Buoyed by a 5-pound bass she caught at 7:30 a.m., the cool and collected Bain jumped up from Thursday’s seventh-place showing. The event concludes Saturday with the winner taking home a boat package valued at $55,000 in addition to $5,000. But Bain’s ultimate goal is the Angler of the Year title. With it, she will make history as the first female angler to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic in its 39-year history.
Bain, 28, entered the Championship event with a scant margin in the season-long points race over Tennessee’s Cindy Hill and Texan Juanita Robinson. While Robinson has performed, she is in fourth; Hill, who was closer to Bain before the event started, is in seventh.
“When I caught that 5 pounder, I screamed so loud that I woke up the neighborhood,” said Bain. “That fish set up my whole day. It gave me the confidence that I needed and I really got into a groove after that.”
Bain felt that another day on the lake led to a better understanding of picturesque Hamilton. She continued to fish a finesse worm around different types of structure and visited a number of spots throughout the day.
The win would be Bain’s second on the WBT this year. She won on Alabama’s Lake Neely Henry in May and had posted finishes of no less than sixth in the four regular-season events. Though Bain, who left Australia nine years ago to pursue a career in professional bass fishing in the U.S., has a firm grasp on the AOY title, she refused to acknowledge that the race was all but over.
“There is one more day and anyone of these anglers could catch a five pounder,” said Bain. “I’m just going to go out Saturday and approach it just like any other day.”
Also moving up the leaderboard was Audrey McQueen of Eagar, Ariz. McQueen stormed from 19th position to second with a two-day total of 13-15. She caught two three-plus pounders on her first three casts of the morning and was able to build from there.
Four months pregnant, McQueen had little time to prepare for the tournament, missing out on the pre-fish period time. She was able to fish Hamilton on the official practice day Wednesday and though she missed valuable time on a fishery she never visited, she believes the unfamiliarity with Hamilton might have helped her.
“I came in with no preconceived notions and I have just basically went fishing,” said McQueen, a renowned elk hunting guide. “I think I have them figured out now. I am feeling really confident right now.”
Her 12-5 limit Friday is the biggest of the tournament thus far.
Rounding out the top five were Day 2 leader Debra Petrowski of Arlington, Texas, who slipped to third with 12-1; Juanita Robinson of Highlands, Texas, in fourth with 11-15 and Angie Douthit of Clewiston, Fla., with 11-12.
Leading in the co-anger division was Debra Cook of Gardendale, Ala., with 6-14. Co-anglers are competing for a $37,500 Skeeter-Yamaha boat and $3,250. Trailing Cook was Day 1 leader Debbie Pegoli of Loveland, Ohio, with 6-8 and Barbara Gaskins of Suffolk, Va., with 6-3.
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.
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