Jan Heavener of Sherwood, Tammy Richardson of Glenwood and Lucy Mize of Ben Lomond are looking forward to representing their home state at the event on Hamilton, a 7,200-acre impoundment of the Ouachita River on the southern edge of Hot Springs.
“It’s a beautiful lake with a big population of spotted bass,” said Heavener, who is a first-time WBT Championship qualifier. “I fished it a few years ago, but I really don’t know the lake. I was there in the hot summer just to learn my way around, and I’ve been back to practice the past few weekends.”
Mize, a one-time WBT event winner who has qualified for all three of the circuit’s championships, said she’ll scout Hamilton for a few days before the cutoff, a practice approach with which she’s most comfortable.
“I have fished Lake Hamilton, but not for several years,” said Mize, who lives more than 100 miles from the championship fishery. “I have some areas in mind that I’ll concentrate on. I think the lake plays to my strengths, but Hamilton is going to be a tough tournament.”
Richardson, also a championship qualifier since the WBT's inception, spent about a week scouting the lake.
“I have so many other lakes closer to me — Ouachita, De Gray and Lake Greeson — that Hamilton isn’t one I’ve fished a lot,” Richardson said. “But I have competed on Hamilton in team tournaments. This time of year, the fish are in transition to fall patterns, and you can catch them deep and you can catch them shallow.”
All three home-staters said a win in Arkansas would be the icing on the cake of the WBT Championship title, which includes a Triton/Mercury boat rig valued at $55,000, plus $5,000 cash.
The competition will be the biggest event of the WBT season on another count: It will result in the first woman to qualify for a Bassmaster Classic. The Toyota Tundra WBT Angler of the Year, the pro who has amassed the most points through the season, will qualify for the Classic. She will be up against 50 other anglers in the 2009 Bassmaster Classic, set for Feb. 20-22 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
The points leaders going into the Lake Hamilton event are Kim Bain of Alabaster, Ala., who has 890 points; Cindy Hill of Smyrna, Tenn., who has 876 points; and Juanita Robinson of Highlands, Texas, with 855 points.
While one of the points leaders could score both the Classic berth and the championship title, it’s possible that the championship winner will be among the other 17 qualifiers.
The three pros from Arkansas know they are perhaps too far behind to catch the points leaders, but they’re more than happy to be able to focus on taking the WBT Championship trophy.
“All I can do is get out there and try to win it,” Heavener said. “Winning would be the highlight of my career, of anyone’s career. To have it happen in my home state would be even more special.”
For more details on the event, click here.
A LONG TIME COMING. Bassmaster Central Open pro Jerry Williams of Conway, Ark., is close to repeating an accomplishment of 35 years ago.
Williams competed in the third Bassmaster Classic, in 1973. Now, 35 years later, he’s poised to be one of the three Central Open pros who qualify for the 39th Classic, set for Feb. 20-22 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
Williams got in line for a 2009 Classic spot when he took the lead in the Central Open points race after the Sept. 25-27 event on Kentucky Lake. He placed second there, just missing the win after leading for two days. With his third-place finish at the season opener on the Red River, Williams is in prime position in the points race.
At the end of the three-event Central Open season — the final tournament will be Oct. 30-Nov. 1 on Lake Texoma out of Denison, Texas — the top three in the standings will win Classic entries. The top 10 will be invited to join the highest level of tournament fishing, the Bassmaster Elite Series.
“It wasn’t a goal of mine coming into the Open this year to make the Classic or the Elites,” Williams said. “I enjoy fishing with these guys and the competition. Many of these pros are the best fishermen in the world, bar none. But going back to the Classic would be nice.”
After he qualified in 1973, he risked his job to go.
“In 1973, I had three weeks of vacation with the job I had at the time,” he said. “I used all my vacation time to fish the qualifying tournaments, then took a fourth week — I called in sick — to fish the Classic. I almost got fired.”
Now 62 and retired from a career as a boat manufacturer's representative, Williams would not have to chose between a job and the Classic.
CLUNN EYES OPEN DOORS TO CLASSIC. Rick Clunn of Ava., Mo., is in one of the oddest positions of his storied career: He could still qualify for the 2009 Bassmaster Classic in Louisiana if one of two Bassmaster Open doors swing his way.
Clunn finished five points shy of qualifying for a 2009 Classic berth through the Elite Series season-long standings, the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. Normally, that would have been the end of his bid for a Classic entry.
But, at the beginning of the season, Clunn elected to compete in the three-event 2008 Bassmaster Central Open circuit in addition to his 11-event Elite schedule. Now, with one event to go in the Central Open circuit, where the top three will qualify for the Classic, Clunn sits 19 points behind the pro in third place. Until the conclusion of the final Central Open event — Oct. 30-Nov. 1 on Texas' Lake Texoma — Clunn won't know whether he earned a Classic invite via the Central Open.
The plot thickens: By Nov. 1, he may already have been awarded a Classic berth. This scenario depends on the outcome of the Bassmaster Southern Open division, a circuit in which Clunn isn’t competing. That circuit wraps up Oct. 18 on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville.
It just so happens that the top three pros in the Southern Open points race already qualified for the 2009 Classic through the Elite Series. But, if any one of them holds on to finish in the top three in the Southern Open, that pro would take his Classic qualifier via the Open.
And then the pro in 38th place in the Elite Series standings — Clunn — would be awarded a Classic spot by virtue of his Elite performance.
Clunn is confident he can get to the Classic through the Central Open circuit.
“I’d prefer to make it on my own performance versus going in the back door,” Clunn said. “Obviously, I’ll take it either way it comes. It’s a numbers game, and a lot depends on who does what.”
The Central Open’s finale on Lake Texoma sets up well for him, he said.
“I feel like the top three for me is very, very doable,” he said. “Especially on Lake Texoma this time of year. I’ve always been a weak spring fisherman … but when I get into the summer and fall, I’m still a very high-level fisherman.”
Clunn’s career includes at least two unmatched accomplishments: He has qualified for 31 Bassmaster Classic competitions and he owns four Classic titles. Why is he so set on qualifying for what would be his 32nd, the 2009 Classic on the Red River?
“This is one reason I want to make it so badly: I really feel like I have a very good shot at winning this one," he said. "I like the water, I like everything about it. I just really feel comfortable with the prospect of winning the event. Even though I don’t particularly prefer the way I might have to qualify, I definitely will take it.”
THANKS, DAD. “Angling Hero: Dad. Everything I know, he's taught me. He fished all the MegaBucks, Super BASS … back in the '70s and '80s. He's been a force in north Florida for 30 years.” — Bassmaster Elite Series pro Preston Clark of Palatka, Fla., on his Web site, www.prestonclarkinc.com, in praise of his father, L.E. Clark
For 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. With its considerable multi-media platforms and expansive tournament trail, BASS is guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry-leading publications Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times and Fishing Tackle Retailer and comprehensive Web properties in Bassmaster.com and ESPNOutdoors.com, the organization is committed to delivering content true to the lifestyle. Additionally, television programming on ESPN2 continues to provide relevant content – from tips and techniques to in-depth tournament coverage – to passionate audiences.
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