WBT Championship to DetermineFirst Female Bassmaster Classic Qualifier

Arkansas' Lake Hamilton will forever be associated with two milestones in the sport of competitive bass fishing after the top 20 women pros compete Oct. 23-25 in the 2008 Women's Bassmaster Tour Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors.

Set in the picturesque city of Hot Springs, Ark., the event will conclude with a bang: the crowning of the 2008 Toyota Tundra Women's Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year. Her prizes will be a 2009 fully-rigged Toyota Tundra and a coveted berth in the 2009 Bassmaster Classic.

As the first woman to qualify for a Classic in its 38-year history, she'll make an indelible mark on the sport. She'll go up against 50 other anglers in the 39th Classic competition, Feb. 20-22 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.

The WBT tournament next week will also produce the 2008 WBT champion, a prestigious title that comes with a $55,000 Triton-Mercury boat package and $5,000. Only two others have claimed the crown: Judy Wong of Many, La., who landed the 2007 title, and Pam Martin-Wells of Bainbridge, Ga., who triumphed in the inaugural championship of 2006 and has qualified for this year's event.

"I go into every tournament thinking I can win," said Martin-Wells, whose WBT career includes two other No. 1 finishes in addition to the 2006 Championship. "The field's narrowed down to 20, which is 20 of the best, so I have my work cut out for me."

Bassmaster.com will provide full coverage of the WBT Championship. Live video of the weigh-ins will begin each day at 3:15 p.m. CT, alongside a real-time leaderboard. Photo galleries, results and field notes will be posted daily.

After one official practice day, the pros will launch their boats to begin the competition at 7 a.m. Oct. 23 at the Andrew H. Hulsey Fish Hatchery, 350 Fish Hatchery Road in Hot Springs, also the site of the daily weigh-ins beginning at 3:15 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.

The qualifiers earned the right to compete on Lake Hamilton by securing a top-20 position in the Toyota Tundra WBT Angler of the Year points race after the circuit's four regular-season events.

Going into the championship, the points leader is Australian native Kim Bain, who now lives in Alabaster, Ala. This is Bain's first year on the WBT circuit, which she started with an upset win at the season opener. She's dominated the points race ever since.

But hard-charging Cindy Hill of Smyrna, Tenn., has just 15 points to make up to trump Bain for the AOY title. Hill's fresh off a victory in the regular-season finale on Clarks Hill Lake in Georgia, a win that put her in direct contention for the AOY trophy. Behind the two leaders is Juanita Robinson of Highlands, Texas, who now sits 45 points out of first.

In fourth place in the points standings, Martin-Wells holds a only a shred of hope of overtaking Bain, but she isn't counting herself out.

"It would take nothing short of a miracle," Martin-Wells said. "I figured it up: Kim's 73 points ahead of me. If led for two days, and then won, Kim would have to finish low. I can only do what I can do; a lot depends on how others do."

The 2007 AOY, Sheri Glasgow of Muskogee, Okla., is now 89 points behind Bain. Glasgow has mentally conceded the race to Bain or a come-from-behind contender like Hill, Robinson or Martin-Wells.

"I calculated the points because I wanted to be realistic," said Glasgow, who has logged 10 top-five finishes in her WBT career. "Unless I'm looking at it wrong, even if I won at Hamilton and led all three days, and Kim Bain finished 20th, I can't catch her. I don't think I can make up that distance up. It would be like pulling a rabbit out of a hat."

Glasgow has shifted her focus to taking the championship title and has put in some time on Lake Hamilton before the off-limits period began Oct. 12 at midnight.

"Hamilton has some really big fish in it — and it has a ton of smaller ones," Glasgow said. "You can catch a whole lot of small ones before you get that really big bite, but it's very, very possible to catch some big largemouths and quality spotted bass.

"The fish are in transition now and probably still will be (on competition days). So the angler who is going to win it is the one who's the best at reading what the fish are doing at that moment… experienced enough to adjust in that moment. There's no specific baits or patterns that a person can be locked into right now because it's going to change."

Also competing in the WBT Championship are the top 20 co-anglers from the regular season standings. The co-anglers will be competing for their division's title and a $37,500 Skeeter-Yamaha rig and $3,250. A full list of the AOY standings and the pro and co-angler Championship participants can be found below.

Sponsors of the Women's Bassmaster Tour include Academy Sports + Outdoors, Toyota Tundra, Advance Auto Parts, Lowrance, Mercury, Skeeter, Yamaha, OPTIMA Batteries, Triton Boats, Legend Boats, MoGills and Mustang.

2008 Toyota Tundra Women's Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year Standings

Place Name St Pts
1 Kim Bain Ala. 890
2 Cindy Hill Tenn. 876
3 Juanita Robinson Texas 855
4 Pam Martin-Wells Ga. 817
5 Sheri Glasgow Okla. 801
5 Lucy Mize Ark. 801
7 Angie Douthit Fla. 794
8 Patti Campbell Texas 774
9 Jan Heavener Ark. 763
10 Laura Gober Ga. 759
11 Lisa Sternard Tenn. 745
12 Bonnie Johnson Texas 742
13 Tammy Richardson Ark. 737
14 Kat Ealey Ala. 736
15 Debra Petrowski Texas 735
16 Dianna Clark Tenn. 730
17 Audrey McQueen Ariz. 722
18 Kathi Hurst Miss. 713
19 Mary DiVincenti La. 706
20 Helen Gordon Texas 703

2008 Women's Bassmaster Tour Co-Angler Standings

2008 Evans, GA - Womens Bassmaster Tour Stop 4 Non-Boater Points After Clarks Hill Lake, Evans, Ga. Ending 09-20-2008, Day 3
Place Name St Pts
1 Gail Wood Ark. 834
2 Stacy Zhelesnik N.J. 827
3 Lesley Childers S.C. 786
4 Sharon Lawson Tenn. 769
5 Debbie Pegoli Ohio 768
6 Bertha Cavakis Ark. 763
7 Monica Altman N.C. 754
8 Kim McGuffey Texas 750
9 Patti James Texas 739
10 Elizabeth Sanders Miss. 733
11 Linda Walker Ark. 732
11 Susan Dameron Tenn. 732
13 Kim Petrowski Texas 730
13 Diane Smith Ga. 730
15 Debra Cook Ala. 729
16 Cheryl Buelow La. 726
17 Denese Freeman Okla. 721
18 Lesli Lively Texas 720
19 Barbara Gaskins Va. 714
20 Bonnie Ward Wash. 709