On the eve of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series Wildcard tournament held in Leesburg, Fla., last week, angler Lucy Mize stood on the verge of making BASS history.
After a successful season on the Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats where she qualified for the inaugural Women's Bassmaster Tour Championship in February on Lake Mitchell- Mize found herself in position to earn her tour card for the 2007 Elite Series via the second-chance Wildcard tournament. She qualified for the Wildcard by finishing 35th in CITGO Bassmaster Northern Tour points.
With a top-10 performance in the Wildcard event, Mize would have become the first female pro to qualify for BASS' highest level of competition. And the possible distinction was not lost on the 45-year-old Arkansas angler.
"Isn't that neat?" Mize said when the feat was mentioned. "I've thought about it quite a bit, actually. It would be a dream come true, but I know there are other anglers out there that want that same dream. It's going to be hard to accomplish.
"I've been trying to get to this level seven or eight years. I've had some chances in the past and it's my own fault that I didn't do it."
Mize joked that she and husband Jimmy, who already qualified for the 2007 Elite Series, would have bought a double-decker boat trailer to travel together on the Elite Series next year.
"He told me that if I made it he would kick my tail next year," she said, laughing.
But as the Wildcard event unfolded, it was quickly apparent that Mize's dream would have to wait at least another year before materializing. She finished 49th with just 5 pounds, 11 ounces after two days of fishing on the Harris Chain.
"It was tough on me in practice and it just got tougher," Mize lamented.
More Mize news
You might recall that budding BASS angler Melinda Mize, daughter of Jimmy and Lucy, had her tournament plans put on hold due to National Guard duty she started last June. According to her mom, Melinda is enjoying a two-week break at home in Arkansas before she returns to the Middle East.
"She got to come home and we met in Orlando where we spent a couple of days together," Lucy said. "She goes back in two weeks [and will serve] until the end of June. That is a long time. It's going to be really hard to let her go this time."
At just about every BASS event you will find some interesting pairings between the pros and their co-angler partners. Case in point: Florida's Larry Gaines, a retired Army veteran, was paired with Valeri Timofeev, a former Russian officer of Pennsylvania, on the first day of the Wildcard event.
"I don't know if this has ever happened in a BASS tournament but this demonstrates how popular this sport is," Gaines told the crowd in Leesburg. "Where else can you find a United States Airforce aircraft mechanic fishing in the same boat with a retired Russian tank driver?
"The best part of the story is we both had a wonderful day out there. We had a few laughs and shared stories I doubt many soldiers get to hear."
Gary Klein and Charlie Youngers Elite Series boats' featured colorful designs promoting the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's Xtreme Bulls Tour. That seems appropriate considering the famous rough boat rides in bass fishing.
If I hadn't become a BASS pro…
Veteran North Carolina pro Guy Eaker, 66, would likely be considering retirement from his position of supervisor at Carolina Freight in Cherryville. Eaker will turn 67 on Nov. 23.
They said it
"It's been a long year for us. We started in February and here we are, 11 tournaments later. A lot of us are simply worn out. Most of us have driven at least 35,000 miles this year, and that alone takes a toll on you. Sometimes, it seems like we're just glorified truck drivers, but then we get to a fishery and realize we're not. An intense love of fishing has kept me going. I love this lifestyle. I'd rather make $1,000 fishing than $100,000 doing something else." —Veteran pro Byron Velvick summarizes his 2006 Elite Series season for The Leesburg Daily Commercial newspaper. He finished 34th in the Wildcard.