It didn't hurt, either, that he caught that wind on two lakes he considers his home territory: Clarks Hill and Lake Murray.
Hite, who won the BASS Elite "Pride of Georgia" event two years ago on Clarks Hill, finished second in early May after threatening a repeat performance, and he stormed into a fourth-place finish in mid-May on Lake Murray, the venerable Midlands reservoir where he grew up.
Ironically, he challenged for the win on his 43rd birthday, the final day of the BASS Elite Series "Carolina Clash" on Lake Murray. His top-5 finish moved him up to 29th place in the BASS Angler of the Year rankings with five tournaments left in the 2008 season. The top 37 pros from the Elite Series qualify for the 2009 Bassmaster Classic on Louisiana's Red River.
Hite, the 1999 Bassmasters Classic champion, was buried in the standings when the Clarks Hill tournament began.
"I had a slow start this year," he admitted.
In fact, after failing to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic held on Lake Hartwell this past February, Hite finished 92nd in the first tournament of the year, on Florida's Harris Chain of Lakes in early March, then slid even further down the rankings with a 108th-place finish on Florida's Lake Kissimmee a week later.
He began to claw his way back to the top with 17th-place on Texas' Falcon Lake in early April, but slipped again the following week with an 84th-place on Lake Amistad in Texas.
His revival began, however, with the second-place finish on Clarks Hill, almost repeating his last tournament win there two years earlier.
"I came really close at Clarks Hill. It would have been really nice to win twice there, but it just didn't work out," he said.
"It was almost déjà vu. When I won two years ago, Kenyon (Hill) finished second. This time, Kenyon caught bigger fish, and he consistently brought in 15- to 18-pound stringers. He deserved to win it."
Hill, of Norman, Okla., finished with 68 pound, leading Hite by 8½ pounds in the final weigh-in. Hill won $100,000, and Hite pocketed $31,000.
Hite's second-place finish at Clarks Hill vaulted him from 79th into 50th place in the AOY standings, and he turned his attention to Lake Murray.
"Other than winning the Classic, winning an Elite tournament on Lake Murray would probably be my No. 1 goal. It's got a very, very special place in my heart," Hite said before the tournament.
The anglers found the bass at Murray on basically the same pattern they had been at Clarks Hill - forming marauding packs to chase blueback herring on main-lake points. There was one exception: while the bass at Clarks Hill were feeding voraciously, the bass at Murray were much more finicky.
"I had better fish on today and lost some of them. They were really not eating the bait, just smacking at it," Hite said after the first day of the tournament. "I feel I'm not doing something exactly right, so I will fine tune what I'm doing for tomorrow and, hopefully, the fish will eat it better. I'm not going to fish for 12-inch fish. I'm going after 4- to 7-pound fish."
Rookie Wade Grooms of Bonneau, who barely missed the cut at 51st place at Clarks Hill, led all South Carolina anglers the first day at Lake Murray weighing in 18 pounds, 4 ounces, for fourth place.
Grooms, a one-time walk-on receiver on the Clemson University football team, eventually finished 51st again, tied with Jason Williamson of Aiken, but he moved into fourth place in the Rookie of the Year standing.
Hite entered the final round at Lake Murray in sixth place, less than four pounds behind leader Fred Roumbanis of Bixby, Okla.
Roumbanis won the tournament with 66 pounds, 13 ounces, and Hite finished fourth with 64 pounds, 1 ounce.
Hite and most of the other pros keyed on largemouths feeding on blueback herring around points in the lower part of the lake. Roumbanis gambled and won the tournament by fishing an area well away from all the other pros – far up the Saluda River.
Ironically, Hite considered moving up into the Saluda to fish after a slow start on the second day.
"I was struggling, and I ran up the river where I was raised. I caught a lot of fish, but they were small," Hite said. "Roumbanis went further up the river, and he caught bigger fish."
Hite and most of the other anglers used a combination of topwater baits such as Zara Spooks, hard and soft swimbaits and Senkos. Some also worked drop shot rigs with finesse worms and Shakey Head rigs.
Roumbanis threw a soft plastic Snag Proof Frog over mats of aquatic grass to catch his fish. He chose a frog with an orange tint on the belly because the bass were feeding on bluegills.
"This was the second tournament I've won with that frog," said Roumbanis who grew up fishing the California Delta with a frog lure.
Even with his success throwing the frog, Roumbanis said he experienced the same problem other did. The fish were just not biting aggressively.
"I think half the fish hit it with their mouths closed," he said.
In fact, he had targeted one big fish all four days, and it was only on the final day that the 6-pound, 13-ounce lunker he had dubbed "Sugar" finally opened her mouth to take the frog, giving him the solid bump he needed to hold off the pack of anglers nipping at his heels.
South Carolina fishermen fared well on their two "home" lakes.
At Clarks Hill, Casey Ashley of Donalds had 20 fish at 54 pounds, 10 ounces for fifth place and $17,000. Britt Myers of Lake Wylie finished 13th with 40 pounds, 9 ounces, and won $10,800.
Six South Carolina fishermen finished in the top 20 on the co-angler side: 11. John Yarbrough of Columbia, 23 pounds, 14 ounces, $1,250; 15. (tie) Derrick Bridges of Greenville, 22-7, $750, and Paul Ham of West Columbia, 22-7, $750; 18. Bart Blackburn of North Augusta, 22-4, $750; 19. Brad Smith of Clarks Hill, 22-0, $750; and 20. Sean Ravenscroft of North Augusta, 21-14, $750.
At Lake Murray, Marty Robinson of Lyman had 15 bass at 41 pounds, 4 ounces, for 16th place in the pro division, winning $10,500. Ashley had 14 fish that weighed 39 pounds, 7 ounces, for 23rd place, and won $10,250.
Seven South Carolina fishermen placed in the top 20 on the Co-Angler side: 3. Clay Lowder of Mayesville, 30-4, $5,000; 6. Paul Ham of West Columbia, 21-6, $3,000; 7. Chris Jones of Conway, 21-5, $2,250; 13. Dane Odom of Irmo, 19-12, $750; 16. Bob Sanders of Ulmer, 19-5, $750; 17. Brent Laney of Pauline, 19-3, $750; and 18. Brian Purvis of Eastover, 19-1, $750.
Ham had the Purolator Big Bass for the Co-angler side on Day 3 at 5 pounds even, winning a $500 bonus.
Costas third at Santee
BASS was not through with South Carolina, wedging the Bassmaster Southern Open at Santee Cooper on the weekend between the tournaments on Clarks Hill and Lake Murray.
Randall Tharp of Gardendale, Ala., won the first BASS tournament he'd ever entered by six pounds over Matt Herren of Trussville, Ala. His 44-pound, 10-ounce total took the first-place prize of $47,571.
Lex Costas of Daniel Island finished 10 pounds behind Tharp, but held onto third place with nine fish that weighed 34 pounds, 9 ounces and won $17,971.
Ken Ellis of Bowman had 10 fish that weighed 33-1 to finish eighth and win $7,400. Todd Auten of Lake Wylie weighed in nine fish at 32-11 for ninth place and won $6,343.
Lorenzo Portee of Ridgeway finished third in the Co-angler Division with six fish that weighed 17 pounds, 5 ounces, and won $4,137.
Fredrychowski qualifies for big FLW events
When the leader in the Co-Angler Division stumbled on the final day of The Bass Federation National Championship on Lake Wylie in late April, Craig Fredrychowski of Lexington surged to first place.
Fredrychowski overcame a 2-pound, 7-ounce deficit on the final day with five bass that weighed 7-7, boosting his three-day total to 14 bass that weighed 26 pounds, 11 ounces.
First place was a $10,000 prize package that included a co-angler entry into the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray Aug. 14-17. Fredrychowski also earned a berth in the Wal-Mart BFL All-American on Lake Hamilton near Hot Springs, Ark., in late May.
"I can't believe that I am qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup," Fredrychowski said. "This is a dream come true for me. It absolutely means the world to me. This is just the start of something good.
"This week I had great partners, and I owe everything to them. They taught me a lot this week and allowed me to catch some good fish."
Fredrychowski said he caught his fish throwing a Shakey Head and covering a lot of water on Lake Wylie.
Brian Travis of Conover, N.C., won the Angler Division of the TBF Championship with a three-day catch of 15 bass that weighed 45 pounds, 9 ounces. Travis won a $100,000 prize package that also includes entries into the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray and the BFL All-American.
Gagliardi aims for Cup
FLW Tour pro Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity appears to have settled into a groove that will hold him in the top 10 in Angler of the Year points and make him a shoo-in to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray in August.
Gagliardi finished 23rd in the FLW Tour's National Guard Open on Lake Norman in late April with 10 bass that weighed 24 pounds, 6 pounces. He won $12,000.
He followed that on Beaver Lake at Rogers, Ark., in mid-May with a 37th-place finish in the FLW Wal-Mart Open, weighing in 10 bass at 18 pounds, 12 ounces, and winning $11,000.
Through his first four tournaments Gagliardi has won $47,750. More important, his last two finishes moved him up to sixth place overall with just two tournaments left before the championship on Lake Murray.
Also at Lake Norman, Deirdre Davidson of Tega Cay weighed in five bass at 6 pounds, 15 ounces, to take fourth place and win $8,000 in the Co-Angler Division.
Edwards wins BFL
James Edwards of Greenville won the Wal-Mart BFL Savannah River Division tournament at Lake Russell on May 5 with five bass that weighed 14 pounds, 2 ounces. He took home $3,531.
"The blueback herring pull up during this time of year to spawn," Edwards said. "The largemouths were eating them, so I caught most of my fish up on the banks."
Edwards caught his limit in the Cherokee Shoals area, fishing points with a Money Minnow swimbait.
Rounding out the top five boaters were: 2. Bradley Gunter of Greenwood, 12-12, $2,078; 3. Wade Dodgens of Easley, 12-3, $1,176; 4. Tim Jones of North Augusta, 12-3, $1,176; and 5. Adam Terry of Lowndesville, 12-2, $831.
Jay McCuen of Pelzer took the big bass award with a 6-1 lunker he caught on a worm, winning $570.
Alan Posten of Travelers Rest won $2,005 as the co-angler winner with five bass that weighed 13 pounds, 15 ounces.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers were: 2. Lesley Childers of Anderson, 10-11, $1,002; 3. Dennis Medlin of Anderson, 9-15, $568; 4. Vince Smith of Walhalla, 9-15, $568; and 5. Rob Boyer of Lawrenceville, Ga., 9-11, $401.
Midlands youth tourney won by Gilbert girl
Anna Bouknight of Gilbert weighed in two striped bass at 14 pounds to win the Midlands Striper Club's Annual Youth Angler Tournament at Lake Murray on May 17.
Weston Thomas of Lexington, the MSC Youth Angler of the Year, finished second with 10.8 pounds, and Matthew Barone of Gilbert had two stripers that weighed 10.2 pounds for third place. Mollie Broughton of Rock Hill had the big fish of the tournament at 9.4 pounds.
Thomas also won the Mr. Ed Fat Cat Award for the biggest catfish caught in the tournament. Haley Mounts of Irmo won the Jim Goller Lake Murray Billfish Award for releasing a 41-inch garfish.
OTHER BASS TOURNAMENTS
Carolina AnglersTeam Trail,Lake Murray, April 19
1. Chris Epting (Chapin)-Johnny Mayer (Pomaria), 5, 23-7, plus 6-4 big fish, $919; 2. Howard Stephens (Columbia)-Mark McCormick (Chapin), 5, 20-1, $350; 3. Dave Murdock-Curtis Jones (Florence), 5, 18-1, $125; 4. Gary Metts-Charlie Sansbury (Chapin), 17-12, $125; 5. David Castleberry-Tommy Lyles (Chapin), 15-5, $100. Second big fish: Toby Keisler (Lexington)-Joel Watts (Leesville), 5-9, $81.
Carolina Anglers Team Trail,Lake Murray Spring Final, May 10
1. Johnny Mayer (Pomaria)-Chris Epting (Chapin), 21-1, plus 5-1 second big fish, $2,891; 2. Howard Stephens (Columbia)-Mark McCormick (Chapin), 20-10, plus 5-2 big fish, $1,359; 3. Darryl Starkey (Little Mountain)-Chris Daves (Columbia), 18-13, $870; 4. Clay Riddle (Chapin)-Dave Franklin (Prosperity), 17-13, $630; 5. Neil Huffstetler-Kevin Banks (Prosperity), 17-13, $400.
Carolina Anglers Team Trail,Lake Wylie, April 26
1. Hugh Moss-Joe Estes (Gaffney), 15-12, $760; 2. Tim Chapman-Marc Leech (Gastonia, N.C.), 15-2, plus 4-2 big fish, $342; 3. John Paul George-Pete Carroll (Rock Hill), 14-2, $100. Second big fish: Gene Webster (York), 4-1, $48.
Tournament directors: Send your schedules and results in the format shown as soon as possible after your tournaments. Be sure to include names, hometowns, number of fish caught, total weight, prize money and big fish information. Email to Pat Robertson: email@example.com.