MANNING, S.C. — Preston Clark has made a name for himself as a big-fish specialist of sorts. The Palatka, Fla., Elite angler knows how to capitalize on a grand-scale sight-bite on an extremely productive reservoir, and he did just that on Thursday, bringing 39 pounds, 6 ounces to the scales at the ‘Santee Cooper Showdown’ presented by MotorGuide, taking a commanding 4-pound lead over Texan Alton Jones.

In addition to Clark’s gigantic bag, more than 40 Elite anglers each brought more than 20 pounds to the scales. All of the action can be seen on The CITGO Bassmasters on ESPN2 Saturday, April 8, at 10 a.m. ET.

Clark is somewhat of a rookie in BASS tournament action. He isn’t registered on the Bassmaster Elite Series Power Index yet because he has not fished the mandatory 12 qualifying events. Still, Clark is a force to be reckoned with. He showed his big-bass prowess at the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic on Lake Tohopekaliga, where he set the record for biggest fish ever caught at bass fishing’s most major event, an 11-10 lunker.

But it was another record on Clark’s mind Thursday. With 18 pounds in the boat after his first two casts, the BASS record for heaviest single-day catch – currently 45-2 and held by Dean Rojas of Arizona – was certainly within reach.

“I started to think how awesome it would be to hold the Classic record and take over Rojas’ record,” said Clark. “I fell short, but it was a lot of fun and it qualifies as the biggest bag I have ever caught.”

Although Clark didn’t set the record, his limit was more than enough to qualify for the third heaviest single-day catch in BASS tournament history.

Much like the Bassmaster Classic, where Clark ultimately finished in sixth, the 41-year-old used a push-pole - commonly used in saltwater fishing – to search for bedding fish. Clark moved through the water with the pole and then backed off, throwing lengthy casts into the beds.

Clark also secured the BUSCH Heavyweight award, earning him a $1,000 bonus.

“I was so excited with my day that I came in about 45 minutes early to make sure I wasn’t going to be late,” Clark said. “I really put that Triton livewell to the test with all of those monster fish and it passed with flying colors.”

It is not often that a 35-6 bag puts an angler anywhere but first place, but Alton Jones of Texas found himself in second behind Clark on Thursday. Jones’ banner day, which won him fifth place on the list of BASS heaviest single-day catches, was aided by a key bait he found early in the day. Jones also took an additional $1,000 for the Purolator Big Bass for his 10-1 lunker.

“Within 30 minutes of launch, I got that bite,” Jones said. “The female bit my bait and I knew I had found the trick to enticing those females. In a big-weight tournament like this, catching those females is imperative.”

Following Clark and Jones in third was Clark’s former fishing partner Terry Scroggins of Florida (33-6); Oklahoman Bradley Hallman (32-5); and Texan Kelly Jordon (31-15).

Leading the co-anglers in a race for a fully-rigged Triton boat valued at $45,000 was Californian Tom Frink with a limit of 16-8. Behind him is Oklahoma’s Lance Peck (13-0) and Alabama’s Charlie Raia (11-9).

After the first two days of practice, Santee Cooper had yet to show its true colors, and big bass were hard to come by. But a warming trend significantly increased the water temperature and brought an abundance of lunkers to the forefront. “Get ready for tomorrow because there should be some huge ones brought to the scales again,” said Jordon.

Local sponsors: Local sponsors include the Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce.

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. v

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