Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 03/16/2014

Story by Matt Pangrac - Hite photo courtesy of J.D. Blackburn 

Bainbridge, GA – Brett Hite entered the final day of competition at the first Elite Series tournament of the 2014 season on Lake Seminole in an envious position.  Having already recorded a victory in February on the FLW Tour on Lake Okeechobee, Hite needed to hang on to the top spot for just one more day on Seminole to notch his second major victory in as many months.  He did just that, despite the fact that the final day was cut short due to severe weather sweeping through the Bainbridge, Georgia area.   

The Arizona pro weighed-in a 25-15 limit on Sunday to boost his four-day total weight to 97-10 and win the first Elite Series tournament of his career by an impressive 13-pound margin.   

With the win this week on Seminole, Hite now leads the 2014 Angler Of the Year standings on both the Bassmaster Elite Series and FLW Tour.   

Less than a month removed from a Top 10 finish in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville, Texas’ Todd Faircloth saved his best effort for the last day on Seminole, bringing a limit to the scales weighing 27-11 on Sunday to finish in 2nd place with a total weight of 84-10.  The 2nd place finish is Faircloth’s fifth Top 5 finish in Elite Series competition over the past calendar year.

Mark Davis displayed remarkable consistency this week on Seminole to finish in 3rd place with 80-9.  Over the four days of competition, he brought limits to the scales weighing 21-0, 20-13, 20-2, and 18-10.  

4th Place went to Takahiro Omori, who covered miles of water over the course of the tournament to amass a total weight of 78-4.  Omori saved his best performances for the weekend, bringing in 23-12 on Saturday and 19-14 on Sunday.

Arkansas’ Kevin Short rounded out the Top 5 with a 76-6.  After opening the tournament with an impressive stringer of largemouth weighing 25-9, Short struggled to connect with the big bite for the remaining three days and managed just 15-11 on Sunday.

Out of the 12 competitors fishing on Sunday (which was shortened by nearly three hours due to bad weather), just five anglers managed to bring a limit to the scales.

1st Place: Brett Hite (24-11, 20-11, 26-5, 25-15: 97-10)
Hite on dealing with the stormy conditions Sunday on Seminole:  
“The biggest thing for me (today) was to go out and get a limit quickly.  That really lets you relax, start fishing the way that you want to fish, take it easy, and have a good time.  That’s what I was able to do.  I went to the area where I caught my big stringer on the third day and started off with a 3 ½-pounder, 2 ½-pounder, and a little keeper.  I went back down the stretch and ended up catching a 5-pounder and a small keeper to fill out my limit.  Things really clicked in because I had around 14-pounds within the first hour-and-a-half.

“I knew that with the direction of the wind, all the stuff that I’d been fishing earlier in the week on the south shore would be protected.  When the waves really started crashing in on my first spot, I was able to move and fish super calm water with just a little breeze.  I knew that with those conditions I would get a couple key bites.”

Hite on catching a 7-13 kicker on Sunday:
“I moved to my last area, which was the area where I think the biggest fish live because the grass is the best.   I made a cast across a little point and something felt funny so I set the hook.  My first thought was, ‘Man, I hope this isn’t a tree limb.’  I saw my line moving towards me and then the fish came up and wallowed.  It was almost an 8-pounder.  That was the biggest fish that I’ve caught all week and it came at the right time.  The whole thing was pretty special.  I caught a couple more down that bank, but they didn’t help me at all.”  

Hite on his key areas during the tournament:
“I was fishing stretches of bank.  It wasn’t like I was fishing a point or a hump.  It was stretches of bank with the right grass, and I wanted areas where the boat would be in 6 to 8 feet of water and I could make a cast and hit the bank. The areas had a 2 foot (deep) ledge that came out for maybe 25 or 30 feet and then it dropped off to about 6 feet of water.  All the grass was along that edge and that’s where most of my key bites came from.

“I may have caught a spawner or two, but the majority of my fish were pre-spawners.  They may spawn on those banks, but they’re getting up there and roaming around on the edge of the grass and that was the key.

“I fished the main body of the lake where nobody was around me.  I think that a lot of guys were up in creek arms or fishing pockets.  I think that my area was key because I had it to myself.  If you have a couple guys fishing the same area, you can burn up the fish pretty quickly.”

Hite on managing his fish throughout the tournament:
“Fish management was really key, especially after the first two days.  I’ve been down this road before, and without experience it’s very hard to manage your fish and know what you need to catch each day to win a tournament like this.  

“I would not have won this tournament if I would not have gone and practiced on the first day of the tournament at around 2:00 after I had my weight. When I left my fish and went looking, that’s when I found the fish that I caught yesterday and today.”  

Hite’s Winning Baits and Gear:
- 3/8-ounce and ½-ounce ChatterBait in Green Pumpkin or Black/Blue.
- 4 ½-inch Gary Yamamoto Swimming Senko trailer in Black/Blue or Green Pumpkin with a chartreuse tail.
- Unnamed swimbait trailer.   
- 20 lb. test Sunline Super FC Sniper.  
- 7’3” Evergreen Tour Pro Series Power Glass Heracles Leopard casting rod.
- 6.2:1 Shimano Chronarch CI4 reel.

Hite on the importance of his electronics:
“One of the key things for me this week was my Humminbird 360 Imaging. It really allowed me to see the grass line and notice little points or clumps of grass ahead of the boat so that I could cast to them before my boat went over the top and scared the fish.”  

Hite on his prowess with a ChatterBait:  
“Fishing a ChatterBait is my deal and what I do, and I very seldom throw a white ChatterBait.  I know that there are gizzard shad in this lake and they have a dark complexion.  I was also trying to mimic bluegill because big bass eat bluegill all the time. The bluegill are always in the grass, so I tried to make my bait mimic either a gizzard shad or a bluegill.

“In October of 2007, I really figured out what (the ChatterBait) was all about.  In January or February of 08’, I won an FLW Tour on Toho (with the ChatterBait), and then drove to the California Delta and won another $125,000 on the same bait doing the same thing.  That’s really when I developed confidence in the bait and mastered how to use it.  

“I catch fish all year long using it, but pre-spawn is usually when I catch my biggest stringers.  It’s just a great bait for shallow water grass presentations.  It attracts bigger fish than any bait that I’ve ever used with the exception of a swimbait, but swimbaits are very tough to use in a tournament and get enough bites. The ChatterBait is like a jig/Rattle Trap/swimbait combination.”

Hite on qualifying for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell where he just finished 6th last week at the FLW Tour:
“I really haven’t thought about it yet, but I’m pretty excited because Lake Hartwell is probably one of the most favorite lakes that I’ve ever fished.  I’ve fished three other tournaments there and I’ve been in the Top 20 every single time.  Going into the Elite Series season, my goal was getting to Lake Hartwell.”

2nd Place: Todd Faircloth (20-14, 12-4, 23-12, 27-11: 84-10)
Faircloth on entering the day nearly 15-pounds behind Hite:
“I was in 10th place going into the day and Brett had such a big lead, I knew that he would really have had to mess up today for me to have a shot.  If you’re going to lose and finish 2nd, you’d rather lose by a big margin because it’s just a lot easier to accept. Overall, I had a great tournament.”

Faircloth on the final day on Seminole:  
“I started offshore today where I caught them yesterday.  I caught a 7-pounder really quick and then another small keeper.  I had a few nip the bait but I just couldn’t hook up.  I stayed in that area until around 10:30 and then made my mind up that I was going to move shallow and try to catch a limit.  

“I had a spot where I’d seen a few fish on beds, but when I tried to get in there the water had dropped and I my boat got stuck.  I backed out of there and ended up going back offshore to a spot where I only had one bite in practice.  I pulled up at 11:00 and caught fish on every cast for 15 minutes.  I absolutely wrecked’em.”

Faircloth on his overall pattern throughout the week:
“The first two days I really targeted shallower bass that I think were spawning.  I caught a few spawners, but  I had almost 21-pounds on the first day of the tournament and I wasn’t sight fishing. I was just casting a finesse worm around where I thought they were bedding.

“Yesterday and today, I went more offshore.  The key  for me this week was finding little ditches that ran off of a flat or off the side of a point.  When I found an area like that, I would catch bigger fish.  My best area today had a mix of hydrilla and coontail grass with hard sandy spots mixed in.  Most of my bites came as I crawled my Pure Poison through the grass.”  

Faircloth’s baits and gear:
- 3/8-ounce Strike King Pure Poison in Bream (Bluegill) color.
- Soft plastic swimbait trailer in Green Pumpkin
- 7’2” Castaway Todd Faircloth Signature Rod
- 20 lb. test Sunline Shooter Fluorocarbon line
- 6.6:1 Shimano Chronarch
- Strike King Finesse Worm Blue Fleck with 3/16-ounce weight (first two days)
- 30 lb. test Sunline braid

3rd Place: Mark Davis (21-0, 20-13, 20-2, 18-10: 80-9)
Davis on his consistency this week on Seminole:
“I fished mostly the same water every day but I caught my fish a different way each day of the tournament.  I think that changing things up enabled me to keep catching consistent stringers.  I wasn’t on the big fish to win the tournament, so I realized pretty quickly that I needed to just make the most of what I had. I caught my fish sight fishing on the first day, cranking the second day, flipping the third day, and I caught them cranking today.”

Davis on his primary area:
“These fish were all around big time spawning areas.  I think that a lot of the fish had already spawned and some were waiting to move up and spawn.  I was targeting an area where both the pre- and post-spawn fish had to pass through.  The main key was the proximity of the area to the spawning grounds.

“It had the right combination of cover and depth that the bass needed.  The bite was sporadic, so the toughest thing was that you didn’t know when they’d turn on.  Sometime during each day there would be a little flurry.”

Davis on identifying spots:
“I didn’t know what I was going to do on the second day of the tournament once all my sight fish were gone.  During Friday, I figured out that these fish were holding in little confined areas, and once you found them, you’d usually catch two or three.  Once I figured that out, I knew what I needed to be doing and where I needed to be doing it.”  

Davis’ Bait and Gear:
- Strike King Rage Bug (new soft plastic) with a 3/16-ounce weight.
- Strike King Rodent in Black/Blue with a 1-ounce tungsten weight.
- Strike King 1.5 Squarebill crankbait in Tennessee Shad Color
- Strike King Pure Poison

4th Place: Takahiro Omori (19-11, 14-15, 23-12, 19-14: 78-4)
Omori on his overall finish:
“This is a great start to the year, so I’m happy about it.  I was around a lot of big fish in this tournament.  I lost my two biggest fish on the first day and my biggest fish on the second day, so I’m sure that cost me a lot.  I was fishing in a lot of heavy stuff, so I guess that losing them is just part of it. I think that the cold front made them nip at the bait instead of eat it.?

Omori on his primary pattern:
“I was just going down the bank on the main lake fishing cattails, stumps, lily pads, and anywhere the fish were going to spawn.  I was catching cruisers, spawners, post-spawners, and pre-spawners.  I was covering a lot of water each day.  I never went back to the same area during this tournament – I just kept going down the bank because there are a lot of good looking places to fish here.  It’s impossible to run out of stuff to fish.  Yesterday I caught two sight fish, but those were the only two fish that I caught off beds.

“I’ve fished here twice before, so I kind of knew where I wanted to fish and where the biggest population of bass liked to spawn.  I just went to those places and started fishing.”  

Omori’s primary baits:
- 3/8-ounce Black and Blue or Green Pumpkin ChatterBait
- Senko (for bedding bass)

5th Place: Kevin Short (25-9, 17-10, 17-8, 15-11: 76-6)
Short on the final day on Seminole:
“In three words or less, I’d describe today as slow, scattered, and spotty.  For me, things really changed up today, and I think that the weather conditions moved the fish around a lot more than I thought.  Going into the day, I thought the fish would be a lot more aggressive, but I only got five bites all day long.  I moved up to the bank today to try to catch some smaller fish to fill out my limit and I was only able to catch three. It was a funky day for me.”

Short on his primary technique:
“I was throwing a Norman Big N crankbait.  It’s a big-bodied crankbait that is one of the first plastic squarebill crankbaits ever made.  It’s not a very sexy bait to throw, but it works during a certain time of the year.  

“I was just throwing it over the outside edge of the hydrilla and also throwing it along the inside edge of the grass.   Most of the water on the outside edge was in about 6 feet of water.  The first day, every fish came on the outside edge and they scattered after that and moved up shallow.   The Big N works really well when the fish are just about to go on the beds in stained water.  It moves a lot of water and it’s the size of a lot of small bluegill that the bass are trying to keep away from the beds. I was throwing a bait that I actually painted in the past to imitate a yellow perch.  It had a dark green back, gold sides, and bright orange belly. Every fish that I caught over 4-pounds came on that bait. A lot of the times the bites came when I’d rip the bait out of the grass.” 

Short’s gear:
- 7’ Team Lew’s Medium Heavy Moderate TLCC70MHM rod
- 6.4:1 Lew’s BB1 Pro PS1HZ reel
- 20 lb. test Vicious Braid (to rip the bait through the grass)


PlaceNameDay 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Total FishTotal Weight
1 Brett Hite 5 24-11 5 20-11 5 26- 5 5 25-15 20 97-10
2 Todd Faircloth 5 20-15 5 12- 4 5 23-12 5 27-11 20 84-10
3 Mark Davis 5 21- 0 5 20-13 5 20- 2 5 18-10 20 80- 9
4 Takahiro Omori 5 19-11 5 14-15 5 23-12 5 19-14 20 78- 4
5 Kevin Short 5 25- 9 5 17-10 5 17- 8 5 15-11 20 76- 6
6 Aaron Martens 5 17- 5 5 13- 0 5 29-11 4 12-11 19 72-11
7 Bernie Schultz 5 26-14 5 17-10 5 17- 2 3 10- 6 18 72- 0
8 Shaw Grigsby 5 30- 5 5 12- 5 5 16- 9 4 11- 9 19 70-12
9 Byron Velvick 5 16- 7 4 17- 4 5 24- 8 2 9- 3 16 67- 6
10 Justin Lucas 5 17- 8 5 25- 9 5 15- 3 2 4- 7 17 62-11
11 Andy Montgomery 5 15-10 5 15-11 5 23- 9 2 4-12 17 59-10
12 Charlie Hartley 5 19- 7 5 16- 1 5 20- 8 1 1- 7 16 57- 7