The Skeeter Eliminator Series bass-tournament trail has a brand-new champ. Butch Pitts of Watkinsville bested Mark Holloway of Madison in a head-to-head championship event on Friday, Nov. 9 at Lake Oconee. Butch had a pair of bass that weighed 4.86 pounds, beating out Mark’s one keeper that weighed 1.72 pounds.
“I would have never thought it in a million years,” Butch said after his win.
Butch collected $10,500 for the win. At the weigh in, Butch received a check for $5,500 — $5,000 for the win and an additional $500 for having the biggest bass in Rounds 4-6. Butch’s big bass came from Round 5, when he caught a 4.5-lb. Hartwell bass. That same event marked Butch’s most impressive tournament of the Eliminator season. He weighed in a limit of five bass that went 17.51 pounds.
Butch will receive an additional $5,000 check from Skeeter since he is a registered Skeeter owner and fished his championship match from that boat.
Butch can thank his good fishing buddy, Mike Harris for his win. Last winter, when GON was searching for folks to fish the Eliminator Series, Mike called Butch.
“I had to convince Butch to fish it when you guys needed to fill the remaining spots. I also talked him into buying a Skeeter. He didn’t even offer me half his winnings,” Mike laughed.
Regardless of how he got in, he did — and he beat six guys through six rounds of tough fishing to join Mark Massey, last year’s Eliminator Champ, as the only two anglers to work their way through GON’s bracket-style bass tournament.
As always, GON brings you the diaries of how our anglers fish. Those logs are below.
Join in the fun. To sign up for this year’s Skeeter Eliminator Series, turn to page 46.
Round 6: Oconee
Butch Pitts vs. Mark Holloway
Blast-off: Sugar Creek Marina
6:45: The fog is thick as Butch Pitts idles under the Sugar Creek bridge and begins fishing the rip-rap on the right. The surface temperature is 60.9 degrees.
“I saw 3- and 4-pounders laying up here yesterday. I could see them right up on the rocks just sitting there, but I couldn’t get them to hit.”
Butch’s first casts are with a crankbait, a chrome/blue Mann’s C4.
“I’m just trying to wake it, those fish yesterday were up in nothing water.”
6:53: Butch begins fishing his go-to bait, a Stanley Ribbit frog, a rubber topwater bait that he fishes like a subtle buzzbait — a steady retrieve so the frog’s tails churn the water. He starts with a white Ribbit rigged on a 5/0 Owner screw-on style hook, and he also has it rigged with a No. 6 treble.
“I just missed so many fish before. When I’m fishing open water, the treble increases hook-ups a bunch. You can’t hardly fish it with a treble in cover, though,” Butch said.
6:57: A fish swirls on the Ribbit. “Little fish,” Butch says.
7:01: Butch picks up a chartreuse/white spinnerbait with two Colorado blades, one silver and one gold.
7:04: Butch makes a short run down Sugar Creek, stopping in front of a boat dock.
“If we don’t get one here, it’s going to be a long day,” Butch says.
Butch picks up a rod with a black/metallic-blue Ribbit.
“The other day my best five bass weighed 19-2, and that’s what everything came off of. I had a 6-3 and a 5-1. We’re about a week late for me. This cold front really hurt my shallow fish.”
7:10: Butch is still fishing in front of the same dock. The tops of a few brushpiles are sticking up out of the water.
“This whole area is brushpile after brushpile. I think the guy that lives there puts every limb that falls in his yard in the lake,” Butch says.
7:14: Butch tries the spinnerbait.
7:18: He picks up the white Ribbit and makes several casts over the brushpiles.
“My fingers are cold this morning. The water temperature has dropped 8 degrees,” he says.
7:22: Butch goes back to the black/blue Ribbit.
7:24: He makes a cast under the dock, and as he’s bringing the frog slow and steady across the surface, a bass attacks it.
“There’s still one in here. Thank you fish!”
Butch puts a 3-pounder in the livewell.
7:31: Butch moves down the bank, now fishing the spinnerbait.
“There’s a bunch of brush in front of this dock, too,” he says.
7:34: He tries the white Ribbit.
7:40: Butch idles around a point and into a small secondary creek. He fishes the docks and the bank between them with the black/blue Ribbit.
8:01: Toward the back of the creek, Butch begins fishing the mouth of a small cut, making casts to the middle of the mouth.
“I’ve been getting one at the mouth of this pocket about every time in here,” he says.
8:03: A bass hits the frog twice but doesn’t take it.
8:08: Butch tries a Pop-R.
“Time to try something a little different,” he says.
8:11: He picks up the spinnerbait.
8:13: Butch sets the hook. He quickly releases a 6-inch bass.
“Thought I missed him, he was so little,” Butch says.
8:25: Butch makes a move, across Sugar Creek to the docks at a point at the mouth of another small secondary creek. He fishes the black/blue Ribbit under and around the docks.
8:43: Butch cranks the outboard, and we make a run out to the main lake, heading south.
8:53: Butch stops in a small cut in Lick Creek. The water temperature here is 62.4 degrees. He fishes the black/blue Ribbit around docks and also out in the middle of the cut.
8:55: Butch tries a firetiger-colored Terminator spinnerbait.
9:00: Back to the Ribbit.
“If we don’t get one here, I’m hurting,” he says.
9:16: He tries the white/chartreuse spinnerbait.
9:24: Butch flips a dock with a black/blue jig with a green-pumpkin trailer.
9:31: Butch cranks up and makes another move, heading up Lick Creek and turning into a secondary creek. He begins fishing the white/chartreuse spinnerbait along and under docks.
9:36: He goes back to the black/blue Ribbit.
9:50: Butch moves into a small secondary cut, mostly ignoring the boat docks as he makes repeated casts down the middle of the cut.
9:53: He tries the spinnerbait.
10:10: Butch makes another move, heading down the lake to Double Branches near the mouth of Richland Creek.
“This is a long way to run to fish three places,” Butch says as we try to thaw out. “If we don’t catch them here, we’re going back to Sugar Creek and spending the rest of the day.
“The bait’s in here,” Butch says as he makes a cast with the black/blue Ribbit.
He’s fishing a cut with lots of brushpiles.
10:28: Butch moves out to the mouth of the cut and begins fishing the jig through brushpiles out in front of a boat dock.
“I’m doing something now I hate to do — slow, patient fishing,” he says.
10:41: Butch is shaking the jig in a brushpile when he reels down and sets the hook. He quickly boats a 15-inch keeper that goes in the livewell.
10:53: Butch tries the Mann’s crankbait.
11:01: Butch has moved toward the back of the creek, and he’s fishing the Ribbit down the middle of the channel over 2 feet of water.
11:09: “Well, you’d think one of them would have stuck around,” Butch says as he fishes the spinnerbait under and around a dock.
11:15: Butch gets a hit on the spinnerbait.
“That’s about the first spinnerbait bite I’ve gotten all day,” he says.
11:20: Butch makes a short move back down Double Branches, stopping at another dock. He fishes the jig through some brush.
11:23: He tries a No. 5 Shad Rap in the bluegill pattern. After about a dozen casts, Butch pulls up the trolling motor and makes the move back to Sugar Creek.
11:54: Back in Sugar Creek, Butch stops at dock on the main creek run near the mouth of a cut.
“Right here is where I had the 6-3 the other day,” he says, skipping the black/blue Ribbit under the dock.
12:20: Butch makes a short run up Sugar Creek and begins easing along the edge of some standing timber, casting the Ribbit into the thick wood cover.
“They were coming up busting shad out in this timber yesterday,” he says.
12:31: After fishing the timber, Butch begins fishing along a non-descript mud bank, and he gets a hit on the Ribbit in very shallow water. Butch sets the hook and connects. When he gets the bass in the boat, it’s only 13 inches, just shy of the 14-inch length minimum for Oconee.
12:42: Butch moves back down Sugar Creek to his first stop of the day, the dock with lots of brush out in front of it. He starts with the spinnerbait, then goes through his repertoire of lures. After fishing the dock and brushpiles, he continues along the bank, fishing back into the same cut he had fished first thing that morning.
1:35: With time running out quickly, Butch pitches his jig up under a dock. He gets a hit, swings and connects, but the bass quickly wraps up and breaks off. As Butch reaches for another rod, the bass jumps, trying to shake the jig from its mouth. It looks like a 14-inch bass, possibly a keeper.
1:41: Only four minutes remain, and Butch gets a solid hit on the spinnerbait.
“Man, he hit it hard,” Butch says, but the bass doesn’t connect with the hook.
1:45: Butch’s fishing time is up, and he heads to Sugar Creek Marina for the weigh-in, not thinking he has a chance with just two keepers.
6:46: Mark Holloway is waiting for the fog to lift to make a run up the Apalachee River. Fishing in his newly purchased Skeeter boat, he starts in the Sugar Creek Marina pocket at the courtesy docks adjacent to the ramps. His first casts are with a 3/8-oz. Booyah buzzbait that has three blades.
“The three blades let you work it slower when the water cools off,” says Mark. “I don’t expect to get a bunch of bites on it, but if I do maybe it’ll be a big one.”
6:57: In the back of the pocket he begins to fish with a Mann’s spinnerbait, a 3/8-oz. bait with double Colorado blades and a chartreuse/white skirt.
7:00: On his way back out, he catches a 13-inch fish on a front dock post and quickly returns it to the water.
7:05: At the mouth of the pocket he begins to throw a silver-colored, 1/2-oz. Strike King Diamond Shad.
“Just covering water, just fishing,” says Mark. “If you stay in Sugar, you’re always around fish; it doesn’t mean you’ll catch them.”
7:08: He works a clean point with the Diamond Shad.
“We caught them on flat, nothing points Sunday, but it had to have wind on it,” says Mark.
7:20: Mark moves to a long pocket with some docks in it. With the spinnerbait, he’s targeting a ladder in about a foot of water.
“I’d love to catch a 4-pounder,” says Mark. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught a 4-pounder here over the years.”
7:24: Mark fishes the Sugar Creek rip-rap closest to the marina’s gas dock, paralleling the rock headed toward the bridge. He’s fishing with the spinnerbait.
7:30: When he gets to the corner at the bridge, he throws a black/chartreuse Bomber 7A crankbait. He switches to the Diamond Shad.
7:32: Mark catches another short fish.
7:38: He fishes down the rip-rap and over to the Georgia Power Co. dock. He alternates between the spinnerbait and the Diamond Shad.
7:49: Before attempting to run up the lake, he pitches a homemade, 3/8-oz. black jig with a blue Paca Chunk around the dock.
7:57: He tries to make a run, but he decides it’s still too foggy for a long-distance boat ride. He stops on a dock inside a pocket and throws the spinnerbait, the jig and the Diamond Shad in and around the dock.
8:12: Mark moves down Sugar Creek to a stump-filled point and throws the Diamond Shad. With no luck, he goes back up the creek and stops on some main-lake docks and works a spinnerbait and a jig.
8:22: He goes farther up Sugar Creek, stopping on a series of brushed-up docks. He works the spinnerbait and jig.
8:36: With the fog starting to lift, he heads up the Oconee River and pulls into a creek below the I-20 bridge. He works a Diamond Shad on rocky banks and switches to the spinnerbait when he gets to the docks.
8:45: Getting to a good blowdown, he throws a Norman’s Fat Boy crankbait.
“The square bill is good for bouncing off wood,” says Mark.
For the next half hour, Mark works down the bank. He fishes docks with the jig and spinnerbait and sticks with the Diamond Shad in between the docks. He works a buzzbait on three occasions around some stickups.
9:28: Mark arrives up the Apalachee River above the railroad trestle and fishes an area that he did well in during practice. He starts on a dock but moves to a blowdown adjacent to a large stump field, working the Fat Boy through it.
9:35: He catches keeper No. 1 from the blowdown; the fish hit a jig.
“How many times did I throw in that blowdown?” asks Mark. “The best bite this time of year is usually after lunch.”
Mark said that after lunch on his practice day he had a pair of 3-pounders, a 4 1/2 and one about 6 pounds.
For the next 10 minutes, Mark goes down the bank and works docks with a spinnerbait, Diamond Shad and a jig.
9:52: Mark motors across the river to a dock and sees a ladder out of the water due to the low lake level.
“So much for getting on a ladder pattern,” says Mark. “You can spend a whole day up here doing that.”
He continues down the bank, throwing the same baits he’s been using.
10:02: He gets to an area where he knows there are fish. Twenty feet off the bank the boat is in 13 feet of water.
“It’s a channel bank,” says Mark.
The area has a dock and some brush. He takes his time working the jig, spinnerbait, Diamond Shad and the Fat Boy.
10:28: Mark moves to a main-river bank and fishes the spinnerbait on a bank with scattered rocks and wood. For the next hour, Mark fishes hard. He switches between the above-mentioned baits as he works areas of docks, brush and rocks. At 11:08 he gets back to the channel bank, hoping the fish are ready to eat. His first cast is with a jig.
“You know there are some hanging close,” says Mark.
11:28: With a little more than two hours to go, Mark goes across the river, passing an abandoned bass boat that is stuck on a sand bar. A 10 mph wind is stirring the water, and Mark begins to work a nothing bank with the Diamond Shad. He gets to the bank and fishes a spinnerbait and a jig around docks.
11:34: Mark rolls a spinnerbait down the front of the dock and has a fish swipe at the bait, but it misses.
11:40: With the Fat Boy in hand, Mark returns to the blowdown where he caught his first keeper.
11:45: Mark catches his third short fish. He leaves the brushpile and fishes a dock with the crankbait and jig.
11:55: Mark moves to a rocky bank in the river, covering water quickly with a spinnerbait.
12:03: Mark runs up the Apalachee with the plan to fish his deep channel bank one more time. He thoroughly works the area with the spinnerbait and heads back down the Apalachee.
12:12: He stops in the Swords area and quickly fishes one dock with a jig and leaves.
12:30: Mark runs under the I-20 bridge and into a pocket. He runs the banks fishing the same way he has all morning, rotating between all his baits.
1:08: With a little more than 30 minutes to go, Mark stops on a dock in Sugar Creek.
1:12: In a heartbreaking moment, Mark lays back on a fish that bit a jig, and the line snaps.
1:45: Mark fishes several docks on his way back to the marina. His last cast is with a jig on the corner of the Sugar Creek rip-rap.