Cook Maintains Lead At Bassmaster Elite Series Event On Santee Cooper Lakes

Former Bassmaster Rookie of the Year Drew Cook had never led an Elite Series event until Day 1 of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Santee Cooper Lakes, but Cook took the milestone in stride by catching 24 pounds, 12 ounces on Day 2 to stretch his lead in the event.

After a catch of 31-13 on the first day, which leads the VMC Monster Bag standings as the tournament's heaviest bag, Cook now has a two-day mark of 56-9 that gives him a sizeable lead over Idaho pro Brandon Palaniuk (second, 48-15) and Louisiana pro Greg Hackney (third, 48-1).

“I should have had another really big bag,” said Cook, who resides in Cairo, Ga. “When it is going your way, it is going your way. At 10 o’clock I didn’t have a bass. I stayed on a female for too long and I left, went to another one, caught her. Then I went back to that (first) one and, on the first cast, I caught her.

“It’s been going right and hopefully it will keep going right.”

Despite a slow start, Cook continued to show off his sight-fishing prowess, picking off bedding bass with a Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog in tilapia magic. His heaviest fish weighed 7-8.

“I never spun out or anything. I kept my head in it, I thought, really well,” Cook said. “This is the first time I’ve ever been in this situation. It could have easily gone the other way. I caught one female, then another one and then a big male. Once we got things rolling we kept on.”

Calm sunny conditions prevailed for almost the entire second day, but the forecast for Day 3 calls for wind and potential rain and storms. With weather conditions and the quantity of big females moving onto the beds uncertain, Cook said he isn’t sure he can keep his current pace.

He does, however, know two big bass are still left in his area and hopes he can wrangle them on Semifinal Saturday.

“I did lose one big female this afternoon with 30 minutes to go,” he said. “Hopefully I can get her to bite again tomorrow. There was another one that was a 6-pounder, but I couldn’t get her to bite.

“I’m hoping the weather isn’t as bad as they say it is going to be, because if it is that bad that lake is going to be nasty.”

Palaniuk jumped up the leaderboard on Day 2 by catching 22-13 and increasing his two-day total to 48-15. The five-time Elite Series champion struggled much of the day, but Palaniuk landed an 8-12 largemouth with just 30 minutes to go before check-in time to salvage the day.

“It was a big grind today. What I wanted to do today did not work out this morning and I had to gamble,” Palaniuk said. “Things weren’t clicking so I went and fished all new water and I ended up catching that 8-12. That made a huge difference and really made my entire bag.”

With little success on his primary pattern from Thursday, Palaniuk punted and sight fished during the afternoon hours. Although he loves to sight fish, he said the tactic makes consistency difficult. Nothing is guaranteed and a lot of time is spent looking for new bass.

“All the fish I was catching that were staging all flooded the bank I think,” he said. “I’ll start (Saturday) doing what I did (Thursday) and see. The weather could change things and hold some of those fish back. I could catch a big bag early and if I can do that, it could make the afternoon a lot more fun.”

With 20-3 on Day 2, Hackney maintained his third-place position with 48-1. Unlike Cook and Palaniuk, Hackney got off to a hot start, securing a limit within the first three hours in the same area where he had success on Day 1.

With dirtier water in his area, Hackney picked apart shallow cover for bass he believed were on bed, but that he could not see. He “fished like a snail,” making multiple presentations to the same piece of cover.

“I caught a lot of fish today,” said Hackney, who has six B.A.S.S. wins to his credit. “I fished where I was yesterday and then I expanded on some other stuff. Where I thought I would catch big ones, I didn’t. All the fish I caught today were completely spawned out.”

After catching postspawn bass Friday, Hackney is unsure what his strategy will be moving forward, but the predicted weather conditions tomorrow may play in his favor.

“The fishing here is better when the weather is bad. When fish are spawning, when you are fishing for them and not looking at them, they bite better. They can’t see either,” Hackney said. “I’ll have to get up in the morning and see.

“I want to go down that lake and look. I have some areas where I saw 500 bass, but I didn’t see any 8-pounders.”

Wisconsin native Pat Schlapper claimed the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day award with a 9-10 largemouth.

After Day 2, John Cox leads the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 288 points. David Mullins of Tennessee is second with 278 points, followed by Palaniuk with 255.

By jumping into 15th place on Day 2 with 40-0, young Wisconsin pro Jay Pzrekurat continues to dominate the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Rookie of the Year race with 241 points. Alabamian Joseph Webster is second with 179 points and Minnesota’s Josh Douglas is third with 161.

The Top 47 will take off from John C. Land III Sport Fishing Facility at 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday and return for weigh-in at 3:30 p.m. The Top 10 after Saturday’s round will compete for the blue trophy and a $100,000 first-place prize on Championship Sunday.

FS1 will broadcast live with the tournament leaders beginning at 8 a.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday. Live coverage can also be streamed on and the FOX Sports digital platforms.

The tournament is being hosted by the Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce.