Wong, who caught the majority of her fish from the warm-water outflow of the Oconee Nuclear Station, weighed in a five-fish limit at 6 pounds, 5 ounces to give her a three-day total of 26-10. Wong’s catch unseated defending champion Pam Martin-Wells of Bainbridge, Ga., from the leader’s chair Saturday and the women’s bass fishing throne. Martin-Wells had one of just two other five-fish limits during the final round and had a 7-9 bag for a 26-4 total.
“This time of year with the water temperature being as cold as it is, I knew (the hot hole) was the place I wanted to start,” Wong said. “That’s what I did all three days. I’d catch my limit and then try to catch a larger bass. The first day I stayed a little longer and I did cull, and my partner culled, as well. Today I stayed only until about 10 o’clock. Then I knew I had to find a largemouth to make sure I had enough weight to win. I tried that, but it didn’t pan out for me.”
Wong said she was somewhat surprised the winning weight was less than 30 pounds.
“I predicted 40 pounds to win this tournament,” she said. “If any of the women had caught a largemouth – I know one kicker would move you way up. I was hoping to catch a limit of spots and then one largemouth kicker. That didn’t happen. I’m fortunate that none of the other girls caught a kicker, either, or I would have been in trouble.”
Wong caught her larger spotted bass on a Gary Yamamoto Senko in watermelon red or silver metal-flake rigged wacky style. She also caught a few fish on a Fluke, one on a spinnerbait and her largest fish on a Senko rigged on a ¾-ounce football jig.
“I threw a variety of baits,” she said. “I just picked up what I thought these fish would hit. Sometimes they would come up and school, and sometimes they would go down and there wouldn’t be any activity. I think the reason I was able to catch the fish was bait choice. There were other anglers in the hot hole with me on the first day and some of them left there without a fish. I think the difference was bait choice.”
Wong will take home a fully rigged Triton boat and $10,000 in cash, a total prize package of $60,000.
“I’m happy to have all that, but the title means so much more to me,” Wong said. “The women in this group, we all have this passion. We come out here and give it our all. To win this championship, getting to this position – it means so much when we do win.”
Martin-Wells knows that feeling after running away with the inaugural WBT Championship last year in Birmingham, Ala. She also knew that she started the day too far behind.
“I knew it was going to be close,” she said. “I had a 2-pound deficit to make up. That was the problem.”
Martin-Wells, who anchored last year’s catch with several largemouths, couldn’t find them Saturday and had to rely on catching spots with a watermelon candy trick worm on a 3/16th-ounce Tru-Tungsten weight.
“The sun just didn’t come out soon enough,” she said. “I needed the sun to catch the quality of fish. I fished docks and secondary points, but all the dock fish were small. I didn’t have time for the quality fish to get positioned where they needed to be.”
The leader going into Saturday’s round, Dianna Clark of Bumpus Mills, Tenn., struggled with the change from rainy, cold weather to a bluebird day. She managed only two fish and finished in third place with 23-15.
“I just couldn’t locate the bait fish,” Clark said. “They left the area I was fishing. When the bait fish move, the spotted bass move. I tried moving back into deeper water and moving up. They just moved on me and I didn’t make the adjustment.”
Clark, the 2006 Toyota WBT Angler of the Year, said it didn’t take long for her to realize she was in trouble.
“When I showed up there and didn’t have a bite in the first 20 minutes, I said ‘uh-oh,’ she said. “They’re not here, they’re not feeding, it ain’t happening. And I stayed there a little longer than I should have.”
On the non-boater side, Karol Whitehurst of Winnsboro, Texas, didn’t even have to catch a fish Saturday to claim the title. However, she did manage to put two fish in the boat to add to her three-day total, which ended up at 15-8.
Sponsors for the Women’s Bassmaster Tour include Academy Sports & Outdoors, Toyota Tundra, Advance Auto Parts, Lowrance, Mercury, Skeeter, Yamaha, OPTIMA Batteries, Triton Boats, Legend Boats and Mustang.
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