Paul Elias did something on Lake Falcon that nobody, including himself, thought possible. He averaged nearly 7 pound bass over four days to capture the all-time heavyweight record.
See, for the first time, every bass he pulls into the boat (and some he missed), including an interview with Elias that walks you through the emotions of the final day.
Did he think he had enough to win? What did Aaron Martens tell him before the weigh-in? Find out in the full-length, Bassmaster.com exclusive show that debuts Tuesday at Noon ET on the Bassmaster.com home page.
It's something we'd never seen before and might never see again: Paul Elias, 132 pounds, 8 ounces. Don't miss it.
EVANS, Ga. If you were going to select a 12-angler BASS all-star team to compete against each other for one day, it wouldn't be much different from the Sunday finalists in the Bassmaster Elite Series Pride of Georgia tournament presented by Evan Williams Bourbon.
"I've looked around a lot of times when I'm up there on stage and thought, 'Dang, this is a pretty stout group up here,'" said three-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam, after being introduced as one of the 12 Sunday finalists on Clark's Hill Lake. "But this is really a pretty stout group."
Included in the accomplishments of these 12 anglers are: five Bassmaster Classic titles, eight BASS Angler of the Year titles, 108 Bassmaster Classic appearances and 11 of the 32 Elite Series titles since the circuit began in 2006.
"Our (Elite Series) field is full of great anglers," VanDam said, "and I guess the cream rises to the top."
Sunday's "all-star bass tournament" includes VanDam and Denny Brauer, who have both earned more than $2 million in BASS winnings in addition to Bassmaster Classic and Angler of the Year titles.
Alton Jones, the 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion, and Todd Faircloth, who won the last Elite Series event April 15th on Lake Amistad, shared 10th place among Sunday's qualifiers.
Davy Hite, who owns two Angler of the Year titles and a Bassmaster Classic crown, is in third place here as he seeks to add his second Elites Series Clarks Hill title in three years.
Skeet Reese, last year's Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, made his first 2008 top 12 cut to join Sunday's field. And Timmy Horton, the 2000 Angler of the Year, will be fishing Sunday too.
Pete Thliveros, the only man to win two of the $250,000 Bassmaster Elite Series "majors," is also in the field
Only one angler in Sunday's final hasn't qualified for a Bassmaster Classic or won a BASS event — 62-year-old Dave Smith of Del City, Okla. As the final perfect piece of trivia for Sunday's competition, Smith is the CEO of MTM Recognition, an Oklahoma company that makes both the NCAA football and BASS's Bassmaster Classic trophy.
For the second straight day Oklahoma's Edwin Evers sits atop the Pride of Georgia leaderboard. He was helped, for the second straight day, by catching the Purolator Big Bass — a 5-pound, 14-ounce largemouth to go with Friday's 6-7. His three-day total of 51-1 puts him 19 ounces ahead of fellow Okie Kenyon Hill's 49-14 total.
(On the accomplishments list, Evers has won over $1 million on the BASS tour and the 2007 Elite Series title at Lake Erie, in addition to qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic eight times. Hill has two BASS tournament titles, three Classic appearances and was second in the Clarks Hill Elite Series event in 2006.)
"Basically, I'm running all over the place, trying to fish a pattern," Evers said. "I'm fishing flat points that have deep water next to them and pea gravel or rock. The wind is a big key.
"I'm just really covering a lot of water. You've got to stay a long way off and make long casts."
Evers said he caught the 5-14 largemouth in the first 15 minutes Saturday, and it came from a spot 50 yards away from where he caught the 6-7 Friday.
The 43-year-old Hill has been the most consistent angler all week — starting in sixth place Thursday and staying second to Evers the last two days.
"The blueback herring come up to spawn this time of year, and they spawn on these shallow, flat points," Hill said. "It's just a little early for that to be really full-blown, where everybody's whacking them.
"There's a few points that are holding more fish."
Hill is using Carolina-rigged soft plastics, like Zoom Ol' Monsters and Zoom Trick Worms, throwing topwater lures and occasionally casting a swimbait.
"I caught six in 15 minutes this morning," said Hill, who ranked 12th in Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points prior to this event. "But it changes day to day.
"You've got to be willing to put down what you caught them on yesterday."
Hill said he's rotating among about 15 main-lake points.
Hite, who lives in nearby Ninety Six, S.C., was second on Day One, but dropped to 10th place Friday, before regaining his composure with the Berkley Heavyweight Bag of 18-14 Saturday.
"The big story was yesterday, when I didn't catch but 9 pounds," said Hite, who won this event on Clarks Hill in 2006. "I put myself behind the eight ball.
"I had only eight fish the first day and eight today. It's really hard, mentally, to try to fish and get only one bite an hour. But you just have to do that to win.
"I'm fishing somewhat like I did two years ago, when I won here. I'm using a mop jig a good bit and some topwater (lures).
"I preach this so much about trying to win. Yesterday when I didn't have a fish at 9:30, I started throwing a little worm. I went to the bank and started doing some things I had no business doing.
"I made up my mind this morning that if I zeroed, I zeroed. I'm going to do that same thing (Sunday). I'm going to fish for those 5-pound fish. It's going to take a 20-pound bag or better to have a chance to win.
"You're rolling the dice when you do that, because they're just not up everywhere. It's not easy to fish for big fish."
Hite has a three-day total of 46-15 and trails Evers by 4-2.
Thliveros has caught a bigger bag each day and moved from 33rd to 12th to fourth. He had a five-bass limit weighing 16-13 Saturday and trails Evers by 6-13.
Horton's 15-15 Saturday moved him from 16th to fifth, 8-6 behind Evers. Faircloth, who came from eighth place on the last day to win the Elite Series event April 14th at Lake Amistad, had the fourth-best bag Saturday of 17-2 and jumped from 32nd place into a tie with Jones for 10th. With 40-15, they sit 10-2 off the lead.
VanDam said the cloud cover Saturday allowed him to rely on his strength — power fishing — and moved from 23rd to eighth with 41-10.
Smith, still riding a wave of confidence from being on Kelly Jordon's winning team in the Professional Anglers Association tournament at Texas' Lake Fork two weeks ago, took the final qualifying spot for Sunday with a three-day total of 40-12. He edged Britt Myers by three ounces for 12th place.
VanDam didn't sound all that optimistic about his and the others in those final six qualifying spots having a chance to win the $100,000 first-place prize Sunday. But after what Faircloth did at Amistad recently, and what he's done on Clarks Hill in the past, it's certainly possible.
"I've had quite a few days on this lake, all in practice, when I've caught 25-pound bags," VanDam said. "It can happen real quick here.
"This lake has the potential. You just need to get a couple of those real big bites."
And in an all-star game like the one set up for Sunday, anything can happen.
The weigh-in at Wildwood Park begins at 3 p.m. ET.
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series' Pride of Georgia., May 1–4, 2008. Daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 3:00 p.m. ET, and watch for "Hooked Up," a live Internet pre-game show, at noon and 2:15 p.m. ET on Sunday.