Beginning the tournament in 17th after the first day, Hill steadily moved up the standings through the three-day competition, climbing to fourth Friday and eventually scoring a victory that earned her a Triton/Mercury boat package valued at $50,000, and $1,000 cash. She executed the same pattern throughout the tournament, flipping a crawbait to stained water up the Savannah River.
“I knew the fish would be there,” Hill said. “The pattern suited my strengths perfectly and I always fish to my strengths. I’ve struggled for eight years trying to win one of these. I really thought I was going to be second again.”
While Bain narrowly missed out on her second WBT victory of the season, the 28-year-old retained her lead in the Toyota Tundra Women’s Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year standings. A first-year competitor on the WBT, Bain was drawn to the circuit mostly because of BASS’ announcement that the WBT Angler of the Year would receive a qualifying berth into the 2009 Bassmaster Classic set for Feb. 20-22 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La. In her rookie season, she has certainly showed the chops to compete in bass fishing’s premier event.
Bain and the other anglers who finished in the top 20 in the AOY standings will move on to the season-ending WBT Championship presented by Academy Sports & Outdoors, set for Oct. 23-25 on Arkansas’ Lake Hamilton. Complete standings will be available on www.Bassmaster.com. After the Championship, the points will be finalized, with the winner earning the coveted Classic berth and a fully-rigged Toyota truck.
On the strength of her victory, Hill clinched a spot in the top 20 of the AOY standings. One of the keys to her victory, she said, was the confidence she had in her primary pattern. While Hill had a decent first day on Clarks Hill, she trailed the leaders by a significant margin and could have changed plans. Ultimately, she made the right move, reversing the bad luck that had plagued her for eight years.
In addition to her primary pattern, Hill changed it up with a top-water lure in the morning. Her first time on Clarks Hill Lake, Hill played it cautious each day, leaving enough time to traverse the spacious Clarks Hill and check in on time.
“I would fish another eight years just to have this feeling again,” she said Hill. “I had no idea that I would even have a shot at this. This is so sweet.”
Bain collected her third consecutive limit Saturday, posting a three-day total of 24 pounds, 10 ounces. The native Australian missed three fish Saturday, and she felt that those misses likely cost her the victory.
On the final day, Bain fished a wacky worm around deep structure, abandoning her primary pattern from the first two days, which was working a spinnerbait around stretches of bank. Like the majority of the field, this was Bain’s first visit to Clarks Hill.
“I can put my head on my pillow tonight and know that I gave it 100 percent,” she said. “I’m satisfied with how things turned out. I’m excited to get back out there again and fish in my first WBT Championship.”
Rounding out the top five were Angie Douthit of Clewiston, Fla., in third with 22 pounds, 7 ounces; Lisa Sternard of Clarksville, Tenn., in fourth with 22-1 and Kim Stapp of Ringgold, Ga., fifth with 20-10.
Local favorite Laura Gober of Pendergrass, Ga., finished sixth with 20-9, while Juanita Robinson of Texas, finished seventh with 18-15. Robinson, who was in second place in the AOY standings coming into this tournament, poses the biggest threat to Bain at the WBT Championship.
In the co-angler division, Gail Wood of Russellville, Ark., paced the field with a three-day total of 13 pounds, 7 ounces. With the victory, Wood’s first on the WBT, she earned a Triton/Mercury boat package valued at $32,000. Finishing behind Wood were Bertha Cavakis of Amity, Ark., with 9-7, and Colleen McKay of Worcester, Mass., with 9-1.
The final weigh-in was held at the Academy Sports & Outdoors store at 4120 Washington Road in Evans, Ga.
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.
Local hosts include Columbia County.