RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. This week, Davy Hite turned 40 years old, won one of bass fishing's most elite competitions and most of all, joined an elite fraternity of anglers who've won over $1 million in BASS earnings.
The South Carolina pro, respected by his peers for his expertise fishing river-run impoundments, applied those skill sets to dial in to finicky postspawn fish in the Illinois Bayou, site of the two-day finals.
First place Davy Hite
Tackle: 5/16-ounce green pumpkin homemade jig with a green pumpkin plastic trailer; green pumpkin Berkley Finesse Worm fished on 1/8-ounce leadhead jig. The jig was fished on 14-pound Berkley Vanish Fluorocarbon; 6-pound Vanish was tied to the leadhead jig/worm combo. Pflueger President spinning (worm) and casting reels (jig) were paired with 6 ½-foot All-Star rods for each rig
Area/Technique: Holes with bridges, and specifically, where riprap formed an underwater finger into deeper water near the pilings, working jigs and finesse worms down the slope; 2-5 feet
Hite discovered two factors midway into the first day of finals competition beginning yesterday on the six-hole course.
"The water was clearer than what we'd encountered during the preliminary rounds," he said. "And the fish were also more advanced in the postspawn. So what that told me was the fish would be farther out in open water."
As a result, Hite found the fish holding deeper than everyone expected, himself included. While his peers were hammering the shoreline grass, a pattern that worked well during the previous two days, Hite backed off and found a key transition area used by the fish as they migrated back to deeper water.
"The fish I caught were backtracking, using the same routes as they did in prespawn," he said.
Hite's best areas were in holes with bridges, and specifically, where riprap formed an underwater finger into deeper water near the pilings. Positioning his boat in 25 feet of water, Hite methodically worked a jig and finesse worm down the sloping contour of the rock. The fish were holding between 2 and 5 feet.
With the presence of wind, Hite fished the jig on Friday to catch his 19-2 limit. On Saturday, the wind died and the action slowed, forcing him to take the finesse route.
Second place Michael Iaconelli
Tackle: 6-inch black/blue Berkley Power Floater Worm rigged on a 1/8-ounce Tru-Tungsten jighead; 1/2-ounce pumpkinseed Mann's Stone Jig. The worm was fished on 8-pound Vanish fluorocarbon spooled to a Team Daiwa Capricorn 2500 spinning reel, matched with a 6-foot Team Daiwa Light and Tough rod. The jig was tied to 17-pound Berkley Sensation, spooled to a Team Daiwa TD-Z reel and matched with a 7-foot Team Daiwa Light and Tough rod
Area/Technique: Sloping, rocky riprap and natural shorelines where a secondary ledge held the fish; 3 to 4 feet of water dropped to 10 feet
"Yesterday was a bust, but today I figured it out," he said. "I caught a fish early today on a rocky breakline and then duplicated that in the other holes."
Specifically, Iaconelli focused on sloping, rocky riprap and natural shorelines where a secondary ledge held the fish. Areas where 3 to 4 feet of water dropped to 10 feet were the sweet spots.
Iaconelli made casts directly to the shorelines and worked the bait down the sloping contour, where strikes occurred on the breakline.
Third place Aaron Martens
Tackle: Shad Luhr-Jensen Speed Trap crankbait fished on 12-pound SunLine fluorocarbon; citrus shad Fat CB MR Lucky Craft crankbait fished on 16-pound test SunLine fluorocarbon; 5 1/2-inch Zipper Worm rigged to a 3/16-ounce weight and 3/0 Gamakatsu Round Bend worm hook. All lures were fished on 7-foot Megabass Destroyer Tomahawk rods paired with Team Daiwa reels
Area/Technique: Windblown areas with brushpiles and riprap
"I was planning to fish offshore but there was too much fishable water," he recounted. "So I moved in, fishing any windblown areas with brushpiles and riprap."
Marten said the wind was vital to his success, and it fell calm on Saturday, along with his chances of improved success.
Fourth place Rick Clunn
Tackle: Green copper shad RC 1.5 Lucky Craft crankbait (sold exclusively by Bass Pro Shops); 1/2-ounce Shaky Head jighead rigged with a green pumpkin Bass Pro Shops worm. The crankbait was fished on 14-pound test Bass Pro Shops Signature XPS Signature line; 8-pound test was used for the Shaky Head. Both rigs were fished on spinning and casting versions of a 7-foot Bass Pro Shops Rick Clunn Signature Series Rod, with Bass Pro Shops Rick Clunn Signature Series reels
Area/Technique: Windblown, rocky points; finesse techniques on final day
"Yesterday (Friday), was a function of the wind," he said. "The wind positioned and concentrated the fish in specific areas, so precise presentations were not critical."
Clunn was able to cover water, fishing each hole quickly with the crankbait. Casting targets included any windblown, rocky points found in the six-hole course. He bagged that strategy on Saturday when the wind was eliminated altogether from the pattern, fishing over the same areas using a finesse approach with the worm.
Fifth place Gary Klein
Tackle: A combination of crankbaits, topwaters and worms, all fished on Quantum casting tackle
Area/Technique: Riprap, pilings
Klein caught all of his fish on Friday and Saturday in Hole No. 6, the spot nearest the weigh-in. Specifically, he worked the riprap shoreline, catching fish on the crankbaits, and the pilings of a courtesy pier, where he caught them on the worms.
"I spent Friday fishing a frog in the grass and didn't adjust soon enough," he said.
Sixth place Dustin Wilks
Tackle: Shad Yo Zuri crankbait; shad Yo Zuri Pop 'n Splash topwater; 3/8-ounce black/blue Glamour Shad jig. The lures were fished on 12-pound Yo-Zuri Hybrid line and Team Daiwa Fuego reels with 7-foot Team Daiwa Light and Tough Rods
Area/Technique: Breaklines where the water dropped from 3 or 4 feet to 10 feet
Wilks found his fish in the same types of transition areas as the other higher finishers, keying on breaklines where the water dropped from 3 or 4 feet in to 10 feet or greater depths.