Clarks Hill was an uphill climb for many of the Elite Series anglers. The fish were scattered about the lake and not easy to pattern. No matter, several of the anglers found a way to catch them. Here's how they did it.
Kenyon Hill, despite tough personal circumstances, managed to put together four bags of fish that blew away the competition by more than eight pounds.
"It's no secret," said the winner. "Blueback herring is the forage base at this time of year on Clarks Hill and they were getting ready to spawn. Their spawning grounds are shallow sand, gravel and rock points, so that's where I fished."
His go to bait was a Carolina rig with either a Zoom Trick Worm — Mardi Gras in color — or a Zoom Ol' Monster in watermelon red. He threaded a Peter T Force Bead on the line and weighted everything down with a Tru-Tungsten 3/4-ounce Peter T Finesse Carolina Weight."That was my primary rig all four days," he said. "But I also caught several fish on a Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper with a blueback herring finish and a Sebile hard swimbait with a shad type finish to it. I'd throw it around the points where the bass were roaming waiting for the blueback herring to move in and spawn."
Unfortunately, that's all Hill can tell us about the Sebile swimbait. That's because he only had one in the boat and it was a gift from Peter T."On Friday evening he tossed it into my boat and said it was a good lure for this time of year on Clarks Hill. It looks like a chrome Tennessee shad color to me but I don't know what they call it." (It's probably an Evidence: ACAST Magic Swimmer.)Normally an Elite Series angler wouldn't fish a tournament with a lure he'd never tried, but this was different. "I was catching so many limits each day on the Carolina rig that I had the freedom to try the Sebile lure. It looked like a good one when I first saw it so I thought 'What the heck? I'll give it a try.'"
Hill fished his Carolina rig with an American Rodsmith Mag Strike 7 1/2-foot medium action rod, a 7:1 ratio Abu Garcia Revo reel, 20-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon for his main line and 17-pound-test for his leader.
He tossed his swimbait with the same rod but switched to a 6.3:1 Revo reel, spooled with 17-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line.For his topwater presentation, Hill used a 7-foot, American Rodsmith Mag Strike rod, a 7:1 ratio Revo reel and 30-pound-test Spiderwire UltraCast braided line.This win is special to Hill. His father is terminally ill. "I can't get it out of my mind. He's the man who taught me to fish. Now, he's teaching me the value of one day's life. I think that's even more valuable to me. I'm as happy about this for him as for me."
(59 pounds, 8 ounces)
Hite's second place finish was a study in versatility. Constantly changing locations, baits and presentation was what it was all about for this South Carolina pro.
"The first three days I threw a variety of baits," he said. "Some of my fish came on a Buckeye Lures 1/2-ounce Mop Jig with a Yamamoto Flappin' Hog trailer. I used several colors and worked them in many different, shallow water points and small cuts.Regardless of the place or color, however, the bass wanted it their way. They didn't want it too fast or too slow — medium was just right this week. And, you had to drag it. I didn't catch a bass hopping it along or doing anything fancy. It was cast and drag all the way."The rest of my fish came on topwater — Zara Spooks, Zell Pops and Pencil Poppers. The key to the topwater bite was location. Shallow water over weeds produced my biggest bass. I caught fish slow and quiet as well as fast and noisy. It was different in every location."
But Day 4 saw changing conditions. A lack of wind changed the fishing picture completely. To meet those conditions Hite fished a Senko — green pumpkin with purple flake — very slowly.Again, the locations varied as the day went along. But the real key was to fish it slow, almost a finesse type of presentation."The first three days Hite fished his jig and topwater baits with 17- to 20-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. He used a 7-foot, medium-heavy All Star rod with a Pflueger Patriarch reel.On Day 4 he switched to open-faced spinning tackle. His line choice was 10-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon with a 6 1/2-foot medium action Pflueger President rod and matching President reel.
3rd place:Edwin Evers
(57 pounds, 1 ounce)
Like nearly all the successful anglers at Clarks Hill, Edwin Evers had to chase his bass."Almost all my keeper bass were caught with a 1/2-ounce, brown and purple Booyah Football Jig. I was using a brown and purple color with a matching Yum Gonzo Grub as a trailer," said the Oklahoma pro. "I caught all my bass from primary and secondary points. The better ones were covered with pea gravel or chunk rock."The real key for me, though, was the wind. It was blowing the first three days, and when I found a suitable point with the wind blowing into it I found bass. It was a matter of running from one spot to another all day long. I'd catch one fish here and another there."But, Sunday was another matter. There was no wind and the water was slick everywhere. It just killed me."Still, Evers finished a respectable third, and for that he credits his sunglasses. His pattern inside his pattern was to target light or dark spots under 1 to 5 feet of water. It was a tough assignment but made easier with his Wiley X Eyewear."There isn't a better pair of glasses available. They've been making professional glasses for our military for a long time. Of course, they're polarized and I selected amber lenses for the conditions I had to deal with during the tournament. They allowed me to see through the water and find the targets that held fish. Without them I wouldn't have finished where I did."
Evers fished with 17-pound-test XPS Signature Series Fluorocarbon line and a 7-foot BPS Pro Qualifier rod equipped with a 6:1 ratio Pro Qualifier reel.