s three-day total weighed over 79-15, despite bringing only four fish to the scales on day two. He fished on both the upper and lower lakes, and his fish came from all over the Santee-Cooper system. 

“On a lake like Santee Cooper that is absolutely full of big bass in the middle of March, on the first major warming trend with the water getting into the upper 60s and low 70s, I’m not going to beg them to bite. The big ones have just moved up for the first time all year, and they’re ready to bite, so I shouldn’t have to sit there and play with them. That’s just crazy. I’m going to make one cast, give my jig one hop, and I’m gone. If there is a big one there, it will bite. It’s not like these fish have been pestered with for two months. They just pulled up, and my lure is the first one they’ve seen,” said Thrift.

On the co-angler side, Summerville’s Todd Walters took first place with his three-day total of 55-11, and won $6100 and a Ranger Z117 with a 90-horsepower outboard.

On day one, Walters, whose son Patrick Walters won the FLW Collegiate National Championship as a member of the University of South Carolina fishing team, weighed in 20-13. He slipped on day two with 13-13, then finished strong with a 21-1 bag. He finished better than 15-pounds ahead of second-place finisher Sean Lewis of Baskerville, Va, whose three-day total equalized 39-8.

Walters relied on a Zoom Ol’ Monster worm with a 1/16-ounce weight, 30-pound test braid, and a 12-pound test fluorocarbon leader.

“The fish on Santee Cooper like big plastics fished real slow. I mean, I don’t just throw to a stump. I want to rub that stump, get hung up on it, and sort of shake it free, and then just let it soak for 15-seconds. Then you’ll just feel your line tighten up, and it’s game on,” said Walters.