When Stetson Blaylock of Arkansas heard that he won first place in the Bassmaster Elite Series Professional Fishing Tournament in Georgetown Sunday, he jumped three feet in the air.
He said before his weigh-in at the Carroll Campbell Marine Complex that the title would come down to ounces, and he was fine with coming in second place. But it was obvious that he was hoping for more.
“I lost so many fish this week,” he said as he accepted the trophy. “I don’t have any words.”
The third-year Elite Series pro, who was in first place at the beginning of the day Sunday, tallied a four-day total of 50 pounds, 15 ounces during the tournament. Blaylock won the title, the trophy and the $100,000 prize with a Championship Sunday limit of five bass that together weighed 9 pounds, 3 ounces, according to the official leader board on the Bassmaster.com website.
The second-place winner, Scott Canterbury, pulled in a combined weight of 50 pounds, 6 ounces, and won the Pheonix Boat Big Bass Award for a 6-pound, 1-ounce fish.
Georgetown County Administrator Sel Hemingway, who served as the main host for the four-day event, presented Blaylock with a Pawleys Island Rope Hammock as a gift from the county. He credited the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce, and its president and CEO, Beth Stedman, for making the hammock available.
“These hammocks were originated here in Georgetown County in the 1800s and still today, the design is used for the manufacturing of them,” Hemingway said prior to the weigh-in. “I think this is a good symbolic gift to the winner to make them remember Georgetown and not only come back to fish, but come retire here and lay in the hammock.”
Hemingway said several county departments made the partnership with B.A.S.S. and the Bassmaster Tournament a success.
“It’s the city, the county, the whole community, but most importantly it is you guys,” he said Sunday to the large crowd of Bassmaster fans, both local and from out of town. “I know there is a lot of competition for your time and we have had threats of weather … but to see you here today and yesterday is a great testament to show that you want these folks to be here.”
Eric Lopez, director of operations for B.A.S.S., explained that the Bassmaster Elite Series, founded in 2006, is the highest level of professional bass fishing tournaments. It is broadcast around the world by ESPN and live streams of fishing action are available on Bassmaster.com.
“This is a true qualifying series,” he said. “People have to qualify; it is not an invitational, so you have to establish yourself to prove you’re the best in the world.”
Competitors must qualify for the series through the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens or the B.A.S.S. Nation, and anglers who are already on the Elite Series must re-qualify each year by maintaining enough points throughout the season. Pro anglers compete all season for the opportunity to win points toward the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year award and to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic.
Lopez said officials were glad to bring the fishing tournament to the Georgetown area once again.
“It means a lot to us to be able to bring B.A.S.S. to all the fans,” Lopez said. “We have a lot of fans in South Carolina, and we want to make sure that they are able to enjoy the (tournaments). At the same time, we like exposing the anglers to different bodies of water.”
He said he values the relationship between B.A.S.S. and Georgetown County. “We have a great relationship with the county, specifically Sel Hemingway,” Lopez said, adding that it was a good idea to combine this event with the Winyah Bay Heritage Festival. “That’s what we look for in a partner,” Lopez said.
Attendees of the Bassmaster event in Georgetown said they enjoyed being part of the action. Burke Lester and Nicole Wilson of Sumpter said they enjoyed all of the vendors and they bought some new Huk shirts which are designed to stay dry and protect from sunburn.
Lester said he was looking forward to the weigh-in to determine the champion of the tournament.
“I just like the platform and everything, seeing up-and-coming guys get their chance up on the big stage, and on ESPN,” Lester said. “The town of Georgetown is doing an amazing job.”
Chris Cooper of Conway was sitting close to the front with Donna Wade of Georgetown and her son, Charlie. Cooper said this was their first Bassmaster weigh-in and they wanted to be upclose.
“I want to see them ride in here close and see the fish,” he said. “These are rivers that I fish, so I want to see what they are pulling out of there, compared to mine.”
Captain Mike McDonald, a fishing guide and owner of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown, said he likes everything about the event. “It helps the economy of Georgetown and puts Georgetown on the map,” he said. “This area has been one of the best fisheries around and Bassmaster is the creme de la creme in fishing.”
— Story by Clayton Stairs of Pawleys Island.
To learn more about the Bassmasters series, go to https://www.bassmaster.com.