I bought my first bass boat in March, 1974 and Jim Berry invited me to join the Spalding County SportsmanClub. He and I fished the April club tournament at Clarks Hill, camping in a tent at Mistletoe State Park.
I placed third in the “B” division with six bass weighing seven pounds.
The lake and the club have gone through many changes over the past 46 years but going to Clarks Hill in April for a two-day tournament has remained consistent. I think I have fished it every one of those 46 years.
Back then, the club had 78 members and we often had 30 to 40 fishermen in our tournaments and there were many father-son teams. We made a big production of it, with most of us camping together and having as big fish fry one night. We sat around campfires, often with adult beverages, and had a lot of fun.
I still have the old scoreboard. I have no idea how I ended up with it, maybe because I was elected secretary/treasurer of the club in 1975, a position I still hold. Nobody else wants it.
The old scoreboard is two 4×4 foot plyboard boards with plexiglass covering them. There was a stand made from metal conduit to hold them upright. I can still barely see the names and weights from that first Clarks Hill tournament on it, the last tournament where it was used.
It took 20 keeper bass weighing 26 pounds to win that tournament. Now we have a five fish limit each day rather than the ten back then, after dropping to seven for a few years then to five.
The lake has changed a lot, too. About 25 years ago blueback herring got in the lake and their population exploded, and bass took advantage of this high protein food source, growing big and fat. Then hydrilla got in the lake and covered much of the shallows, giving young bass places to hide and grow.
Through spraying and introduction of 80,000 grass carp, the hydrilla has pretty much been eliminated.
Coots eating the hydrilla picked up a bacterium that killed bald eagles that ate the coots, and around 80 dead eagles were found over a ten year period, so the hydrilla was eliminated.
A few years ago, spotted bass got in Clarks Hill and their population is growing. We seem to weigh in more of them each year, and they are expanding from the Savannah River to Little River. I am afraid they will ruin the largemouth fishing like they have on Russell, West Point, Jackson and Bartletts Ferry.
Last weekend the Sportsman Club fished our
April tournament at Clarks Hill. In 16.5 hours of casting, 15 members brought 109 bass weighing about 187 pounds. There were 15 five fish limits and no one zeroed.
Raymond English won with ten weighing 26.33 pounds and had a 6.0 pounder for big fish. Sam Smith had ten weighing 21.05 pounds for second, my ten at 18.2 pounds placed third, and Kwong Yu had nine weighing 16.41 pounds for fourth. Those weights are very similar to what won back in 1974, but back then it took 20 bass to weigh as much as ten in this tournament!