The Coppertone pro angler stuck to the same remote Delta canal and used the same simple but effective technique for four consecutive days to win the $1 Million Wal-Mart FLW Series National Guard Western Division tournament, which featured 191 pros and as many amateurs.
The top 10 pros brought their final catches to the Wal-Mart parking lot in Antioch last Saturday, March 15, for a televised weigh-in where Hite's five-bass limit tipped the scales at 27 pounds and 9 ounces, netting him the tournament title and $125,000. Hite's catch gave him the win by a solid four-pound, 10-ounce margin over Team National Guard pro Brent Ehrler of Redlands, Calif., who caught a total of 20 bass weighing 102-1 and earned $47,671.
"I found these fish the second day of practice," Hite said. "I was running about 30 minutes south of here. I found a canal that's probably four miles long and I just started on one end and let the wind blow me to the other end. I was chucking and winding the whole time. It took me about three or four hours to do one pass and I'd fire up and go back down to the start. Every day I'd get 15-20 bites and at least 10 of them were all good ones."
Hite's four-day total tipped the scales at 106-11, the third heaviest four-day total in the history of FLW Outdoors events. "Everything's just gone right this week," Hite said. "I really haven't lost any fish. I've been on the fish all week. There hasn't been anybody fishing around me. It's just been another perfect week."
For the Arizona angler, big-time success on a big-time tournament circuit is becoming a familiar experience. Hite won the Wal-Mart FLW Tour event March 2 at Lake Toho, Fla. to bring his combined March winnings to $250,000 in just 13 days.
"I used the exact same bait, the exact same rod and the exact same reel as I did in Toho," Hite said. "I caught every bass in the last two weeks on the same rod and reel and the same bait - a chatterbait with a swimming Senko on the back. When you have confidence in something, you've just got to go with it."
Rounding out the top five pros are Louis Fernandes of Santa Maria, Calif. (20 bass, 99-10, $38,137); Ken Wick of Star, Idaho (20 bass, 93-2, $28,603) and Randy McAbee Jr. of Bakersfield, Calif. (20 bass, 89-6, $19,068).
Brentwood fishing legend Dee Thomas was sitting in fourth place heading into the final day but fell to seventh overall with a final catch weighing 16-05. The 71-year-old Freshwater Fishing Hall of Famer opened the tournament with a five-bass limit weighing 33-01, and followed that up with limit bags weighing 15-10 and 22-08. But it was Thomas' "go big or go home" strategy that cost him in the end.
"I had a great week out here," Thomas said. "I caught a lot of fish. I had a little bad luck and I made some bad decisions today. I tried to win this thing because I play to win and it just didn't pay off here today."
Art Rolland of Brentwood finished 22nd in the pro division with a three-day catch weighing 60-14.
In the co-angler division, Robert Jones of Clayton brought in a three-day total weighing 58-11 to earn the $20,000 top prize. Kirk Spencer and Jack Farage, both of Discovery Bay, finished 20th and 23rd respectively in the co-angler division.