BASS Reporter's Notebook: Wolak's Winnings, Big Year for Richardson, Win Some and Lose Some, Go Tomm

Wolak’s winnings

What’s the first thing Bassmaster American presented by Advance Auto Parts winner Dave Wolak did when he got home to Pennsylvania?

First, he went to a prescheduled doctor’s appointment. Then, he went to the bank to deposit his $250,000 winnings. “I wish I could say it was really exciting, but the banker was just stone-faced,” Wolak said. “I guess she sees that money all of the time.”

The Elite Series pro wasn’t bothered, though. Still reeling from his performance, he said the win gave him a huge confidence boost, not to mention financial security for his budding family. “I feel confident that all of the decisions and sacrifices I made were right.”

Wolak isn’t one to boast, but he did tell his wife the night before the final competition day that he would win. “I said, ‘If you don’t want to work everyday anymore, I’m going to make a difference in that.’”

Big year for Richardson

Tammy Richardson of Arkansas, a pro on the Mercury Marine Women’s Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats, is living up to her newly earned title as Best Angler.

Richardson, who won the Best Angler category at the ESPYs last month, finished in sixth place at the most recent WBT event on Lake Norman near Charlotte. She led Day 1 of the tournament and caught a tournament total of 13 pounds, 14 ounces.

“This is such an important year, being the first year of the WBT,” Richardson said. “I’m giving it 100 percent because it’s so important. But I never could’ve expected it to be as fabulous as it’s been. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had.”

Richardson rubbed elbows with the stars of entertainment and sports while in Hollywood for the ESPYS, attending several parties and meeting several celebrities. Meeting actor Matthew McConaughey was one of the highlights, Richardson said.

“Everybody was so laid back and relaxed,” Richardson said. “I saw him sitting at a table and went over to say ‘hi,’ and his bodyguard stepped in real quick and kind of cut me off. But then Matthew leaned around and said, ‘Hey, you’re that fisherman lady, aren’t you? Come sit down and tell me about fishing.’ That was pretty cool.”

The recent award wasn’t lost on Richardson’s competitors. Women anglers who attended the mandatory tournament briefing erupted in applause and got on their feet when it was announced that Richardson won the ESPY.

Tournament director Bruce Mathis could barely get through his recognition of her when the nearly 200 anglers and other attendees jumped up to applaud. “She won because everybody here voted for her, including me,” said Mathis.

Win some, lose some

CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series pro Lee Bailey had things going his way on the first two days of the recent Bassmaster American presented by Advance Auto Parts on Lake Wylie in North Carolina, qualifying for Saturday’s third round with the second-heaviest two-day stringer.

You know things are going your way when you catch a fish like the one Bailey did on Day 2 of the tournament.

Fishing for visible fish in shallow water, the Alabama pro pitched his jig to a 3 ½-pound largemouth lurking in the shallows in search of sunfish, which were actively spawning in the area.

“I set the hook, and when I did, I flipped the fish out of the water,” Bailey explained. “It somersaulted and came off.”

Bailey said the fish immediately went back to the same spot where it had been prior to the hookset. “So I threw in there again, and this time I dragged the fish about 8 feet,” Bailey said. “But it came off again.”

Bailey started rapidly reeling in his jig to get another cast at the bass. When he did, the fish turned on the bait and inhaled it for the third time.

“I didn’t have much line out, so when I set the hook, the fish came up out of the water,” Bailey said. “I got it up over the boat and it came off the hook again. It bounced off the gunwale and into the floor of the boat. But it could’ve gone either way.”

Bailey may have used up his luck on the fish. After qualifying for Day 3 competition, he managed just three bass – two short of a limit – and weighed only 4 pounds, 13 ounces, not enough to make the cut for the final round of six anglers on Sunday.

“I had one fish that would’ve put me in the cut,” Bailey said. “But every time I pitched to it, there was a black Lab on the bank that went crazy, and it kept me from catching it. There’s a bass in this lake with its own personal guard dog.”

Go Tommy, go

Shane Breeden of Chickamauga, Ga., won a Triton Boat package, complete with a Mercury outboard, Lowrance electronics and a Motorguide trolling motor, by virtue of being Tommy Biffle’s observer on the second day of the recent Bassmaster American on Lake Wylie, N.C.

Paying observers were eligible for the boat, and the winner was determined by the biggest single bass brought to the scales during the first two days of competition.

Biffle landed a 5-pound, 5-ounce largemouth on Friday that allowed Breeden to take home the fancy new bass rig.

But there was one person pulling for Biffle to land the big one even more than Breeden.

“I told Tommy … ‘I know there is one person hoping that you catch a big one more than I am … it’s my wife because if I don’t win the boat, I'm going to go and buy one anyway.’ ”

BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation Nation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.

BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 530,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.