SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, La. Judy Wong is on fire.
Judy Wong (first - 30-13)
After a big win last month in Tennessee, Wong banged into the Oct. 16-18 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Women's Tour Championship on Cypress Black Bayou Lake. She produced almost matching bags Friday and Saturday a 15-5 and a 15-8 for a leading weight of 30 pounds, 13 ounces heading into the final day.
"I did not think I had as much today," Wong said Saturday. "I thought I had about 13 pounds."
She said her five-fish limit did not come easily. She spent most of her time Saturday milking the hot spot that had produced for her Friday.
"Today I had to work for them," she said. "There were fewer bites, not like yesterday when I had my limit early. Today I also felt like there were fewer fish there. It's a small, tight, confined area."
Although she had to work harder Saturday and share the small space with other anglers, the pro from Many, La., ended up so far in front that, short of a train wreck, the 2007 WBT champion could wrap it up Sunday and claim another championship title.
Still, several pros could mount a serious challenge, including Pam Martin-Wells of Bainbridge, Ga. Her two-day weight of 22-2 put her more than 8 pounds behind Wong, but big bags are possible from Cypress Black Bayou Lake, judging from the number of 4-, 5- and even 6-pounders brought to the scales through the first two days of competition.
WBT pro Judy Wong's grandchild holds a sign in response to the Day One sign held up by Juanita Robinson's grandchildren.
Martin-Wells will need to finish strong but doesn't necessarily need to win in Louisiana to hang on to her lead in the Toyota Tundra WBT Angler of the Year points race to qualify for the 2010 Bassmaster Classic. While she wouldn't mind repeating her 2006 championship title, the Classic is her first goal. The championship is the finish line in the AOY race, and the winner nets a berth in the 2010 Classic on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala., as well as a new Tundra.
"I hope I can keep the lead, but if I don't, there's always next year. I'll give it 110 percent tomorrow," said Martin-Wells, a four-time WBT event winner, including the 2006 championship crown in the tour's inaugural season.
Martin-Wells said she had her five-fish limit Saturday by 8 a.m.
"It's been a long day since," she said as she came off the weigh-in stage. "I tried to improve (the weight), caught quite a few slot fish, but could not improve like yesterday."
Martin-Wells said she'd certainly like to win the event, but she's keeping her eye on the AOY prize.
"Angler of the Year, you have to be consistent all year long. It's more important to me," she said. "But every tournament I come to, I come to with the mind-set to win. There's one more day of this one."
If Martin-Wells is the AOY winner, she would be only the second woman in history to qualify for a Bassmaster Classic. She would follow in the footsteps of Kim Bain-Moore of Alabaster, Ala., who as the 2008 Angler of the Year competed in the 2009 Classic on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City.
Wong, who came into the event fourth in the AOY standings, 55 points behind Martin-Wells, is focusing on the championship win.
"That's been my goal, to take the lead every day, and wait and see what others do," Wong said. "If she stays right behind me in the standings, I would not be able to win Angler of the Year."
In third after two days of championship competition was Robin Babb of Livingston, Texas, with 21-0. She said she found a hidden spot that has produced most of her fish.
"It's unusual to have because it's a very small lake," Babb said of her location. "I really took a chance and went to a place where the fish should not be this time of year, and it's working out."
The 2009 pro champion will win $5,000 and a Triton/Mercury boat rig valued at $55,000. Second place pays $4,000 and a $39,000 Skeeter/Yamaha boat rig.
In the co-angler division, Monica Altman of Angier, N.C., took the top spot Saturday with a two-day weight of 20 pounds, 11 ounces, passing Day 1 leader and 2008 co-angler champion Barbara Gaskins of Suffolk, Va., who had 16-0 after two days. Colleen McKay of Worcester, Mass, moved into third place with a total of 10-4.
Co-anglers are competing for a piece of a $103,000 payout, including a first-place award of a $40,000 Triton/Mercury rig and $3,250. Second place will pay $2,500 and a Skeeter/Yamaha rig worth $35,000.
On Sunday, the full field of 20 pros and 20 co-anglers have one more crack at Cypress Black Bayou Lake. Bassmaster.com will cover the finale with live, streaming video of the weigh-in and a real-time leaderboard beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET. The site will also post standings, results and photo galleries.
The public is invited to attend. Anglers will launch at 8 a.m. ET at the Black Bayou ramp on Old Palmetto Road off Airline Drive in Benton, La. The weigh-in is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. ET at Academy Sports + Outdoors, 2801 Beene Blvd., Bossier City, La. All events are free and open to the public.
Sponsors of the Women's Bassmaster Tour
Title Sponsor: Academy Sports + Outdoors
Official Sponsors: Toyota Trucks, Berkley, BOOYAH Baits, Mercury, OPTIMA Batteries, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha Marine, Ramada, Triton Boats, LaserLure and Legend Boats.
Local sponsors for the event include Shreveport Regional Sports Authority.