EVANS, Ga. — For the past 26 years, retired Army First Sergeant Kenny Newborn served his country in a military police unit at nearby Fort Gordon, Ga. On Day One of the Bassmaster Elite Series Pride of Georgia presented by Evan Williams Bourbon the military veteran served his bass a healthy diet of jigs to lead the co-angler field with an 11-pound, 15-ounce limit.
Newborn's extra ounce gave him the edge over the second and third place co-anglers. In second place, Mike Harris fell short with 11-14 pounds and J. Flaherty's 11-13 posting placed him two ounces from the leader. Dave Elder took the fourth spot with 11-7 and Paul Ham rounded out the co-angler top five with 11-4.
The formidable Newborn, with an arm-span so wide ESPNOutdoors.com photographers had trouble framing the two fish he held, admitted to beating more than a few guys at the local ballpark in his day. His athletic prowess and skills playing sports make little difference in the delicate game of bass fishing but experience could have played a role in his lead.
Now residing in Hephzibah, Ga., just outside of Augusta and a short drive to the lake, Newborn has fished Clarks Hill many times before.
"Look, I'm up here every weekend," said the angler who still works with the U.S. Army as a career counselor. "And I'm home every week."
On Thursday, Newborn joined Elite Series pro Kurt Dove for his day on the water and managed to find fish weighing 3 pounds heavier than the stringer Dove produced.
Despite his heavier bag and trips to this lake in the past, the amateur still learned a lot from the pro.
"I learned watching him with the jig," Newborn said. "He's a master."
Dove towed Newborn across most of the lake in the morning, jumping from point to point with little time in between. By the afternoon, the pace and pressure started to wear on Newborn, as noted by Dove.
"I asked him how he'd rate me as a co-angler and he gave me a nine," Newborn said, smiling as his wife and a family-friend waited to greet the angler backstage. "But he told me I don't need to sit down to show I'm tired."
With a history in the military, Newborn will have to draw upon his training to mentally overcome any physical fatigue on Day Two. Newborn will share a boat with his wife's favorite Elite Series pro, South Carolina's Jason Quinn, and the remainder of the field will cut him no slack.