One of our very own, Cooper Gallant, “Coop”, making us all very proud winning the
2022 St. Croix Bassmaster Southern Open
Cherokee Lake, Jefferson County, Tennessee.
In Coops Words….
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Tenn. — Sticking with a deep bite for smallmouth bass, Cooper Gallant of Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, caught 18 pounds, 9 ounces on Championship Saturday and won the St. Croix Bassmaster Southern Open on Cherokee Lake presented by Mossy Oak Fishing.
He finished with a two-day total of 36-1.
The 24-year-old Gallant, who called the victory the biggest of his career so far, earned $52,533 and qualified for the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.
“I’m thankful for the win and I couldn’t do it without my friends, family and the support from my sponsors,” Gallant said. “I’m excited for the Classic and excited to get on the road to the (next Open at) James River.”
Gallant, who is also attempting to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series, is now in seventh place in the Southern Open standings after two events.
“After Florida, I figured I would need a Top 20 in this one and another Top 20 on Hartwell in October,” he said. “To come into this one and actually win the thing, it sets me up really well for Hartwell. If I can get a Top 15 or 20 on Hartwell, I will have a good shot at making the Elites.”
With water temperatures cooler than expected, Gallant focused on deep rock structure between 15 and 30 feet of water where prespawn smallmouth were staging to move up into shallower spawning areas.
The best smallmouth he caught came from about 23 feet of water. With 20 spots to choose from, ranging from rock flats and rockpiles to boulders and main-lake points, he would move until he found a group of bass that were willing to bite.
He said could not see his bass on his Garmin LiveScope.
“I barely saw any bait this week where I was fishing,” he said. “They were hunkering down and waiting to move up. You wouldn’t see them on LiveScope. You just had to fish around and you would see them rise from the bottom. I would just fish where I thought they would be.”
Most of Gallant’s bass fell for an X-Zone Lures Hot Shot Minnow on either a drop shot or a Damiki rig. He would drop a bigger fluke rigged on a Damiki rig as well, but some of the bass would not commit to eating the larger profile and he would follow with the smaller Hot Shot Minnow.
The couple of bites he did get shallow were around pea gravel with a swimbait.
“If they weren’t eating right away I’d pretty well pull out of there and move to the next one,” he said. “Going into this week, I thought they were going to push shallow, but it ended up working out perfectly. I was able to catch them out deep and I feel comfortable out deep.”
After strong winds shortened the event to two days, Gallant landed in eighth place after Day 1 with 17-8. But he spent the last few hours of the day looking for new fish and found a spot that gave him the confidence to stick with the program for another day.
“For Day 1, I thought for sure I was going to have to switch things up and go shallow. But I dropped the trolling motor down and saw the (water temperature) was 52.5,” he said. “After Day 1, I said to myself ‘I’m staying out deep and I’m going to grind it out.’
“I knew I could catch another 15 to 16 pounds, I wasn’t sure I could catch 18. I knew I was around them but wasn’t positive I could make it happen.”