EVANS, Ga. — Even though Elite Series pro Kenyon Hill turned in his biggest bag of the tournament, winning the Pride of Georgia presented by Evan Williams Bourbon, pros Timmy Horton and Kevin VanDam may have found their mid-season magic tonic in the waters of Clarks Hill Lake.
Despite a slow first day, Horton jumped into 16th place on Day Two, improved to fifth on Day Three, and then slid one spot to finish sixth in the tournament after his 12 pound, 9 ounce final bag.
VanDam, with a much better Day One than Horton, moved from 23rd place on Day Two into eighth place after Day Three. VanDam's 13-9-pound final day stringer pushed the perennial favorite into fourth place by the tournament's end.
"Hopefully, I'll have a few more of these good tournaments," said Horton. "I've gotten off to a slow start this year and this helps — this tournament really helps."
In spite of winning the Kissimmee Chain in Florida, VanDam admitted to mounting frustrations — until Sunday's finish.
"I was really disappointed after leaving Texas," said the Michigan native. "Obviously, I want to be at the top of the points race right now."
The rest of the Elite Series field should take note.
Last year, both Horton and VanDam had strong second halves in the season. Horton won the event at Lake Champlain in July and VanDam battled it out with Skeet Reese until the 2007 season's last tournament, when Reese finally captured the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title at Florida's Lake Toho.
"Ultimately, the goal is to make the cut at each tournament, because the points are just so high at the top," Horton said.
Reflecting on this tournament only minutes after its completion, both feel their tournament finish could be the shot in the arm they need. After they were asked what each would take away from their experiences at Clarks Hill Lake, their answers came quickly.
"I learned you can't beat yourself up too bad if you have a bad first day," Horton said.
"I needed wind here," said VanDam. "The disappointing part of my week was the weather and I really can't change that."
In the week and a half between Clarks Hill Lake and the tournament, only 90 miles down the road at Lake Murray, both anglers will attempt to refocus their energies before sharpening their on-the-water skills in Colombia, S.C.
Horton will film a series of television shows and spend as much time as he can with his family back in Alabama during his break. VanDam will take his family on a mini-vacation to New York City, after making a television appearance of his own on the national show, "Fox and Friends."
But before hitting the road to rejoin their families back home, each angler stayed at the venue long after Hill's coronation ended, posing for photographs and signing autographs.