Forty-year-old Frank Sabo, of Evans, overcame a spot of adversity, staved off a final-day charge by Chris Gould and won the 38th annual Mr. Clark Hill Bass Fishing Championship.
Sabo weighed in daily limits of five fish each for a total of 26.76 pounds in becoming the first member of his Bank Runners Bass Club to win the coveted title on Thurmond Lake last weekend. It was the first Mr. Clark Hill in which he competed and he also won $5,000.
Gould weighed in a five-bass, 17-pound catch last Saturday, but caught only eight pounds of bass on Friday, winding up second with a total of 10 bass and 25 pounds. He won $1,947.
Sabo credited his victory to the “teachings” of former Mr. Clark Hill Tony Postell and lure maker Lionel Hollingsworth, who manufactures the Tru-Trac Buzzbait Sabo fished in the tournament.
“Tony took me under his wing and taught me so much about how to fish the lake,” Sabo said. “It would take me years to learn everything he taught me.
“I had been on the buzzbait bite for awhile and after just one day of practice, I decided I was going to live or die with that lure. I also fished the Gunfish and caught my biggest fish on it. But I caught eight of my 10 fish on the buzzbait. A lot of the fishermen also fished the buzzbait, but gave up after a couple of hours and went to another bait.”
Sabo, an Akron, Ohio native, drew “lucky No. 13” in the first flight of 100 boats.
“I caught my first fish (a 2-pound keeper) and then two others. The bulk of my five-fish catch came between 10:30 and 11 a.m. I caught 15 in all that first day and was able to cull smaller fish five or six times during the day. After landing two 3-pounders and one 21/2-pounder, I wound up with 13 pounds, 8 ounces and ended the day in fourth place.”
Sabo found himself in the last flight on the final day, “but I never doubted my ability to catch fish. I started fishing the points in Keg Creek and caught a 13-inch bass (12 inches is the legal length). I hoped to average a fish an hour and when the sun came out, I added a 2-1/2-pounder. That gave me about 4 pounds. Another small keeper pushed my weight to 5 pounds about 10 a.m.
“I moved into Chigoe Creek, but a stretch that had been productive for me on Friday did not yield a bass. I really needed a limit and I caught two bass that measured, moving my total weight to 6-1/2 to 7 pounds. I knew that wouldn’t cut it.”
After racking up 13 pounds, Sabo nearly made a costly mistake.
“I had a small bass and another that weighed 1.2 pounds. Instead of culling the small one (which would not have measured 12 inches), I inexplicably threw out the larger one. I almost got sick to my stomach when I realized what I’d done.”
Sabo weighed in his 13.68-pound catch, sat down in his boat and waited out the rest of the weigh-in.