She won her second WBT trophy for her wire-to-wire performance at the Lake Dardanelle event, the tour’s fourth stop. Clark’s first victory was in May on Texas’ Lewisville Lake, the circuit’s second event. For each win, she earned a Triton boat rig with Mercury outboard valued at $50,000.
“I wanted to make history, and now I’ve done it,” said an elated Clark, a Persian Gulf War veteran who decided to devote more energy to competitive fishing when she retired in 1996 from the U.S. Army as a staff sergeant. “On top of winning two, I led on all three days. I’m proud of that.”
Clark took Dardanelle by a wide margin. Her three-day total of 29 pounds, 9 ounces put her 10 pounds in front of Lucy Mize of Ben Lomond, Ark., whose tournament total of 19-9 secured second place, her best BASS career finish.
The Dardanelle win propelled Clark from fifth to first place in the WBT points standings. She now has a direct line to become the first Toyota Women’s Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year, an honor that includes winning a 2007 Toyota Tundra.
The Angler of the Year title for Clark isn’t a done deal. After Dardanelle, four fellow competitors were within 100 points of Clark: Arkansas’ Tammy Richardson, former points leader Sheri Glasgow of Oklahoma, Pam Martin-Wells of Georgia, and Mize.
The title will be determined after the final event of the 2006 WBT season, Bull Shoals Lake in Theodosia, Mo., Sept. 14-16. Points are earned at each event and accumulate throughout the season.
Clark moved closer to the AOY title this week by cracking the code of Dardanelle’s very tough August fishing conditions. She ended the first day with 14-5, then caught 9-8 on Day 2 to secure the lead by more than 9 pounds.
With such a fat cushion, the 42-year-old could have relaxed Saturday. But she wasn’t going to gamble, so returned to her productive grassy hot spots in Dardanelle’s Shoal Bay. There, she put three largemouth bass in her livewell, adding 5-12 to her 23-13 already on the board.
She said her go-to bait all three days was a prototype jig made by B&M Baits of Alabama. The jig — made with a black head and a green-black-chartreuse skirt — was tipped with a blue-sapphire Zoom Fat Albert Twin Tail, a wide, 3 1/4-inch soft plastic.
“I don’t know exactly what it was about the bait that made it work, but my co-anglers started getting bites after I gave them one,” she said. “I threw it — pitched or flipped it — then let it sit and that’s how all my bites came. I never got a moving bite. But you had to watch the line, there weren’t any taps or bumps you could feel.”
The six-woman field on Saturday was the result of the cut from the full field of 95 pros after Friday’s competition. Besides Clark and Mize, the anglers who competed Saturday were Kelley Shepherd of Cortez, Colo., Kimberlee Striker of Cullman, Ala.; Laura Gober of Pendergrass, Ga.; and Paula Alexander of Lincolnton, Ga.
Alexander ended in third with 16-8. Shepherd was fourth with 15-14. Striker was fifth with 13-0. Gober finished sixth with 11-5.
On the co-angler side, the winner of a Triton/Mercury package valued at $24,000 plus $1,000 in cash was Robertina Filburn of Vine Grove, Ky. Her winning weight was 11-8. Like Clark, Filburn won wire-to-wire.
She wasn’t able to bring in a fish on Saturday, and thought she didn’t have a chance to win.
“My heart sunk. After leading two days, I thought I was not going to win a boat after all,” said the 61-year-old retired high-school music teacher. “When we were backstage, there stood one of my co-anglers with two fat bass. But she told me, ‘I don’t have you beat.’ I was not convinced at all.”
Colleen Mckay of Worchester, Mass., was the fellow competitor with the two bass, but her 11-5 total was 3 ounces short of catching Filburn.
Elizabeth Sanders of Brandon, Miss., finished third with 11-3. Laura Elkins of Amarillo, Texas, was fourth with 9-2. Cathy Smith of Pineville, La., ended her week in fifth with 7-9.
Sharon Rushton of Kimberling City, Mo., took sixth with 6-9. Rushton was the co-angler winner of the WBT preview event in October 2005.
Presenting the winners’ awards Saturday at Little Rock’s Statehouse Convention Center was Susan Hutchinson, wife of Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson, a former Congressman.
In the final tournament of the five-event 2006 WBT season, the women anglers will compete on Bull Shoals Lake in Theodosia, Mo., Sept. 14-16.
After Bull Shoals, the field for the first WBT Championship will be set. The 12 pro and 12 co-angler slots for the event on Lake Mitchell in Alabama, Feb. 22-25, 2007, will be offered to the anglers who come out on top in their division’s points race.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com.
WBT Sponsors: Mercury Marine, Triton Boats, MotorGuide, Lowrance, Advance Auto Parts, Plano Tackle Systems, Mustang and Toyota. Local hosts include the Lake Norman Convention and Visitors Bureau and Hawthorne Suites Ltd.
BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events annually 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 550,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.