Fritts is within spitting distance of the $1 million mark on the nation's biggest bass circuits, the FLW Tour and Bassmaster Tour. His victory at Clarks Hill - he routed the field, winning by more than 10 pounds during four days - put his career FLW Tour earnings at $970,013. He has won $904,055 on the Bassmaster Tour, despite not fishing it the past two years.
"Boy, it was a lot of fun," Fritts said of his four-day catch of 59 pounds, 10 ounces. "I found these fish the first day or practice, and I didn't see anybody fishing like I was fishing all week."
Fritts crushed the field with a five-bass limit that weighed 23-9 the first day; all of his fish weighed between 4 and 6 pounds. He added 13-1 the second day and 16-4 the third day.
He fished conservatively the last day and weighed in 6-12, winning by 10 pounds, 5 ounces more than Trahn Le of Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
"I didn't know I could catch 23 pounds; I thought I might catch 17 pounds one day and 13 or 14 pounds the rest of the time," said Fritts, who hadn't won a major national tournament since an FLW Tour event at Florida's Lake Okeechobee in 2002. "My fish just grew up a little bit."
First-prize money in the tournament was $100,000; Fritts won an additional $25,000 from the Ranger Cup contingency program.
The win was the sixth for Fritts on the FLW Tour, including the 1997 FLW Tour Championship. He has won five times on the Bassmaster Tour, including the 1993 Bassmasters Classic; he was also the 1994 Bass Angler of the Year.
A crankbait wizard, Fritts caught his fish at Clarks Hill at standing, submerged timber using a variety of Rapala crankbaits: DT-10, DT-14, DT-16, DT-20 and Clackin' Rap, a big, lipless bait.
"I caught a couple in the creeks, but most of them were on the main lake," he said. "I don't think they've gone back in the creeks yet.
"I caught them on isolated trees. Some of the tops came up to within 18 to 20 feet of the surface, and some of them came up as close as 10 feet."