Despite the fact that he had only a small five-bass limit today weighing just 8 pounds, 10 ounces, Reynolds outlasted the rest of the Super Six to take home the winner's check for $100,000. As he put things, "It was just meant to be."
Reynolds' biggest bass of the day was blind in one eye, and his last fish came with just 10 minutes to go on the final day, but it was enough to edge Arkansas' Jimmy Mize by 5 ounces.
Reynolds started the tournament in 24th place after the first day, but crept up the leaderboard each round, jumping to sixth on Day Two and all the way to second on Day Three.
"This is my new favorite lake, and this is the best crowd in the world," Reynolds said as he accepted the first-place trophy and an ovation from the audience. He was emotional when he explained how important the victory is to him.
"It'll change my life," he said. "It puts money in the bank and helps me with my sponsorships. It just means so much and gives me so much confidence. You know, you can't win a second one of these things until you've won your first."
Reynolds used a spinnerbait to carry him into the winner's circle — slow-rolling it through cover in the backs of pockets — but it was his last and smallest fish of the day that guaranteed his first BASS victory. His previous best finish was a second at the 2000 Arizona Invitational.
"I had been fishing the spinnerbait all day — all tournament," he said, "but I knew I had to have one more fish to fill out my limit and give myself a chance to win.
"I started looking for something different and went to a new place that I hadn't fished before. It was a crazy place — a little pocket with a lot of grass that looked like hay. I threw the spinnerbait at it but didn't get anything, so I cast a black and blue tube in there and shook it. When I lifted the bait, I could feel the fish, and I set the hook."
That last bass, which weighed less than a pound, made all the difference. It gave Reynolds a 5-ounce edge over Jimmy Mize and the esteemed title of Bassmaster Tour winner.
Despite taking the top spot in one of the most interesting and hotly contested Tour events in recent memory, Reynolds talked mostly about the lake.
"Clarks Hill is just a fantastic place to fish," he said. "There are lots of bass and absolutely any kind of cover or structure that you could ever want to fish. It's an amazing place."
Mize's second-place finish is the best of his career and moves him into second in the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race, 39 points behind Florida's Terry Scroggins.
Tour rookie Terry Butcher of Oklahoma finished third with 50 pounds and moved into fifth place in the Toyota Rookie of the Year standings.
Texas' David Wharton used today's Busch Heavyweight catch weighing 12 pounds, 8 ounces to lift him from sixth place and the final qualifying spot into fourth with 48-13.
The Day Three leader, 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Michael Iaconelli, struggled today and weighed in just two bass totaling 3 pounds, 1 ounce. It was good enough for a four-day tally of 47-8 and fifth place.
The Purolator Big Bass of the day weighed 4 pounds, 4 ounces and belonged to North Carolina's Guy Eaker. The lunker anchored his final round catch of two largemouths weighing 5 pounds, 11 ounces and left him in sixth place.
The Purolator Big Bass of the tournament belonged to non-boater David Hernandez of Alabama, whose 8-pound, 5-ounce lunker earned him $500 as the Purolator Big Bass of Day Two on the non-boater side and an additional $1,000 as the best overall fish of the event.
The CITGO Bassmaster Tour event on Clarks Hill Lake will be telecast on The CITGO Bassmasters on Saturday, March 12 at 10:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).
Local Sponsors include Columbia County, Georgia.