Grooms ready to get on the water for Bassmaster Weekend Series Championship on Santee Cooper

Wade Grooms of Bonneau, SC will be competing next weekWade Grooms of Bonneau, SC will be competing next week

Wade Grooms has been sitting in his home in Bonneau, looking out across Lake Moultrie and wishing he could get on the water to fish, but all of Santee Cooper is off-limits until Sunday to anglers who will compete in the 2011 Bassmaster Weekend Series National Championship next week.

The top 50 anglers and top 50 co-anglers from each of four regional championships will arrive on the lakes Sunday for three days of intensive practice before the championship begins Wednesday. The entire field will fish Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, with the top 25 at that point advancing to the championship round on Sunday.

“I am really looking forward to it, but I wish the water level would stabilize,” said Grooms who advanced to the championship by virtue of winning the South Carolina Division points race. “The water level continues to drop and with the lake being so flat when it drops four or five inches that is a tremendous amount of water that moves off a flat with stumps on it.”

Grooms said a slight drop in water level hurts the fishing much more in a fishery like Santee Cooper which has few feeder creeks flowing in than in an upstate South Carolina lake where there are a lot of creek channels.

“In those lakes you are able to fish the same areas, the fish just move a little bit. Here they might move a quarter of a mile if it drops four or five inches – and it has dropped that much in the last week,”

Grooms said.

“Regardless of the weather or the lake level this kind of opportunity does not come along very often so I am going to embrace all the conditions and make the best of it. I am looking forward to it.”

Grooms finished 80th in the regional championship last month on the Mobile Delta, but he had an automatic ticket to the national championship as long as he fished in all five divisional tournaments and the regional championship.

He edged fellow Santee Cooper angler Chuck Howard for the points title by 1.02 pounds for the year. Howard qualified for the regional championship last month and barely missed qualifying there for the national championship. He finished 53rd and only the top 50 made it to Santee Cooper.

Ironically, neither Grooms nor Howard fished the BWS regularly, but both entered this year because the BWS National championship was scheduled on Santee Cooper this month.

“Fishing on your home lake for $100,000 does not happen often and I don't know if it will happen again anytime soon in the fall. You just don't find a tournament in the fall for $100,000 anywhere,” Grooms said, noting that in the springtime the bite is wide open but in the fall a local angler has the edge on his home water.

Another angler who qualified for the national championship because he won the points in the Co-Angler Division is Samuel (CJ) Freeman of Irmo, a student at Spartanburg Methodist College who finished 62nd on the Mobile Delta, but got the automatic bid via his points title.

Freeman began fishing tournaments about two years ago in the Fishers of Men series and then tried the BWS series where he “did fairly well.” He fished it again this year and won the title from the back of the boat.

Although Freeman has not fished Santee Cooper a whole lot he won the BWS tournament on the lakes in 2010 and again this year.

“I will do whatever I have to do to get a limit first off and then try to improve on it,” said Freeman who plans to transfer to the University of South Carolina in Columbia and join the fishing team there next year. “I will be happy with any partner as long as he is on fish.”

Freeman and Grooms will be honored at the Angler of the Year Dinner Monday night.


2011 Bassmaster Weekend Series National Championship

Nov. 6-12, 2011

Santee Cooper Lakes

John C. Land III Landing