COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. Davy Hite has won two Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles and a Bassmaster Classic.
But even with those accomplishments already in tow, he said his victory at the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series Pride of Augusta presented by Lowrance ranks among his most cherished moments as a professional fisherman.
Hite clinched the Pride of Augusta tournament on Sunday when he weighed a five-fish limit that registered 15 pounds, 11 ounces on the scale. That gave him a four-day total of 71 pounds, 12 ounces and earned him the $100,000 prize that goes with the win.
The victory was made extra-special by the fact that Hite lives in Ninety Six, S.C. which is only 40 minutes from Clarks Hill Lake, the site of this event. He has fished this 71,000-acre body of water since the late 1970s and competed in numerous BASS Federation tournaments here before he became one of the winningest pros in BASS history. Friends and family members were on hand to cheer him throughout the Pride of Augusta and provided an emotional boost during four tough days of angling, including Sunday's heavy thunderstorms.
"This is just great," Hite said. "I've won a few of these tournaments before, but this is just special. It's just awesome. That weather was so awful today. It was dangerous. But I had fans that wanted to stay out there with me."
Hite began each day fishing in the Parksville area with a 1/2-ounce brown Buckeye jig, then would move up the Georgia Little River and King Creek later in the day. The pattern, one he first used in a Federation tourament two decades ago, fell off a bit Sunday in the inclement weather, so Hite used a variety of 4- and 5-inch swim baits to pick up the pace. He caught four of his five keepers on Sunday in that fashion.
He said his knowledge of Clarks Hill Lake, and the blue-back herring the bass often chase, provided a huge boost in this tournament.
These guys are good
"It meant a whole lot," he said. "Knowing the places the herring like to spawn and the type of points where they like to spawn this time of year definitely helped. I've actually stumbled before in tournaments when I knew a lot about the lake and was trying to fish memories. But that didn't happen here."
Hite entered Sunday's final round with a 6-pound, 5-ounce lead over Kenyon Hill. Even with that sizable lead on a lake he knows so well, Hite wasn't convinced he would be able to hold off his competitors.
"These guys are good," Hite said. "People think I'm just trying to be politically correct and that sort of thing. But even with a six-pound lead, I knew I had to go out there and catch them today. I started off catching fish immediately this morning and (the pressure) kind of eased off. But you can never really let up."
"I mean, when you go out with a lead like I did, it gives you confidence. But I didn't feel like I had it won this morning when I left. When I had 12 pounds, I felt OK because I knew Kenyon would have to have at least 18 (to win). But when I got to 14 pounds, I told my camera guy, 'If I get to 15, I'll have it.'"
A dwindling bite
Hill, who was the first-day leader at the Pride of Augusta, caught a 15-pound, 12-ounce sack on Sunday and finished with a total of 62-15. He knew that if he was to catch Hite, he'd need 20-plus pounds. Hill was well on his way to that mark when one of the first fish he boated on Sunday weighed 6-14. But the bite dwindled from that point.
"It was all top-water stuff," Hill said. "When the sun was out, I'd whack them. When it was cloudy, I didn't. That was different. Who knows?"
Rounding out the top 12 anglers competing Sunday were Jason Quinn (60-10), Kevin Wirth (59-12), Randy Howell (58-7), Mark Tucker (57-0), Jared Lintner (55-7), Peter Thliveros (55-2), Jeff Reynolds (54-5), John Crews (54-4), Gary Klein (53-9) and Michael Iaconelli (53-2).
Hite's victory at the Pride of Augusta was his seventh career win on tour. He will next compete in the Elite Series' first major, the Bassmaster Memorial, at Eagle Mountain Lake in Fort Worth, Tex. on May 18-21.