AUGUSTA, Ga. — After a string of big-weight tournaments, Bassmaster Elite Series anglers have Georgia on their minds. And they're a bit concerned.
After big weights ruled the first three events of the Series — including two anglers topping the previous record for total weight in the last tournament — anglers were predicting a tournament to be determined on matters of ounces on the eve of the Pride of Georgia presented by Evan Williams Bourbon.
"It's going to be a grind-it-out tournament," James Charlesworth said. "It's going to be tough to get a limit. I'll be happy just to put five fish in the boat."
The same weather pattern that sent record precipitation to the northeast this week also dropped an unseasonable cold snap on the bass that were enjoying warmer weather. Anglers complained that practices this week were lean.
Whereas Steve Kennedy had to catch more than 120 pounds of bass to hold off Skeet Reese at the Golden State Shootout at Clear Lake last month, anglers said that about half that amount would put them in contention on Clarks Hill Lake.
And instead of the picturesque weather that graced the past two California tournaments, the forecast calls for the usual gumbo of Deep South spring weather: clouds, sun, rain, thunderstorms, lows in the 40s and highs in the 80s.
"Coming off of Clear Lake," Charlesworth said, "we're so spoiled."
Look for anglers to do plenty of running after 3- and 4-pound fish on the 70,000-acre manmade lake on the Georgia-South Carolina border. "It's going to take mobility," Ken Cook said. With the cold disrupting the spawn, some fish are on beds, others are in 10 feet of water and others are deep.
And few will be the caliber of the lunkers that Clear Lake was coughing up. Anglers will be culling for fractions of pounds, and bagging limits under 10 pounds, at least in the next couple of days, which figure to be tough going.
Todd Faircloth said the top-water bite was thriving on Clarks Hill when the Elite Series visited the lake last year on May 4-6, but they are too early for that style to be successful again.
"For the most part, the fish have spawned, so this will be a post-spawn tournament," Faircloth said. "They're just kind of between the shallow and the deep bite right now. I'm think the tournament is going to be won in 10-to-15 foot of water."
Russ Lane said he thinks he's on a pattern that could give him a limit, but that he can't find the bigger fish. And anglers are going to have to accustom themselves to a new definition of "big fish." Most of the pros said a 6-pounder on Clarks Hill could go a long way.
"This tournament is going to come down to finding little places where there are two or three good fish stacked up," Scott Campbell said. "You'll get out on a point and fish it for 10 or 15 minutes and you'll get one bite, but she'll weigh five pounds. Then you'll fish 15 or 20 more points before you get your next bite."
At least one angler, Akron, Ohio's own Matt Amedo, said he was looking forward to a tournament without such gaudy weights. "Those are more my kind of tournaments than these whackfests," he said.