London and Church win Black’s Camp Big Cat Shootout on Santee Cooper

“Show me your big fish.” — Kevin Davis

Plenty of big fish ruled the day on Friday at the Black’s Camp Big Cat Shootout. Prefishing was great with multiple 40 pounds and over fish reported. All the while, anglers and organizers were watching the weather. Winter storm Diego was bearing down on the area with predictions of cold rainy weather and extremely high winds.

Anyone familiar with Santee Cooper knows just how fast that body of water can become dangerous in windy conditions. Weather conditions were discussed at the captains meeting and a decision was made to shorten the tournament from two days to a full day on Friday and a half day on Saturday. On that final day, anglers were required to stop fishing at noon and be in the weigh-in line by 1:00.

The Black’s Camp Big Cat Shootout, now in its second year, is a Big Entry, Big Fish tournament. The entry fee is $500 per boat and it features a 100 percent payout. First place takes 50%, second takes 30% and third place takes 20%. Each boat weighs in two fish each day of a two-day tournament. An optional $50 Big Fish Pot rounds out the prize money and all 26 teams signed up. The total payout was $14,500 with a couple of nice prizes added to the Big Fish Pot.

Santee Cooper did not disappoint. Plenty of big fish came to the scales on day one in what appeared to be a pre-frontal bite. Several anglers reported culling 30-plus fish. The high wind predictions were right on for day two and anglers were challenged by extremely rough water. Back at the weigh-in site, the expected rain was moderate and the day-two weigh-in occurred with only a sprinkle of rain but the bite was definitely off after the front came through.

First Place
Timothy London and Wayne Church claimed the top spot in the Shootout. They weighed in an even 85 pounds on day one that included a 46.40 pounder. They added 54.1 on day two for a 139.1-pound total to earned a check for $6,500. That is about a 35-pound average weight of four fish.

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London and Church arrived at Black’s Camp on Thursday morning with the main priority of catching bait, which turned out to be tough.

“It required most of the day to catch bait,” reported London. “But we did manage to find enough time to go mark some fish to possibly target on Friday. I decided to make a last-second change before we left Black’s Camp on day one. We headed to a spot that I thought looked rather promising. We ended up fishing a secondary channel and drifting right on the channel ledge in 20 to 30 feet of water. Perch seemed to be what the fish wanted. We also caught a few on fresh gizzard shad but the majority of our fish came off of white perch.”

“On Saturday we knew that the wind was gonna’ be brutal,” continued London. “And, it was gonna’ pick up right around 8 a.m. We knew we had to get our fish early. We managed to pull two more good fish out of the same general area that we fished on Friday.”

The Eden, NC team is very mindful of the need to take good care of the fish. London mentioned that the cold weather helps keep the fish lively and healthy but also mentioned the need for having a good livewell. They believe in having the fish as healthy on release as they are when caught. It is a good example for all tournament anglers to follow.

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“Kevin Davis at Black’s Camp put on an awesome tournament,” concluded London. “Their hospitality is second to none. I will definitely be back next year.”

Second Place
Richard Chaplin and Jimmy Girdler earned the runner-up spot at the Black’s Camp Big Cat Shootout. With 80 pounds on day one, that included a 49.1 pounds blue, they added 57.7 pounds on day two and took the second-place spot with a total weight of 137.7. They earned a check for $3,900 for the second-place win.

catfish, tournament, Santee Cooper, Blacks Camp

Chaplin is a local angler and fishes Santee regularly. Girdler is from Atlanta, GA, and visits the area with his brother to fish with Chaplin a couple times a year.

“I stay on the water enough to keep a track on the fish movement,” offered Chaplin. “Some might say that’s the ‘local advantage.’ We fished shallow water both days. We were in 3 to 8  feet of water looking for submerged stumps.”

“We anchor fished the entire tournament,” continued Chaplin. “We concentrated on the shallower, more active fish as opposed to drifting for deep water fish that tend to be lethargic. Fresh mullet was our bait. We went to the river on Thursday before the tournament and netted fresh mullet. That is another ‘local advantage,’ knowing where to find bait. I always prefer fresh over frozen when available.”

Chaplin commented on the weather change from Friday to Saturday. The weatherman was right on this one and Chaplin and Girdler had to adapt their game plan accordingly. The cold front and high winds forced them to fish the opposite side of the lake on day-two.

“The weather was definitely a major factor in this tournament,” said Chaplin. “With the front moving in, the air pressure spiking, and conditions deteriorating as the day progressed made for an interesting weigh-in on day-two.”

catfish, tournament, Santee Cooper, Blacks Camp

“Kevin Davis does a great job putting on this tournament,” concluded Chaplin. “I respect the fact that he allows the participants to vote on questionable topics at the captain’s meetings. I hope he continues doing this tournament every year.”

Third Place
Mike Durham, Brad McCall, and Barry Moore finished third in the Shootout. They had 75.9 pounds on day one. They added 57.3 on day-two and posted a total weight of 133.2 pounds to claim their spot and earn a check for $2,600.

catfish, tournament, Santee Cooper, Blacks Camp

“We love the tournament format,” stated McCall. “We were able to prefish and it was very good a couple days before the tournament. It got worse as the week went on. In the tournament, we fished flats and ditches that led off of old creek beds. The better ones had big stumps on them.”

The Anderson, SC team was drift fishing using both white perch and gizzard shad. On Friday before the front hit, they reported that the perch did better. By Saturday the front had arrived, the temperatures dropped, and the winds created rough conditions on the lake. The team reported a better bite on the gizzard shad for day-two as the cold front appeared to have an impact on the bite.

catfish, tournament, Santee Cooper, Blacks Camp

“Our fish moved deeper on Saturday,” concluded McCall. “We were catching them at 25 feet on Friday, but they were in 30 to 32 feet on Saturday. The wind and the waves weren’t too bad on us the 2nd day because we fished the east side of the lake with the wind blowing out of the NE.”

Big Fish
Big fish of the tournament came on day one. Shane Queen, Ric Helms, and Toby Griffin teamed up to fish the Shootout. They had a total weight of 90.4 pounds to lead the tournament after one day of fishing. Their day one bag included a big blue that weighed 53.60 pounds.

catfish, tournament, Santee Cooper, Blacks Camp

That weight held up through day-two to give them the Big Fish title, braggin’ rights, and a check for $1,500 that included the Big Fish Pot of $1,300 and $200 from Black’s Camp. They also won a Hurricane Anchor and a Big Cat Fever Rod complete with an Abu Garcia 7000 spooled with Slime Line.

“The weather was really nice the first day of fishing,” reported Queen. “We could do any type of fishing we wanted so we anchored and caught some nice fish. About noon we decided to do some drifting in the same areas we had been anchoring. Both techniques produced some quality fish.”

“We were drifting with cut shad in about 20 feet of water when the big fish hit,” recalled Queen. “The rod went off and my fishing partner, Ric Helms, grabbed the rod and the battle was on. After about 15 minutes the fish was netted.”

“We were using Big Cat Fever Rods, ABU reels, and 40-pound line to drift underwater creek channels and points in the lower lake,” reported Helms. “We were using shad for bait. The bite was slow, but about 2:00 the big fish hit in about 15- to 20-foot water.”

“He came to the boat, but didn’t want to take the ride to the weigh-in,” joked Helms. “He didn’t want the doctor to weigh him and have the people look at him. He stayed down under the boat for about 15 minutes before we got him in the boat.”

“We weighed the big fish and put it in the livewell,” said Queen. “We had two 36-pound fish in there already, so we culled one of them.”

“The second day was windy and rough,” continued Queen. “We returned to the same area where we caught fish the day before and made a few drifts. We caught two fish good enough to hold on to 4th place and big fish.”

catfish, tournament, Santee Cooper, Blacks Camp

“We would like to give a big thanks to Kevin Davis for a well-run tournament,” concluded Queen. “The Santee Cooper lakes have always been a top destination for catching trophy catfish and I believe the restrictions they have placed on the catfish a few years ago have really helped the fishing come back. I hope that they remain that way for the future fishermen.”

Final Thoughts
Many anglers praised the format and operation of the tournament. They also like the fact that the docks behind the weigh-in provide for a convenient and deep-water release. With plenty of big fish coming to the scales the competition was tight. Only about 9 pounds separated first place from fifth place and the average weight or the top five teams was 33.5 pounds.

“The second annual Blacks Camp Big Cat Shootout was a very close tournament,” stated Kevin Davis, tournament director and owner/operator of Black’s Camp. “It was especially close between the top four or five places. There were lots of big fish weighed in the first day. Day two brought an extreme cold front to the area. It featured northeast winds and 40-degree air temperatures which is extremely cold for the Lowcountry of South Carolina.”

“Congratulations to all of the winners,” added Davis. “And also, to everyone who participated in this tournament with such tough conditions. The sport of catfishing is growing by leaps and bounds and some pretty big players are getting ready to get involved. Let’s all do what we can to keep it classy and we will see you soon. We’ll do it again next year!”

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Editor’s Note: To keep up to date with Black’s Camp Big Cat Shootout, like and follow them on their Facebook page.

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