SWIMBAIT A DIFFERENT LOOK
There's change in the air surrounding the Bassmaster Central Open tour: The roster for the April 8-10 season opener on Texas' Lake Amistad includes 20 women.
Women have always been eligible to compete in Bassmaster Opens, and several women have done so. One, Pam Martin-Wells, the second woman to qualify for a Bassmaster Classic, has been entering Opens as a pro for three seasons. While 20 women out of 400 entrants may not constitute a core demographic shift, it's a noticeable change from the circuit's predominantly male makeup.
A dozen of the 20 will compete at Amistad as pros; eight signed on as co-anglers. Many of them will continue on with the circuit and fish all three Central Opens this season.
One such pro is Meta Burrell. At 22, she is both young and female. From Fort Worth, Texas, Burrell transferred to the Central Open after the Women's Bassmaster Tour folded in late 2009.
So did Christiana Bradley of Bealeton, Va.
"I prefer to stay with BASS — it's the premier tour and tournament organization," said Bradley, whose face is familiar to many anglers since being featured in a full-page advertisement for her primary sponsor, Geico. Most recently, the ad ran on page 3 of the April 2010 issue of Bassmaster.
"Another key (to the decision) was that Geico wanted to see me at a national level," Bradley said. "I explained to them that I thought I'd get even more exposure with the Opens than I did on the WBT."
While Bradley retains her "day job" as an IT specialist, Burrell had a decision to make when the WBT disbanded. The Central Opens made the most sense to her.
"I think it's going to be a good new start in my career, and I'm looking forward to competing at a higher level," Burrell said. "I've fished all my life. It's my career, and my goal is to make the Elites. I know a lot of people might look at me and say, 'Oh, a girl, she won't be able to do it,' but I'm here to compete and go as far as I can."
Burrell's one previous taste of Open competition was as a co-angler in 2008 on Santee Cooper in South Carolina. She limited each of two days of the weather-shortened tournament, finishing second, just 2 ounces behind the winner.
Besides Burrell, Bradley and Martin-Wells, other women entered at Amistad as pros include Dianna Clark of Bumpus Mills, Tenn., a three-time WBT champion and 2006 Toyota Tundra WBT Angler of the Year; Judy Wong of Many, La., winner of three WBT events, including two championships; and Lisa Johnson of Centre, Ala., who competed as a pro in the 2008 Bassmaster Southern Open circuit.
Bassmaster.com will carry all the Amistad action. Coverage from the lake just outside of Del Rio, Texas, includes real-time leaderboards during weigh-ins; BASSCam video reports; extensive photo galleries; and results and standings. Weigh-ins are set to begin at 4 p.m. ET daily.
SWIMBAIT BRADLEY'S BLOG
Bradley Roy, the wunderkind of the Bassmaster Elite Series, is not missing a beat in introducing himself to the fishing world.
The 19-year-old rookie now has a video blog on Bassmaster.com, "Bradley Roy's Reel Life."
In his first installment, the clean-cut kid from Kentucky sits at what appears to be a table at home and talks about what it's like to be the youngest Elite angler.
Sponsors have taken notice of Roy's attributes. He has garnered deals with Berkley for an Abu Garcia boat wrap. His Web site lists 11 sponsors, including Triton and Mercury — big-time support for a young rookie.
As the youngest Elite pro, he'd have the attention of the media anyway, but he's getting more ink because he's doing well on the water. After an eighth-place finish on Clear Lake, Roy now sits in 16th place in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points standings. At the end of the season, the top 36 will earn tickets to the 2011 Bassmaster Classic, and the top 12 will qualify to compete in July for the AOY crown and $200,000 in the Elite postseason.
Roy is no stranger to fishing success. He qualified for the 2010 Elite Series by finishing fifth in the 2009 Bassmaster Southern Open trail. At age 13, he was the 2004 Bassmaster Junior World champion in the 11-14 age group. At age 17, he bested many other Kentuckians to earn the right to be the sole representative of his state in the 2008 BASS Federation Nation Championship.
SWIMBAIT SWIMBAIT JOY
Bobby Lane claims he's not superstitious — well, not any more so than the next angler — but he credits a lucky marble for hooking into an 11-pound, 1-ounce bass with a 9-inch swimbait on California's Clear Lake.
It was March 19, the second day of the Bassmaster Elite Series Golden State Shootout.
"My daughter — her name is Alexis, and she will turn 6 on April 1 — gave me a marble before I left to head out to California," said Lane, who lives in Lakeland, Fla. "She told me it was my lucky marble. The first morning of the tournament, I didn't have the marble with me."
Lane pointed out that his Day One catch of 16 pounds, 3 ounces, was not remarkable by Clear Lake standards.
"The second morning, I had already put my boat in the water and had parked the truck, and I was walking back to my boat when I said, 'You know what, I'm going to go back to the room and get that marble.'
"On the 10th cast that morning, I caught the 11-pound, 1 ounce bass," Lane said. "I don't know if the marble had anything to do with it or not, but I got Alexis to get me about a hundred more for the rest of the year."
The big one boosted his Day Two haul to 24-13, the heaviest bag of the day. The fish later proved to be the largest of the tournament, worth a $1,000 bonus for Lane.
"It pulled and pulled," he said. "It didn't jump, but it surfaced and shook its head twice before I got my hand in its mouth. I told my marshal, that if the fish went over 11 pounds, I'd give him one of my swimbaits. I lost that bet, but I'll take the $1,000 for a swimbait any day of the week."
His swimbait that brought him the 11-1 was a 9-inch paddletail in a light-hitch finish, but he declined to name the maker. He said the largemouth took the bait at the mouth of a canal. His tackle was a Berkley flipping rod and Abu Garcia Revo Toro reel spooled with 25-pound Berkley Trilene Fluorocarbon line.
Lane had never before fished in California, and he had never before used a swimbait. "We don't do a lot of swimbaiting down here, and those big, big swimbaits are new to me," Lane said from his home in Florida.
"I've had five bass 11 pounds or above in my life, and this was the third biggest in a tournament. So it wasn't the biggest, but it was one of the prettiest ones, for sure. It was a pick-me-up, a way to tell my year is going decently so far," he said.
Lane ended up 22nd at the Shootout.
"I gambled all day in throwing that swimbait. If I knew where to throw it like Skeet and Byron do, and if I really knew how to throw it, and even to know what to be looking for when I throw it, I might catch one on that stupid thing." — Bassmaster Elite Series pro Randy Howell of Springville, Ala., who finished fourth at Clear Lake, but only after he almost blew an entire day before giving up on the swimbait