Fifty-one-year-old Duane Houk, of Augusta, admits he's sort of superstitious about his fishing.
"My best fishing partner is my Dad (Denny), who carries a penny in one of his shoes," he said. "When we drew boat numbers for the Mr. Clark Hill tournament, mine was No. 59 and his was No. 36. I was born in 1959, he was born in 1936, so yes, you can say that I'm superstitious."
That was the positive way his first day on the water started in the 37th annual Mr. Clark Hill Bass Fishing Championship on Thurmond Lake, a two-day affair on Oct. 1-2 out of Wildwood Park.
After all was said and done, Houk became the first member of his Bucketmouth Bassmasters to win local bass fishing's most coveted prize, beating 195 others with a two-day catch of 10 bass weighing 25.38 pounds and earning $5,000.
"Having Dad as my fishing partner is the reason I've done better because he's a good fisherman. I always knew I had what it takes to win it, although I never placed in previous tournaments. I also have to credit (two-time Mr. Clark Hill champion) Marty Quesada Jr. for helping me locate the fish."
Superstitious or not, Houk was beginning to wonder about his ability to catch fish after not having one in his boat's livewell by 10:30 a.m., on the first day.
"The bass were in the shallows, but did not turn on until 11:30. I caught all my fish on spinnerbaits between then and 2 p.m., including the big fish of the day of 7.56 pounds. After I landed that one, I screamed and hollered. Man, I was pumped!"
His main spinnerbait was a half-ounce Stanley Vibrashaft with a white skirt and gold and silver willow leaf blades.
The fish were feeding on shad around stumps and other cover in a foot or two of water.
He returned to his area on the second day and had three bass weighing about 4 pounds by noon. He tied on a Booyah spinnerbait with a chartreuse and blue skirt (the water was stained) and lost a 3-pounder at the boat. He cringed, mentally, thinking, "I'd blown the tournament, but just before I had to leave for the weigh-in, I tied on a Buckeye 3-bladed spinnerbait and landed a 21-pounder. I caught seven fish that day and was able to cull two smaller ones."
Houk said he had 13 "bites" during the tournament and landed 12 of them.
Runner-up was Woody Parks, of Lincolnton, Ga., with 22.46 pounds.
Houk is a native of Barberton, Ohio. He moved to Florida when he was 21. Eleven years ago last May, he moved to Augusta where he found work selling big-rig truck parts.
He's been a "serious fisherman" nearly all of his life, fishing in bass tournaments at the tender age of 10 as a member of the Jelly City Bassmasters in Orrville, Ohio.