Two tournaments, one state: Bassmaster Elite series makes two stops in South Carolina

April 20, 2023


By: Matthew Goins

On a cool spring morning in Columbia, South Carolina, Davy Hite sits on Lake Murray, waiting for a bite. As he looks to the water for fish, he sees his memories reflecting. He sees his childhood on Lake Murray up the Saluda River. He sees the first bass he ever reeled in. He sees the championship trophy he lifted high.

Hite, a Bass Fishing Hall of Famer and an SCBFA Board member, is a member of the Fox Sports team that covers the Bassmaster Elite Series. The Elite Series has two back-to-back stops on his home waters in April.

“It is great to have the Bassmaster Elite Series here in my home state,” said Hite. “There are not many times that I wish I was fishing again rather than working with the tv folks, but this is one of them.”

Hite believes the two tournaments in South Carolina are a testament to the lakes throughout the state, their biodiversity, and the ongoing work to preserve them.

“For nine regular season events, to have two of them in South Carolina, really just speaks highly of the fisheries that we have, along with the beauty and diversity between Lake Murray and Santee Cooper,” said Hite. “It’s a credit to the people who have helped keep the fisheries healthy, from SCDNR to Clarendon County to Lake Murray Capital City Country.”

The Elite Series opens at Lake Murray for the 2023 Marathon Bassmaster Elite. The tournament starts today and runs through Sunday. There will be activities for the entire family, including a concert by Sugarland’s Kristian Bush.

Hite spent 20 years growing up on Lake Murray and has watched it evolve into one of the top fishing spots in the southeast.

“It’s a beautiful lake that has been well–kept and somewhat of a secret for many, many years but not so much anymore,” said Hite.

Due to the biodiversity, size of the lake, and recent weights, Hite will not be shocked if a 20-pound limit per day will secure the win.

“We only get to weigh in our five largest fish, so an angler may go out and catch 20 bass but can only bring the five largest to the scales,” said Hite. “I think it’ll take around a 20-pound average per day to win the event.”

Miriam Atria, the Lake Murray Capital City Country President and CEO, is thrilled to have the Elite Series returning due to the tourism marketing it will provide.

“We have expanded with them to include our tourism and marketing ads in their audience of fishing folks,” said Atria. “It extends our branding and marketing message.”

Following the Marathon Bassmaster Elite on Lake Murray, the Series will make the short trip down to take on the lakes at Santee, Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie. The 2023 AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at Santee Cooper Lakes is April 27 – 30.

“The lakes speak for themselves,” said Clarendon County Director of Tourism Jesse Surrett. “We’ve got so much water and so many different types of fishing in the entire area.”

Lake Marion, located on the upper end, is the largest lake in South Carolina and provides more of a swamp-like setup. Florida pro Drew Cook took advantage of it in his first-place finish last year.

“Drew Cook found one area in Lake Marion, and he bed fished that two square mile range the entire tournament and caught over 100 lbs. [in four days],” said Surett.

Those who don’t want to face the swamp-style approach to Lake Marion can take the canal to the lower lake, Lake Moultrie.

“Lake Moultrie is more of your traditional, circular, bowl-style lake, but it’s got its own signature brush piles,” said Surett.

The size and beauty of Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie make them seem easy to fish. However, that is far from the truth. The effort is strenuous, yet the reward can be abundant.

“One of the misconceptions is that because it’s such a talked about lake, that means it’s an easy lake to fish,” said Surrett.

Much like Lake Murray and the other lakes in the Elite Series, Surrett appreciates the marketing the tournament brings and the long-lasting economic impact it provides.

“These anglers come in and give it all they have, so when they come into town, people want to see what’s going to happen,” said Surrett. “From an economic perspective, it’s a great impact for the area, and they definitely make their presence known when they come into town.”

Despite the near millions of dollars the tournament provides the local community the week of the tournament, Surrett believes the elongated impact is greater.

“It’s that continued advertising and showcase over time that you see come to fruition,” said Surrett. “We’ve seen an uptick in our fall fishing after an event like this.”

The continued Elite Series tournaments and the tourism they draw have been a cash cow for the state’s economy.

“We have wonderful lakes here with different types of fishing,” said Duane Parrish, Director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism.

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