The historic 2008 season of the Women’s Bassmaster Tour presented by Academy Sports & Outdoors season will feature its fourth event Sept. 18-20 out of Clarks Hill Lake and Evans, Ga. The event takes Women’s Bassmaster Tour pros one step closer to scoring the ultimate prize through the WBT, a berth into the 2009 Bassmaster Classic, the first time a female angler will qualify for the prestigious event.
Only the top 20 anglers, decided with the culmination of the regular season on Clarks Hill, will move on to the WBT Championship and have a shot at the Classic berth. The Championship is set for Oct. 23-25 on Arkansas’ Lake Hamilton and will determine the 2008 Toyota WBT Angler of the Year, who will move on to the Feb. 20-22 Classic on Louisiana’s Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City.
In the points lead is Kim Bain of Alabaster, Ala., who took control by winning the season’s first event and has never let go. But Bain is just 24 points ahead of Juanita Robinson of Highlands, Texas, and 65 points in front of Muskogee, Okla., pro Sheri Glasgow, the reigning Toyota WBT Angler of the Year.
The top three, though, can’t count out other pros. For the first time in the tour’s three-year history, each pro’s lowest 2008 regular-season tournament finish will be dropped from the points tally, making the outcome of the points race tough to gauge at this point in the season.
Anglers will be fishing for more than points, though, as the winner of the Clarks Hill tournament will earn a Triton/Mercury boat rig valued at $50,000 to the winner. The event marks the ninth BASS event on spacious Clarks Hill but will be a first for the WBT. Fishing fans are invited to watch the anglers at the free and public weigh-ins. They’re set for 3:15 p.m. ET, Sept. 18-19 at Wildwood Park in Appling, Ga.; and 4 p.m. ET, Sept. 20 at the Academy Sports & Outdoors store at 4120 Washington Road in Evans, Ga.
Live video of the weigh-ins and real-time leaderboards will be available at www.Bassmaster.com through all three days of the competition.
Clarks Hill promises to give the pros a workout. The water level is about 15 feet below full pool — a condition that can concentrate the lake’s bass, but also a factor that cuts into the cache of shoreline sweet spots, said WBT pro Laura Gober who is from Pendergrass, Ga., located less than an hour’s drive from Clarks Hill.
Gober won the 2007 WBT season-ending event in Louisiana on the Red River and she’s hoping another late-season surge will carry her into the WBT Championship. Going into next week’s event, she is 46 points below the 20th-place cutline, but her experience on Clarks Hill could help her boost her standing.
“It has come down to this event to make it or not make it,” said Gober, who’s looking to qualify for her first WBT Championship. “If I can get a top-15 finish, I may be able to get there.”
Gober said that although Clarks Hill’s water temperature is still about 82 degrees, productive summertime patterns have all but shut down.
“The water’s really low and the fish are in transition, big-time,” she said. “The bass are starting to go back into the creeks, following the bait. Once that water temperature drops below 80, the fishing’s going to change. It’s going to be a tough tournament — I think it’ll take just 8 to 10 pounds a day to get near the top.”
“If we can get on some good schooling fish, that’ll probably result in a heavier weight,” she said.
Like Gober, Judy Wong of Many, La., the winner of the 2007 Women’s Bassmaster Tour Championship presented by Academy Sports & Outdoors, is banking on doing well enough at the Clarks Hill event to qualify for this year’s championship. She is just 24 points out of the current top-20 cutline.
“I’ve never fished Clarks Hill, but I have in mind what I need to do,” Wong said. “I’ll decide what’s best after I scout it and get a feel for it. I’m planning on five to six days of practice.”
“This hasn’t been a real good year for me, but I hope to correct that at Clarks Hill,” she said.
Debra Hengst of San Antonio, Texas, is another pro who’s hoping Clarks Hill will be the charm. Like Wong, she’s now 24 points under the cutline.
“I’m going into it to win it,” Hengst said. “That’s my goal. I have no history on Clarks Hill, but I’ll be getting five days of practice in and I’ve done extensive research. It’s a grass lake, and that will play to my strengths.”
All WBT events are free and open to the public. In addition to live, streaming videos of the daily weigh-ins, fishing fans can log onto www.Bassmaster.com for see daily editorial coverage and photo galleries.
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.