BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The last time the prestigious CITGO BASS Masters Classic was held on Lay Lake near Birmingham, Davy Hite nearly won that event — coming within a pound of George Cochran as the Classic runner-up.
As the Classic returns to Lay Lake July 25-27, the South Carolina pro rides into town with the momentum of being the newly crowned B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year. This time, Hite hopes the result is slightly better.
"I'm excited about going back to Birmingham and Lay Lake," said Hite, 37, who won the 1999 Classic in New Orleans. "I really am, because any time you finish second in something at some particular place, you want to go back and try to prove you can win. I feel like I've got a score to settle.
"Now, that was a few years ago and a lot of things on Lay Lake, I'm sure, have changed. I have not been back there since, so do I have a big advantage and all that? Probably not - other than mentally. Mentally, you've got it in the back of your mind that you've done well here."
Hite admits that Lay Lake, with its shallow and deep populations of spotted and largemouth bass, fits his style of fishing.
"It does," he said. "It's got the shoreline grass and a lot of ledge fish. You can kind of do both. When we were there before, I did a little bit of both. I actually caught the big stringer the last day that almost won it out on the ledge, but I fished some shallow, too. Bud Pruitt had a big stringer the last day that he caught shallow. And Cochran won the thing shallow. I'll probably be there doing both again."
Hite will enter the 2002 Classic with plenty of momentum. After struggling during the two seasons since winning the Classic, a re-dedicated Hite bounced back with a vengeance - winning consecutive CITGO BASSMASTER Tour events and finishing in the top 10 of two others en route to capturing his second B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year title. He also pocketed more than $300,000.
"It's just been an awesome year," he said. "I wish I could just freeze time in the moment.
"I'm just tickled to death to win it again. Winning the first Angler of the Year is great, but the second one says even more about you as a fisherman. It says that the first one wasn't a fluke, and that you are a consistent fisherman at this level.
"Plus, I think with what I went through the years after winning the Classic, I think I appreciate this Angler of the Year more. I was young when I won it the first time and I really hadn't been through any real adversity. My career had gone even better than I had ever dreamed it would at that point. So I really treasure this Angler of the Year."
Lay Lake went off limits to any potential Classic qualifier Jan. 1, 2002, and will not re-open until the official pre-practice days June 24-29. Lay Lake will then be off limits until the official practice day for the Classic on Tuesday, July 23.
The launch venue for the event will be Paradise Point Marina. The exciting CITGO BASS Masters Classic weigh-in show and the Classic Outdoor Show will take place in the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center. With the exception of the launch site, all of the venues for the event are located in close proximity to each another.
The Classic is much more than just the crowning event of the CITGO BASSMASTER Tournament Trail. Classic Week is the annual celebration of the sport of bass fishing that attracts B.A.S.S. members and other fishing fans from across the country, who come to meet their fishing heroes, attend the weigh-ins and participate in youth and other fan-friendly events.
In addition to events in Birmingham, pro anglers Tommy Biffle, Tom Mann, Jr., Larry Nixon and Kevin VanDam will participate in a "Meet the Pro Night" at Serra Chevrolet Olds in Sylacauga, Ala. on Thursday, June 27. From 6-8 p.m. at the dealership at 40941 U.S. Highway 280, the anglers from the Chevy Truck Pro Staff will meet fans, sign autographs and offer fishing and trailering tips.
By sanctioning over 20,000 tournaments worldwide, B.A.S.S. is the world's largest fishing organization. The CITGO BASSMASTER Tournament Trail is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit. It continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism, and sportsmanship after more than three decades. B.A.S.S. is a wholly owned subsidiary of ESPN.
Sponsors of the 2002 CITGO BASS Masters Classic include: CITGO Petroleum Corporation, Chevrolet Trucks, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, Kumho Tires, Long John Silver's, MotorGuide Trolling Motors, Bass Pro Shops, Armstrong Industrial Hand Tools, GMAC/ B.A.S.S. Vehicle & Boat Insurance, and B.A.S.S. Platinum Visa/First USA.
Associate Sponsors include Bass Cat Boats and G3 Boats.
The 2002 CITGO BASS Masters Classic will be presented locally by the State of Alabama, City of Birmingham, Jefferson County and Shelby County.
For more information contact: B.A.S.S. Communications at (334) 272-9530.