The View from the Hill

With winning catches of more than 70 pounds the past two years, Clarks Hill Reservoir has become one of the favorite Bassmaster Elite Tour stops, and if the pros have good weather this week, I won't be a bit surprised to see another winning total in that same range.It's springtime on this 71,500-acre impoundment, and the main wave of spawning bass has not moved up. But they're on the way, and it could easily happen during this tournament. Thus, sight fishing could be the dominant pattern, but it certainly won't be the only one. There will still be plenty of staging fish in slightly deeper water, and if that's the case, it opens the door to fishermen who don't like bed fishing.The one thing I'm not looking for this week is a strong topwater bite, because it's still a little early. Across the country this year, the spawn seems to be running a little later than normal, and the surface fishing won't heat up until the fish move out again. On the other hand, swimbaits might prove effective; virtually every pro has some in his tackle now.During the past two Elites here, Mike McClelland ('07 winner) and Davy Hite ('06 victor) both won on jigs, and I'd expect both these pros to be equally strong contenders this week. Hite, of course, describes Clarks Hill as his home lake, and he's as good as anybody when it comes to finding and following the blueback herring the bass feed on here. McClelland, of course, is enjoying a breakout season thus far and with the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title in his sights (he's leading the points race now), he's concentrating on consistency.If it does turn into a sight fishing contest, look for Kelly Jordon to put on a charge. The recent winner of the big Toyota tournament at Lake Fork, Jordon is one of the Tour's best sight fishermen, and he's just waiting for an opportunity.What's so exciting about Clarks Hill right now is that bass might not move shallow until Friday or Saturday, but when they do, it could happen overnight (as it often does). Jordon won at Fork primarily by fishing deep but repeatedly checking the shallows for moving bass and picking off a couple each day, bagging more than 80 pounds in the process.Of course, Jordon isn't the only sight fisherman capable of doing this. Bassmaster Classic winner Alton Jones is not only an excellent bed fisherman, it's one of his favorite methods of fishing, and I know he'll be working the shallows hard. So will Dean Rojas, who also rates sight fishing as one of his favorite techniques. Rojas was sight fishing, as everyone remembers, at Toho when he set his single- day catch record of 45-2.Who else might stand atop the leader board this week? Aaron Martens likes sight fishing; Mark Davis likes deeper fish, particularly if they'll hit a crankbait (and they will at Clarks Hill); and naturally, if they're on a jig bite as in '06 and '07, don't count out the jig master himself, Denny Brauer, who's coming off a Top 10 finish at Amistad.

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