Clarendon County, SC – The Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour is set to visit Clarendon County in South Carolina next week, Feb. 20-25, for the second event of the 2024 season – the Suzuki Stage Two at Santee Cooper Lakes.
The six-day tournament, hosted by the Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce, will feature a field of 80 professional anglers, including superstars like Ott DeFoe, Jacob Wheeler, REDCREST 2023 Champion Bryan Thrift and South Carolina pros Casey Ashley of Donalds, Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg, Britt Myers of Lake Wylie, Marty Robinson of Lyman, and his son, Bass Pro Tour rookie Marshall Robinson of Landrum. They’ll be competing for a season-long purse of $3.9 million – including a top prize of $100,000 at Santee Cooper – and valuable Fishing Clash Angler of the Year (AOY) points in hopes of qualifying for the General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and REDCREST 2025, the Bass Pro Tour championship.
“As one of the five counties that border the Santee Cooper lakes, Clarendon County has historically done a great job of leaning into the world of bass fishing and providing a place for anglers and organizations to visit and showcase. The Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour is another prime example of that, and it will join a long list of nationally recognized professional fishing trails that have made their way to our area,” said Jesse Surette, Director of Tourism for the Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce. “From a tourism perspective, bass fishing is one of the best returns on investment to the host community. Tournaments of this size can bring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the community immediately through lodging, dining, fuel and shopping with local retailers.
“Additionally, the long-term impact from national media exposure helps put the Santee Cooper Lakes on the minds of millions across the country,” Surette continued. “We are excited to welcome some of the biggest names in bass fishing to one of the best fisheries in the nation.”
The tournament will feature the MLF catch, weigh, immediate-release format, in which anglers catch as much weight as they can each day, while also feeling the pressure and intensity of the SCORETRACKER® leaderboard. The tournament is being filmed for broadcast later this year on Discovery. Although the fishery has hosted numerous MLF bass tournaments over the years, this event will mark the first time that the MLF’s top level, the Bass Pro Tour, has visited Santee Cooper Lakes.
“This one is going to be a really fun tournament. It’s going to be a grinder, but there are massive bass that live at Santee Cooper and I’m excited,” said pro Anthony Gagliardi, who has more than $2.5 million in career earnings. “There is a lot more grass there, recently, than in years past. I don’t know how or if that will play in the tournament, but it definitely can’t hurt. It’ll still be cold, so we’ll see a lot of prespawn fishing. And it’ll be interesting to see how the event shakes out with forward-facing sonar. I’m sure some guys will use it – if I had a tournament in my backyard someone would be using it and trying to find them in my lawn – but the water clarity is stained, and I don’t think we’ll see guys finding big schools of fish.”
Fellow South Carolina pro Andy Montgomery agrees that the forward-facing sonar is an x-factor in this event.
“I don’t know that LiveScoping is something that the locals do a whole lot of, but it has certainly changed a lot of things in regard to how we approach these lakes,” Montgomery said. “We’ve had a ton of rain, lately, so the lake is flooded and muddy. We’ll definitely be watching the weather, as it will have a big effect on the event – if parts of the lake get blown out, and how much fishable water we have.”
Both anglers agreed that traditionally at this time of the year, prespawn tactics are likely to be the predominant patterns.
“Both lakes are full of cypress trees,” Montgomery said. “I don’t expect we’ll see any spawning fish, yet. But LiveScoping baits and normal prespawn stuff – spinnerbaits, (Strike King) Thunder Crickets – will be strong. We’ll definitely see guys flipping jigs, too.”
“I’ll have a few (Z-Man) ChatterBaits and lipless and shallow-running crankbaits tied on,” Gagliardi added. “I think we’ll see quite a few bass caught out of the trees, and in prespawn staging areas.”
Anglers will launch at 7:30 a.m. ET each day from the John C. Land III Landing, located at 4404 Greenall Road in Summerton. Each day’s General Tire Takeout will be held at the park, beginning at 4 p.m. Fans are welcome to attend all launch and takeout events and also encouraged to follow the event online throughout the day on the MLFNOW!® live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com .
On Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 24-25, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. MLF welcomes fans of all ages to visit the John C. Land III landing for the MLF Watch Party. Fans can watch the pros live on the MLFNOW! big screen, enjoy free food, enter to win hourly giveaways and cheer on their favorite pros. The first 50 kids 14 and under will receive a free rod and reel from Pure Fishing each day. The final 10 Championship Round Bass Pro Tour anglers will be on hand at the trophy celebration on Championship Sunday to meet and greet fans, sign autographs and take selfies.
The Suzuki Stage Two at Santee Cooper Lakes will feature anglers competing with a 1-pound, 8-ounce minimum weight requirement for a bass to be deemed scorable. The MLF Fisheries Management Division determines minimum weights for each body of water that the Bass Pro Tour visits, based on the productivity, bass population and anticipated average size of fish in each fishery.
The Bass Pro Tour features a field of 80 of the top professional anglers in the world, competing across seven regular-season tournaments around the country, for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and the REDCREST 2025 championship.
The 40 Anglers in Group A compete in their two-day Qualifying Round on Tuesday and Thursday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Wednesday and Friday. After each two-day Qualifying Round is complete, the anglers that finish first through 10th from both groups advance to Saturday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed, and the remaining 20 anglers compete to finish in the top 10 to advance to Sunday’s Championship Round. In the final-day Championship Round, weights are zeroed, and the highest one-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.
The MLFNOW!® broadcast team of Chad McKee and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action live on the final four days of competition from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET. MLFNOW!® will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.
Television coverage of the Suzuki Stage Two at Santee Cooper Lakes will premiere as a two-hour episode starting at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Sept. 21 on Discovery, with the Championship Round premiering the following Saturday on Sept. 28. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on Discovery, with re-airings on Outdoor Channel.
Proud sponsors of the 2024 MLF Bass Pro Tour include: Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, BUBBA, Epic Baits, Fishing Clash, Garmin, General Tire, Humminbird, Lowrance, Mercury, MillerTech, Minn Kota, Mossy Oak Fishing, NITRO, Onyx, Plano, Power-Pole, Rapala, StarBrite, Suzuki, Toyota and U.S. Air Force.
For complete details and updated information on Major League Fishing and the Bass Pro Tour, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF’s social media outlets at Facebook, X, Instagram and YouTube.
About Major League Fishing
Major League Fishing (MLF) is the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, producing more than 250 events annually at some of the most prestigious fisheries in the world, while broadcasting to America’s living rooms on CBS, Discovery Channel, Outdoor Channel, CBS Sports Network, World Fishing Network and on demand on MyOutdoorTV (MOTV). Headquartered in Benton, Kentucky, the MLF roster of bass anglers includes the world’s top pros and more than 30,000 competitors in all 50 states and 13 countries. Since its founding in 2011, MLF has advanced the sport of competitive fishing through its premier television broadcasts and livestreams and is dedicated to improving the quality of life for bass through research, education, fisheries enhancement and fish care.