In April 1974 Jim Berry invited me to join the
Spading County Sportsman Club and fish the April club tournament at Clarks Hill out of Mistletoe State
Park. I joined and fished the tournament and fell in love with fishing club tournaments.
I have not missed many tournaments over the years since then, and the club has not missed many Aprils fishing Clarks Hill, including this past one.
I grew up in McDuffie County and went to Thomson High School only 12 miles from the lake. My church group, the RAs, camped there every summer and I got to go fishing there a couple times a year. My family started camping at the lake in the early 1960s, first in a tent then a pop-up camper.
When I was about ten years old I was wading and fishing around our favorite camping place, “The Cliffs” and caught a small bass on a Heddon Sonic lure. That was my first bass of many from the lake.
In 1966 daddy bought a 17-foot ski boat and we joined the Raysville Boat Club, keeping the boat under the boat docks and parking our pop-up camper right on the water nearby. We moved up to a bigger camping trailer a few years later.
Although I fished a good bit, I skied constantly. We often left Thomson High after classes in the spring and skied until dark. And I was on the lake almost every weekend.
College slowed that down some but I was only 90 miles from the lake in Athens at UGA. I took Linda skiing – and fishing – on our second date, in 1969! I think her enjoying fishing convinced me she was the right one for me, and 52 years later that is still true!!
In 1974 I got tied of trying to fish out of the old ski boat although I had made a seat up front and put a trolling motor on it. That boat had some good memories, like Linda catching an 8-pound, 10 ounce bass from it while trolling and the memories of thousands of crappie daddy, mama Linda and I brought over its sides in the spring.
Linda and I bought a bass boat in 1974 and I went to Clarks Hill every weekend I didn’t have a club tournament somewhere else. Since I was a teacher then school administrator, I had two weeks at Christmas and two months during the summer to spend there.
I spent many hundreds of days and nights in the camper sleeping and eating when tired and hungry and fishing the rest of the time. I loved those days. My parents visited often, usually bringing food.
Those days lasted until they died, and I inherited the mobile home at the lake. That was a couple years before I retired and I planned on endless retirement days there, but the first time I went over by myself there were just too many ghosts at the boat club. I got depressed and came home after two days. It was just not the same.
Twenty years later the memories have mellowed enough I enjoy staying there again, but it is just not the same, and never will be. I guess that’s life.
Clarks Hill dam construction was started in 1950, the year I was born. I often say they built the lake for me, but it will be there long after I am gone. I want my ashes dumped into the lake so I will forever be part of it.