Lake Seminole bass fishing could not be setting up any better for Brett Hite: big prespawn bass traveling on “highways” to beds.
Knowing how to target prespawners is one of his main strengths, said the Phoenix, Ariz., pro who is a Bassmaster Elite Series rookie, but prefers to call himself “young veteran” as a tip of the hat to his almost 13 years competing in big-name tournaments.
Saturday, Hite proved his experience by repeating his Friday lead in the Dick Cepek Tires Bassmaster Elite at Lake Seminole presented by Hardee’s.
And what a lead. Heading into Sunday’s championship round, Hite had 9 pounds, 12 ounces over his closest threat, Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Ark.
Hite’s total for the event’s first three competition days was 71-11. A consistent Davis, with a tally of 61-15 — 20 pounds and change each of three days — reached second place, up from seventh.
Bernie Schultz of Gainesville, Fla., who had 61-10, dropped one tick from second into third place.
Likewise Kevin Short of Mayflower, Ark. He slipped from third to fourth. His total was 60-11.
Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., was one of several anglers who made a stunning leap up the leaderboard Saturday to land in the Top 12 and advance to Sunday’s championship round. Martens’ bag of 29-11, the day’s largest, moved him from 37th into fifth with a total of 60-0.
Other jumpers included 2004 Bassmaster Classic champ Takahiro Omori of Emory, Texas, who moved from 18th into seventh; Byron Velvick, 21st to ninth; Todd Faircloth, 23rd to 10th; and Andy Montgomery, 29th to 12th.
The dozen pros who made the cut will return Sunday to Lake Seminole to vie for the event’s first-place prize of $100,000 and an automatic berth in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic.
Only one rookie in Bassmaster Elite Series history — Derek Remitz — has won his debut event, but Hite appears to be headed toward making that two rookies.
“If I get six to eight bites tomorrow — if I actually catch those six to eight bites tomorrow — I’m going to have between 15 and 20 pounds. The fish I’m getting to bite are all big ones,” Hite said.
He explained that there was a large group of big, migrating females in his best area. And that Sunday’s weather forecast will help him catch them.
“The conditions — stormy weather and a little wind — are really looking good for me,” he said.
Hite noted that the three bass he put in his livewell Saturday morning were among the smallest he’d caught all week. But his pattern turned on in the afternoon, and he boated the prespawners until he ended with 26 pounds, 5 ounces.
Davis has been Mr. Consistency: Day 1 he had 21-0, Day 2 he weighed 20-13, and Day 3 came in at 20-2.
“It’s been steady. I had a chance today to have more than 20, but it didn’t work out,” Davis said, without elaborating.
Davis said he sight fished only on the first day, then abandoned that pattern. He said he turned to cranking, targeting prespawners and postspawners — bass moving to and from beds.
Davis said the timing of his catches has been different every day. Saturday the bite really turned on late, although he was reeling them in throughout the day.
Rain on Sunday should only improve the bite on Seminole, he predicted.
“I think all our weights are really going to be great tomorrow,” he said.
The biggest bass of the day were two 7-12s, one by Omori and one by Faircloth. But the 10-10 of Thursday by Schultz stood as the top candidate for the event’s Carhartt Big Bass bonus of up to $1,500.
Hite won Saturday’s $250 Rigid Industries Jackpot award for being the angler registered for the bonus who busted 25 pounds.
Shaw Grigsby’s 30-5 of Day 1 set the mark high for the Berkley Heavyweight award of $500. No one yet has bested Grigsby, although Martens came close on Saturday with his 29-11.
The pros will begin the final round at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday from Earle May Boat Basin, 100 Boat Basin Circle, Bainbridge, Ga. The weigh-in will begin at 4 p.m. at the same location.
The 11th annual Bainbridge River Town Days and the Bassmaster Elite Series Expo will continue Sunday. The festivals include kids activities, vendors, free concerts and the products of Elite Series sponsors. Fans can sign up for free demo rides in Nitro, Skeeter and Triton boats powered by Mercury Pro XS and Yamaha SHO engines.
There’s no admission charge to any Bassmaster event, and parking is free.
The local host of the Elite event is the Bainbridge-Decatur County Chamber of Commerce.
The Bassmasters TV show featuring the Lake Seminole event will air from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. ET, Sunday, March 20 on ESPN2. The episode will reair on ESPN2 from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. ET on Sunday, April 13, and again on The Outdoor Channel on Monday, May 12.
Image courtesy Bassmaster