Who says familiarity can't be exciting?
Not Davy Hite, that's for sure.
All he has to do is cast his memory back to 2006 when the Bassmaster Elite Series made a stop on Clarks Hill Lake — a 71,000 acre plus fishery that straddles the border of Georgia and South Carolina. Hite, who lives in nearby Ninety Six, S.C., won that tournament with a four-day total of 71 pounds, 12 ounces that was caught primarily on a jig.
That wasn't the unusual part, however, as a lot of the guys were fishing jigs that weekend. What gave Hite an advantage, he said at the time, was his unique knowledge of the fishery. After all, he'd fished the system for decades and wound up employing a winning pattern that he first used at Clarks Hill more than 20 years earlier.
Talk about knowing your way around.
Now, Hite and his fellow Elites return to Clarks Hill beginning Thursday for the Pride of Georgia presented by Evan Williams Bourbon. It's not surprising that Hite is looking forward to the opportunity.
"When I won there two years ago, that along with my win at the Classic... was just about the best one I've ever had," Hite said. "There were so many fans I knew and just to be able to win on that body of water meant a lot to me. That's where I cut my teeth."
In two short years, however, Clark's Hill figures to present a much different challenge to Hite and Company. A drought throughout chunks of Georgia in the past 18 months has lowered the lake's water levels as much as 8 feet in certain spots, Hite said. That could make this a completely different tournament than the one he won in 2006.
"I'll probably see turkey strutting around and gobbling on some of the places I caught my best fish in the past," he said. "Those areas, they're dry. So it will be a different body of water for all of us."
But the fact he knows his way around Clark's Hill so well could play into his favor, ideal conditions or not.
"(Being there) gets me in a comfort zone," he said. "I've been around the body of water my entire life. It's where I learned to fish. Florida (where the Elites spent some time earlier this season) has been tough on me my whole career. I just don't seem to catch them there. Now that we're in mid-season, it's just great to be close to home."
As is the case during the spring, finding blueback herring should be instrumental to victory on Clark's Hill. The fish is the number one source of forage for bass on the lake.
"They dictate everything you do, especially this time of year," Hite said. "It all goes back to the blueback herring. Locating them will be key."
Hite anticipates a four-day haul of approximately 60 pounds to be enough to earn victory at the Pride of Georgia. That's a far cry from some of the record-breaking hauls seen only a few weeks ago at Falcon Lake in Texas, but it shouldn't detract from the competition at all, Hite said.
"It won't be like Texas, sort of like a slap back to reality," he said. "But Murray and Clark's Hill are two really good lakes. It should be a good tournament."
Defending champion Mike McClelland, who leads the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, will look to repeat at the Pride of Georgia. McClelland, who is from Arkansas, won last year with 70 pounds, 7 ounces — just edging Florida's Chris Lane who finished with a 69-pound total.