CELEBRATION, Fla. — Tiger Woods and the Masters competitors have just left Augusta, Ga., but there is another major sporting competition on the horizon scheduled for just north of hallowed Augusta in Evans, Ga. The Bassmaster Elite Series will bring its fourth tournament of the season - the Pride of Georgia presented by Evan Williams Bourbon — to the Peach State April 19-22.
This time, instead of fairways and bunkers, the action will focus on underwater points and brushpiles on Clarks Hill Lake, a 39-mile-long impoundment located 22 miles north of Augusta. The 71,535-acre fishery, officially named the Strom Thurmond Reservoir, forms the border between Georgia and South Carolina.
Fishing fans can catch all of the action from the Pride of Georgia presented by Evan Williams Bourbon on ESPN2 Saturday, April 29 at 9 a.m. ET.
Based on the Elite Series highly successful format - putting the nation's best anglers on the top bass lakes at prime times of the year - and results so far in 2007 (the winners of all three events totaled more than 85 pounds), the big-bass tournaments are expected to continue at Clarks Hill.
"The fishing should be excellent," said Jason Williamson, an Elite Series rookie from Aiken, S.C., who grew up fishing Clarks Hill. "This is one of the best times of the year to fish the lake and you're going to see some big limits.
"I'm thinking it will take probably 85 pounds or more over four days to win this tournament. You're going to really have to catch them to cash a check."
This will be the third consecutive year that BASS' top level of competition will visit Clarks Hill. The 108 Elite Series pros will visit a quality bass fishery highlighted by an explosion of blueback herring, a saltwater forage fish. Combined with the plentiful threadfin shad, both sources of baitfish provide an enormous food base for Clarks Hill bass.
Last May, Davy Hite of Ninety Six, S.C., posted his seventh BASS win with a four-day total of 71 pounds, 12 ounces. Hite's success came fishing a ½-ounce jig in the Parksville area and Little River and King Creek areas located on the Georgia side of the impoundment.
Williamson, 26, emphasized that the bass in Clarks Hill will be in both spawning and post-spawn mode. As a result, top finishers are going to need to rely on a couple of different patterns and techniques — sight-fishing and topwater fishing.
"Because most of the spawning has finished, you're not going to finish well just concentrating on one technique like sight-fishing," Williamson said. "There will be some good topwater fishing as well."
Clarks Hill is a renowned topwater lake. The degree of surface fishing usually depends on the activity of the blueback herring, which draw largemouth shallow and put them in a feeding mode.
Now we've got this cold front that has come in and it's really cold," said Eric Nethery of Acworth, Ga. "But if the weather stabilizes during the tournament, the fishing should be good. It may be a situation where the fish will be spawning early in the week and then we'll have to catch them some other way, like with topwater baits, later in the tournament."
At stake in the fourth Elite stop of the season is a $100,000 top prize and valuable points in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. The Elite Series is a lucrative top-tier circuit featuring 108 highly credentialed tournament pros that have earned the opportunity to compete in 11 high-profile events and possibly qualify for the three Bassmaster Majors (which offer a first-place prize of $250,000).
Daily weigh-ins and launches will take place at Wildwood Park in Appling, Ga. Launches will begin at 6:50 a.m. ET and weigh-ins will begin at 3 p.m. ET.
Sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite Series include Toyota Tundra, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Advance Auto Parts, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide and Costa Del Mar.