KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Harry Potts, not Harry Potter, is the big story here. One day after his magical performance on Lake Toho, Potts remained the main topic at the Bassmaster Elite Series Sunshine Showdown presented by Allstate Boat Insurance.
Rarely does a co-angler take the spotlight from the pros, especially in a season finale like this, where the Angler of Year, Rookie of the Year and Bassmaster Classic berths are all to be decided.
But when Potts arrived at Thursday's weigh-in with a five bass limit weighing 20 pounds, 8 ounces, the place started buzzing. And when everyone realized he was fishing in the back of the boat with Davy Hite, who is struggling to secure a Classic berth, the wizardry of Harry Potts went to a new level. Hite, a BASS millionaire, weighed only 4-6 Thursday, leaving him in 71st place.
"If I ever decide to quit the tour, I'll definitely qualify as a (fishing) guide," Hite said.
Potts was almost apologetic about his success Thursday, which was so good he would have led the pro competition by 2 pounds, 2 ounces over Day One leader Bill Smith Jr.'s 18-6.
"I really felt bad for Davy because he needed just one of those fish I caught to get to the Classic," said Potts, who had three over 6 pounds, including a 6-7 big bass of the day. "I just happened to be doing the right thing at the right time.
"After I caught my limit, I quit fishing at 10 o'clock and just sat in the boat and tried to pump up Davy, hoping he would catch one of those. But it never happened.
Davy Hite, what a class act he is. He never got upset."
Keeping your composure under such frustrating circumstances is no small feat. The Bassmaster Classic is set for Hite's home state of South Carolina, on Lake Hartwell, so he desperately wants to qualify. Hite entered the Sunshine Showdown in 38th place in Angler of the Year standings. Only the top 37 qualify, so Hite needed a good showing Thursday.
Scott Rook, who already has a Classic berth in the bag, was trying to help his friend and frequent roommate on Thursday when he waved Hite into an area where Rook had caught a quick limit. Several other pros were fishing the same general area, too, including, at times, Kevin VanDam, Casey Ashley and Boyd Duckett.
That's what's so amazing," Hite said. "It wasn't just me and Harry in there. There were a lot of guys in there. Harry just got the bites. He didn't get any more bites than me. I'd catch a 1-pounder and he'd catch a 6-pounder."
Hite, Potts and Rook were all doing the same thing - Carolina rigging a Zoom Trick Worm.
"I didn't have a real long leader (on the Carolina rig) like some of them did," Potts said.
So how long was his leader?
Twenty-six inches," Potts said.
Not two feet. Twenty-six inches. That's your first clue that Potts isn't your typical co-angler. He is the founding member of what's known as "The Dirty Dozen," the 12 co-anglers who haul the boats around the country that are used in the Sunday final in these Elite Series events.
Potts' sympathy for Hite is genuine. He, more than most, knows how tough it is in the day-to-day world of professional bass fishing.
Potts said he's been fishing as a co-angler in BASS events for four years now. During that time, he's out-fished the pro on only eight days, he estimates.
And that's not the point. The co-anglers are fishing against the other co-anglers in a tournament. They don't win any money or earn any points by catching more bass than the pro in the front of the boat. The only thing you get by beating your pro that day is an ego boost, which is better than a sharp stick in the eye, but doesn't pay any bills.
Hite said just recently he realized a co-angler hadn't beaten him all year.
"For some reason, I thought about that the other day," Hite said. "Harry made up for it four times over (Thursday).
"I've never seen it happen like that, especially since it wasn't just me fishing that spot. I've never had 4 pounds and my partner have 20, at any level."
Potts was quick to give some credit to his wife, Elaine, too.
I have a real bad nervous habit of changing baits all the time," Potts said. "My wife saw me rigging up Wednesday night. She said whatever you do, don't change a bait on your reels. She said she had a good mind to take my tackle box away from me.
"Guess what? The only thing I did (Thursday) was take off the bad worm and put on another good one to replace it."
The result was pure magic.