But the Ninety Six, S.C., resident fished a rock-steady final day, pulling in a limit of 15 pounds, 11 ounces to outlast closest competitor and Norman, Okla., angler Kenyon Hill. Hite took the tournament with a total of 71-12.
Although Hite utilized a productive pattern he developed at a 1983 BASS Federation Nation tournament almost exclusively during Days 2 and 3, it was a completely different pattern that led to his clinching the final day.
Fishing fans can watch Hite’s performance and all of the Elite 12 action on the CITGO Bassmasters on Saturday, May 13, on ESPN2 at 10 a.m.
Hite, anticipating heavy cloud cover and gloomy skies on Sunday, switched his bait from a ½-ounce, brown-colored jig used on the first three days of competition to 4- and 5-inch swimbaits that mirrored the blueback herring that bass feed on at Clarks Hill this time of year.
“When you have a big lead like I did heading into the final day, you tend to panic if you don’t get a limit early,” Hite said, avoiding the behavior that often plagues amateur anglers. “So, even though I had developed that pattern earlier and utilized it effectively, I had the courage to put that rod down.”
The tournament victory and handsome payoff signal yet another significant achievement in the month of May for the 1999 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion. He will turn 41 on May 18 and won a Bassmaster Elite 50 tournament in May of 2005 on Lake Dardanelle in Russellville, Ark., pocketing $100,000. Additionally, Hite also jumped from 24th to 13th on Bassmaster Elite Series Power Index, catching an average of 33-2 per tournament.
“My wife brought up how I do well in May not too long ago and I don’t know what it is,” Hite said. “I just wish I could fish like I do in May all the time.”
Clarks Hill holds a special place in Hite’s heart, as the sprawling fishery is just 40 minutes from his current residence and he has fished it more than 150 times. With the hometown connection, Hite’s seventh BASS tournament win has special significance, the angler said.
“This is a cherished victory,” said Hite, who embraced his youngest son, 9-year-old Peyton, when he won. “I see tons of faces in the crowd that I know and the hometown crowd is so supportive that it makes this win extra special.”
Although Hill finished in a distant second, he had no regrets about the tournament. His run-and-gun approach netted him 62 pounds, 15 ounces of bass over the four days and he only lost one fish in the tournament.
“I had an awesome tournament,” the Oklahoman said. “I fished as well as I know how to fish and I am ready to go for the rest of the year, especially the upcoming Major (Bassmaster Memorial, May 18-21; Fort Worth, Texas).”
Hill caught the biggest bass of the day, a 6-14 largemouth, that earned him the Purolator Big Bass of the Day and the $1,000 premium. The BUSCH Heavyweight Bag of the Day went to Lake Wylie, S.C. resident Jason Quinn with a 15-12 limit.
Rounding out the Elite 12 was Quinn (60-10) in third; 1983 Kentucky Derby jockey Kevin Wirth (59-12) in fourth; Alabama’s Randy Howell (58-7) in fifth; Missouri’s Mark Tucker (57-0) in sixth; Californian Jared Lintner (55-7) in seventh; Floridian Peter Thliveros (55-2) in eighth; Oklahoman Jeff Reynolds (54-5) in ninth; Virginian John Crews (54-4) in 10th; 1993 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year Gary Klein (53-9) in 11th; and 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Mike Iaconelli (53-2) in 12th.
The top BASS anglers will visit Eagle Mountain Lake and Lake Worth in Texas on May 18-21 for the Bassmaster Memorial, which will award the winner $250,000 cash. The tournament will receive same-day coverage on ESPN2 on May 21 at 7 p.m. ET.
Local Sponsors: Local sponsors include Columbia County and the Greater Augusta Sports Council.
CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series sponsors: Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Advanced Auto Parts and Theraseed®.
BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.
BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 550,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com.