Thomson and McDuffie County played host to several top tournament anglers last week as the Bassmaster Elite Series descended on Clarks Hill Lake for the 2007 BASS Pride of Georgia. Among them was current Angler of the Year leader Skeet Reese - the BASS endorsement king who reels in a whopping $600,000 annually before even wetting a line.
The two-time tour winner, who's closing in on the one million dollar mark in career earnings, has fished Clarks Hill before, but this was his first time staying in Thomson.
"Before, I've stayed at an area resort, but they just didn't have the amenities up there," he said. "So I decided to stay somewhere with more conveniences."
For someone who spends so much time on the road - the Bassmaster Elite Series sends anglers to 11 different tournament destinations, not including the three majors and the Bassmaster Classic - lodging is a big issue.
"As soon as the tournament schedule is announced, I start working on lodging," Reese said. "If we're going to a new body of water I've never been to before, I'll usually call (bass fishing legend) Denny Brauer's wife, Shirley, because she's got a file of places to stay."
Having seen other anglers roll into - and out of - town with no room lined up, Reese knows the value of a reservation.
"I try to get my room booked long before the season even starts."
During breaks in the season, the Auburn, Cal., angler parks his black and yellow Lucky Craft bass boat in airport parking and flies home.
"It's a little weird," he admitted, "but I really don't have a choice. Because I live on the West Coast, I can't just drive home."
After a disappointing first day, where he caught just 10 lbs., 6 oz. and finished 46th, Reese may have thought he'd be heading to the next tournament at Alabama's Lake Guntersville a little early, but he rebounded on Day Two with a 17 lbs., 4 oz. limit and made the final field of twelve by catching 17 lbs. on Day Three. When the smoke cleared on the final day, Reese finished sixth, earning $15,500 and padding his Angler of the Year lead over fellow Californian Jered Lintner.
Mike McClelland took home the $100,000 winner's check with a total weight of 70 lbs., 7 oz.