Two bass totaling 17.95 pounds wins SRS Ultimate Fishing Challenge

These two fish combined for a total weight of 17.95 pounds and won the 2018 SRS Ultimate Fishing Challenge for First Responders on Par Pond.

Multiple 7+ pound bass caught during tournament at Par Pond

If you ever get an invitation to fish Par Pond, don’t miss it.

Par Pond, an approximately 2700-acre body of water located at South Carolina’s Savannah River Site, is managed by the Dept. of Energy. While not open to the public, it is open to fishing a few times each year for special occasions, including a recent fishing tournament for a small number of first responders and those who work in law enforcement.

The tournament was hosted and sponsored by a partnership between the Dept. of Energy, the USFS-SR, and the National Wild Turkey Federation.

I was invited to guide the media boat on Oct. 6 during the SRS Ultimate Fishing Challenge for First Responders, and I readily accepted. I’d heard stories of the great fishing to be had there, but I kept a very reserved expectation based on a number of factors. Keep in mind, I’m a very seasoned bass angler. I’ve fished fabled fisheries like Okeechobee, El Salto, Santee, Pickwick, St. John’s River, Falls Lake, and Buggs Island, all in their prime.

But this event was going to be in early October in southwestern South Carolina after weeks of record heat. The weather report was for 92 degrees, flat calm, bluebird skies, and the lake water would be 85 degrees. So my experience told me to temper those expectations of stellar fishing.

On Friday, Oct. 5, we launched the boat for a scouting mission at 2 p.m., with orders to be back at the dock by 5:30, so we had about three hours to fish. So here we are, middle of the afternoon, 92 degrees, never seen this water before. My fishing and media companions Brian Carroll and Forrest Bowers joined me as we motored a couple of miles to a major main lake point. Emergent vegetation and pads covered the water around every bank. Thick, lush hydrilla covered full coves.

The second cast with a LIVETARGET hollow-body frog popper in the pads resulted in a 3 pounder. But as it turned out, the shallow bite was random. With 85 degree surface water, I guessed that the bass would be out deeper, and that became quickly confirmed. Over the next three hours, we caught 35 to 40 bass, most between 3 and 4 pounds on 10-inch worms Texas-rigged on the outside grass lines in 18 to 20 feet of water. There is nothing “Par” about this pond!

Several fish hit a magnum flutter spoon, and a few fish came on topwater lures as fish schooled, but the big worms worked their magic on the deep grass line. We never cranked the big engine to move locations, and were back at the dock at the 5:30 schedule. We stopped and took photos and worked with other anglers on techniques.

The next day, Saturday, Oct. 6 was tournament day, and we fished from 8 a.m. until noon. So we missed the first full hour of daylight, and only had four hours to fish. With 32 boats of participants, we had about 64 anglers. We were the media boat, and not technically in the tournament, so we navigated around other anglers.

We began fishing on a shady bank, and after a few bites on LIVETARGET topwater lures, we decided to find another deep grass spot similar to what we’d been fishing the day before. That’s when we began to duplicate the pattern from the prior day, and from then until we left to make the noon deadline, we again caught about 40 bass.

The big worms did the steady work, but the 5-inch flutter spoon caught about eight fish, and another half dozen came on topwater lures near schooling action. During the final 45 minutes, I experimented with a big 5-inch swimbait on the edge of a deep grass line and got four bites, including about a 7-pound fish that I dumped near the boat. We worked a few hundred yards of grass line, never once cranking the outboard after this stop.

In the interest of conservation, organizers called for a two-fish limit due to the very high water temperature. The winning team’s two fish weighed a whopping 17.95 pounds, including a 9.65-pound bass that was the second big fish of the event.

Other heavyweights included two 9 pounders, three 8 pounders, and six bass over 7 pounds. Our best two fish combined weighed a bit over 11 pounds, with one going 6 pounds and the other 5, which is a great day in any body of water, but chump change at this event. And remember, we only fished for four hours.

My experience at Par Pond confirms that there is nothing “Par” about this water. I suggest a name change to “Peerless” Pond, but my real question is, when can I go back?

-Story submitted by Gary Abernethy

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