By Todd Ceisner
Davy Hite has been busy this winter.
He and his family finished building a cabin along the Saluda River, not too far from his home near Lake Murray. He got to spend some quality time over the holidays with his family as his oldest son, Parker, was home from West Point for a couple weeks. And he finalized a deal with Phoenix Boats, switching brands after a long run with Triton.
Now, heís anxious to get back on the water.
When he gets back on the front deck at the Lake Toho Southern Open at the end of the month, itíll be the same Davy Hite BassFans have come to know Ė heíll be casting for the win.
Following a lackluster (by his standards) 2012 Elite Series campaign that saw him score four Top-50 cuts but not finish better than 24th in any of them, heís going to put an increased emphasis on fishing to win this year. Itís an approach thatís brought him success in the past, most recently in 2011.
ďIíve done some thinking in the offseason and the times Iíve done the best, Iíve really fished to win tournaments and not fished to make checks,Ē he said. ďIím not really at the point of my career where I should be doing that, but itís really hard to not think about it when the last check is $10,000. Thatís something to think about. In my career, when Iíve done my best, Iíve fished to win and not worried about making a check or not. You have bad tournaments sometimes because of that.
ďIím not saying I have the right approach. I just know what works for me. In all honesty, if you pay the entry fees weíre paying and what it takes to be on the road and you make a check every time, youíre going to go broke. Thatís just the way it is.Ē
St. Johns Spinout
In 2011, Hite was fortunate enough to make checks in seven of eight Elite Series events, including a victory (Pickwick Lake) and a runner-up (Lake Murray) en route to an 8th-place finish in Angler of the Year points.
Last year, his season got off to a slow start with two finishes of 86th or worse (St. Johns River and Bull Shoals Lake) in the first three events. He finished no lower than 62nd in the remaining five tournaments and ended up 60th in the AOY chase. Looking back, he says the opener at St. Johns is where his season Ė and a 15th career Classic berth Ė got away from him all because of one pre-spawn female.
ďThis is my little sob story for last year,Ē he said. ďI lost a fish at the first tournament of the year that cost me the Classic. Iíve been fortunate enough to win Angler of the Year a couple of times and thatís what you always want to shoot for, but when you lose one fish that you know cost you the Classic, it haunts you quite a bit. In hindsight, I donít know what I couldíve done any differently.
ďIíd found a monster fish on a bed. I donít know exactly what the fish weighed. It was at least 8 pounds, but I think it was more like 10. I ended up losing that fish, but I shouldíve caught it. I weighed in one that day that weighed a pound and a quarter so thatís a minimum 7- to 8-pound difference. In that particular tournament, where I finished (86th), thatís a difference of 50 spots. People who donít fish a season-long points deal donít realize how just one or two fish can make a big, big difference between winning Angler of the Year and making the Classic. The competition level is so that thatís just the way it is.Ē
He knows he wasnít the only one who lost key fish at inopportune times of the year, but this one seemed to loom over him for the balance of the season.
ďI tell people and they look at me like Iím not telling the truth, but itís no lie: The two years I won Angler of the Year, I donít remember losing a fish the whole year that cost me 1 pound, let alone 7 or 8 pounds,Ē he said. ďYou canít lose 10-pounders and weigh in 1-pounders against the crowd that weíre fishing against.Ē
Aim For The Top
While last year didnít go anywhere near as well as Hite had planned, he saw his recipe for success result in a banner 2011 season. The key, obviously, was notching the win at Pickwick fairly early on and locking up a Classic berth.
ďI fished so relaxed after I won that tournament early on and had the Classic made and had just won $100,000,Ē he said. ďTwo tournaments later, I finished 2nd. I just had a real good year and when I look back on the years Iíve done well and the years Iíve havenít done well, itís been when I fish conservatively. Iím going to fish more aggressively this year.Ē
Itís a constant mental struggle, however, he says. Within a given season or even a given event, itís easy to fall into the mindset of fishing to finish in the Top 50 rather than taking a little bit of risk that may pay off in a big way.
ďI try to relay that to everyone,Ē he said. ďYouíre never as high as you think you are and youíre never as low as you think you are. Iíve been blessed to be at the top of this sport a couple times by winning the Classic and Angler of the Year, but youíre not going to ride that forever. You have to understand you need to stay focused and try to fish. I say this and some people donít realize it, but Kevin VanDam is the only one in the history of our sport thatís been in the sport a while that hasnít had many downs. Heís the only one whoís fished any length of time that hasnít missed a Classic or had a bum year.
ďYouíre going to have ups and downs unless youíre Kevin. Heís done phenomenal and heís a friend of mine so more power to him, but I want to beat him for Angler of the Year this year. You have to be realistic and just try to stay focused. As far as being conservative, when you start doing things that really arenít you, like fishing for checks, then things kind of spiral downhill from there.Ē
He likes that this yearís schedule gets under way in Texas and not Florida, where itís kicked off the last 2 seasons.
ďThis yearís schedule is neat because thereís a big variety,Ē he said. ďThere are some fisheries that are going to be tough and there are some smallmouth places on there and then thereís some absolute largemouth-only places. Itís a good variety.
ďI try to look at them all the same and I do that because when I look back on some of the tournaments Iíve been able to win, there have been a few that I thought that I had a better chance to win than others. Most of the B.A.S.S. tournaments that Iíve won, I really didnít have a clue going in that Iíd win the thing. You just need to have the mentality and if it starts working your way, you need to realize you donít have those opportunities very often.Ē
> Hite wonít be competing at the Classic next month at Grand Lake, where he has finishes of 5th and 16th to his credit in Elite Series events. His pick to win shouldnít come as much of a surprise. ďKevin (VanDam) would be my first choice just because heís kind of a freak,Ē he said. ďThen, Mike McClelland because heís got a lot of history there. Heíd be my second choice.Ē