Bob Becton always has believed in the power of prayer, and his faith was reinforced Oct. 7 when he captured his second Mr. Clark Hill bass fishing title.
"Before the Top 6 tournament earlier this year, I prayed to the Lord to let me come in the top five, and I placed third," he said.
"My son, Trey, and I prayed that we'd have a top-five finish before the Easter Seals tournament, and we placed fifth. I prayed to the Lord to let me win the Mr. Clark Hill tournament, and I did, so I feel I need to praise the Lord."
Becton, an Augusta native who won his first Mr. Clark Hill title in 1997, joins an elite bunch of multiple winners in the 27-year-old tournament. He and Thurston Hall of Martinez are the only two-time winners, while Noel Brown of North Augusta has won it four times, and the latter's brother David, from Hephzibah, is a three-time champion.
Becton, a member of the Outcast Bassmasters, weighed in a limit of five bass totaling 14.68 pounds "and I didn't believe I had enough weight. It was close."
Mark Johnson of Midland Bassmasters caught five bass weighing 14.3 pounds. Craig Johnson of Little River Bassmasters was third at 13.3 pounds, while Donald Miller, who won the 1996 title, was fourth with 13.23 pounds.
"I felt this victory was really special," Becton said. "When you win it a second time, it kind of removes the doubt that the first time was just luck."
Luck played a key role in Becton's victory when a weather front brought cooler temperatures and high winds into the Thurmond Lake area the Friday before the tournament.
"I think that front coming when it did helped me," he said. "I hadn't been able to pre-tournament practice, and I heard people at the (boat position) drawing comment that they'd caught a lot of fish on topwater lures. That front slowed the bite."
Becton drew Randy Hardwick of the Cherokee Bassmasters as his fishing partner for the day. Hardwick had some fish located, but opted to go with Becton's fish.
"He's a super-nice guy, and we got along fine. It didn't take him long to learn how I was fishing, but he was able to catch only two fish."
Becton fished an assortment of top-water lures including Super Spooks, the Japanese Sammy and Zoom Super Flukes. As it turned out, all of his fish came on the Super Flukes.
He should have known Lady Luck was riding on his side when he drew boat No. 11, which means he was in the first flight of the 187 fishermen competing. He and Hardwick left the dock about 7 a.m., but for 1' hours, no fish were caught.
"I did not fish the same water that I won it on in 1997 because the fish were not holding in that area," said Becton, who did most of his fishing in the Fort Gordon Recreation Area section of the lake.
He caught his first keeper fish of about 2' pounds about 8:30, and then two "short" fish -- they didn't measure to Georgia's legal size limit of 12 inches.
"Catching them told me how the fish were biting, so I made a move. I fished areas with `grass' (hydrilla) and areas without, alternating sites during the day, catching 10 to 12 fish and culling the smaller ones with the larger ones.
"I told my partner that I needed a `kicker fish' with some weight to have a chance to win it, and the Lord was good to me. I caught a 5-pound class fish in an area with no `grass' about 3 p.m., an hour before I was due to weigh in."
Becton would not reveal the technique he used to fish the fluke.
"During the '97 interview, I was pretty open, and it cost me a shot at winning the '98 tournament, in which I placed third. You could sell tickets to the fishermen who lined up on my old spot that year.
"I messed up last year when my fish didn't turn on until late in the day and I got back to the weigh-in too late. I blew that one, but even had I been able to weigh in, I wouldn't have been able to beat (Darle Opalewski's) 22-pound catch. I would have placed in the top five.
"My goal is to join the Browns and win this tournament back-to-back."