If you have ever fished Santee Cooper, you know that Lakes Marion and Moultrie can be tough. Weather can unexpectedly disrupt a bite (as happened to Justin Faircloth on Saturday) and engineers can pull water, creating new current patterns (as happened to Nick Ezell on Saturday). If it is choppy water driven by cold spring winds or glass calm in the summer heat, you never know what the lakes will hold.

On this, the third Realtree Fishing KBF TRAIL Series weekend of the season, Santee Cooper put on one of its most difficult showings. For the handful of anglers who found good bites, however, the fish were worth the trouble. When it was over, two new names were added to the list of KBF TRAIL champions, and another handful entered the top ten in the Rogue Gear Co Angler of the Year standings.

Trail I: Saturday, May 18, 2024

At mid-morning on Saturday, Don Bustamante had the overall lead in the Fishing Chaos event standings, and Nick Ezell was in third place. Ezell had a kicker fish, however, and he had turned his attention away from the open water to the bank. It was a strategic adaptation that led him to victory. In his words:

“I’m retired and I have a buddy who fishes with me. We fished Santee two weeks ago with Queen City, and he was sixth and I placed twentieth. This week, we practiced all day on Thursday and Friday, and I found an area on Friday where I caught them pretty decent. There was a lot of current, I don’t know if they were pulling water or what, but I went out and fished in the main channel, in eleven foot of water. I followed bait around on Livescope, and every once in a while a bass would come up in the school. That’s how I caught my first two fish, and my biggest, by throwing a Whopper Plopper when they came up.”

Ezell and his first place Ketch trophy.

Ezell shifted his attention to fishing the bank with plastics, but it was not the usual slack water routine where you soak a worm. He said:

“There was a lot of current. I fished a Bizz Baits worm on a Texas Rig. I let the current bring it down the bank, and it would take a while to fall and touch bottom. The bank was adjacent to the canal that splits Marion from Moultrie. That’s where I filled my limited, and culled to win at the end of the day.”

Ezell took home the first place Ketch trophy and the satisfaction of a victory at Santee on a weekend when bites were few and far between.


Trail I: The Top 10

  1. Nick Ezell 87.5”
  2. Don Bustamante 85.75”
  3. Jim Childress 82”
  4. Deamen Henderson 80.75”
  5. Sean Boorsma 80.75”
  6. Eric Nelson 77.5”
  7. Larry Wood 76”
  8. Michael Musgrove 73.25”
  9. Sean Scott 59.25”
  10. Jonathan Kislingbury 44.5
Trail II: Sunday, May 19, 2024

North Carolina angler Justin Faircloth was a stranger to Santee. Although he fishes with CKA (Carolina Kayak Anglers, who have held a tournament at the lake) and KBF (who has also had a presence there), he had never made it to the lake for a tournament. He had only one day to scout the water, and made the most of it. As he told KBF:

“Pre-fishing was great. It started slowly because I had never been there. At around 9:30 am on Friday I caught an 18”, and then I caught a 22” and broke another off before I left. On Saturday, the weather changed. I got on the water and the bite wasn’t there. I forced the bite by fishing too fast, too. One thing I noticed: if there weren’t any alligators around, there weren’t any fish, either.

“On Sunday, I didn’t leave until later. I went back to my spot and caught an 18” plus within the first few casts on my Cashion rods Chattergrass rod. I went into a grove of trees and I caught three fish. I had four bass when I hooked a giant of 24” or 25”. She ran under the boat and pulled the hook out. I landed my fifth and went to another area.”

By that point in the day. Faircloth was in a back-and-forth battle with veteran angler Larry Wood. Wood held the lead with 84.50” early on, while Faircloth was in second place with 83.25”. The two anglers traded culls until the end. Faircloth said:

“I caught a fish in that other area that put me back in the lead. I tell you, you had to reel as slowly as possible, and then more. I was dragging that bait across the bottom, and that’s how I caught that 22.5” that won big bass, and then the 19” that won it for me. I just never put down that Cashion rod.”

Justin Faircloth’s 22.5″ toad, which won Dakota Lithium Big Bass.

The weekend results shook up the standings in the Rogue Gear Company KBF Angler of the Year race. Michael Musgrove, Sean Boorsma and Larry Wood all entered the top 10, while Eric Nelson moved up one spot. Deamen Henderson also moved up, pushing Jody Queen out from second place. With the win, Faircloth climbed to the edge of the Top 10, holding the eleven spot in a tie. There are bound to be more shake-ups at Chickamauga on June 1-2, 2024.

Trail II: The Top 10

  1. Justin Faircloth 94.25”
  2. Larry Wood 92.50”
  3. Michael Musgrove 81.75”
  4. Don Bustamante 81.5”
  5. Sean Boorsma 69.5”
  6. Sean Scott 65.75”
  7. Eric Nelson 62.75”
  8. Stephen Bell 51.25”
  9. Jim Childress 34.5”
  10. Justin Heckard 31”
Additional Info

The KBF Trail Series was made possible with support from Clarendon County, S.C.

The KBF Trail Series Championship  and Ketch KBF Challenge Series Championship are being hosted by Go2Hunstville, AL on October 10-13, 2024.

Click here to learn more details about the 2024 Realtree Fishing KBF Trail Series Powered by Dakota Lithium

Click here for a complete list of 2024 Kayak Bass Fishing tournaments

For complete event standings for the 2024 KBF Trail Series at Santee Cooper, click here.

The final KBF TRAIL event of the regular season will be held at Lake Chickaumauga on June 1-2. For more info, click here: https://www.kayakbassfishing.com/preview-2024-kbf-trail-concludes-at-lake-chickamauga/


Realtree Fishing KBF TRAIL Series Tournaments are Powered by Dakota Lithium Batteries

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First Published May 19, 2024. The author of this article was not assisted in any way by AI or machine learning in the composition of it.

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