LEWISVILLE, Texas -- Mark Tucker knew it. He just didn't have it. But he did avoid mayhem. The boat insurance check conducted by B.A.S.S. delayed the angler leading the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open as the final 12 launched onto Lake Lewisville .
When the Women's Bassmaster Tour (WBT) dissolved, female anglers were given priority entry into the Opens circuits. Many of them never took advantage, but some are dead-set on gaining Elite-level status. Most notable are Pam Martin-Wells, who travels with her husband, Stephen, to all of the Southern Opens, and Janet Parker, who has signed up for the 2011 Central circuit.
Parker sits in sixth place going into the final day of the first Central of 2011, and is in position to earn an Elite Series invite for 2012. The top five anglers from each Opens circuit will be invited at the end of the three-event series. "My goal for the season is to be the first female to qualify for the Elite Series," she said. "I made the cut at Lake Texoma last year, so in my last two Opens I've made the cut. I hope that as my skills have improved, my chances of being fruitful have as well."
The pointed truth
Anglers raved this week that the Opens now carry a Classic berth for the winner. It's why many said they were fishing the event. Winners know they have to fish all three in the Central division to maintain Classic status, but some of the Elite Series anglers said that would also take off the pressure of worrying about every point during their eight events. Jerry McKinnis says worry on. "It does relieve some pressure, but they better bust it," the new co-owner of B.A.S.S. said. "The points they don't earn this year will be important. They need to fight for those points. That's all I'm saying." Scary.
Precious piece of gold
The winner today will be rewarded with at least the $55,000 -- the Open's $10,000 check and $35,000 boat package, and $10,000 at the Classic. Qualifiers can turn that into much, much more. "It really does make it nice to have that Classic out there," said McKinnis, who added that it's not to increase entries. It's the dangling carrot that could keep those who had fallen too far in the divisional standings and decide not to fish them out. "A Classic spot is the most valuable thing B.A.S.S. has," McKinnis said, "the most precious piece of gold and we threw that out for the Opens, made them really important."
Fan of fishing
With his boat only a half mile from the launch ramp, Jerry Badgley of Highland Village was out early to watch the Open on Friday. He enjoys living so close to the lake and that he can take his granddaughters out so they can show up the guys. "I try to come out here twice a week, if the weather is nice," he said. "Today was not nice." But the cold winds turned to sunny 60s, and he was among the first spectators at the Lewisville Lake State Park to take in the weigh-in.
"I'm retired, and it didn't cost nothing," said Badgley, who years ago tried a fishing circuit but didn't take to it. "Basically, the tournament circuit felt like too much work. I like to fish for fun." It's fun he has catching white bass and hybrids in the lake with his granddaughters, especially 7-year-old Riley Patten, who once acquired an audience. While the tyke was yanking in fish after fish, guys on boats around them set down their rods and watched her squeal with delight after each catch. Badgley said he can fish some, too, "When I go after largemouth, I catch them," he said. This was his first-ever B.A.S.S. weigh-in, and he stayed throughout the 159 anglers and co-anglers and said he enjoyed it.
The Opens are sponsored by Bass Pro Shops, and Badgley has a story about that. The Springfield, Mo., store was the only one in the region years ago, and traveling with his wife from Ohio to Biloxi, Miss., they took a detour home. "We spent the whole weekend there," he said, adding there was a sale. "We come out of there with like $2,000 worth of stuff." Cha-ching.
Name that Martin
Jerry McKinnis has been visiting all the Open venues since he became a B.A.S.S. co-owner. It's only two so far, but tournament director Chris Bowes will sometimes hand him notes of information that he can include when he addresses the anglers' meeting. McKinnis related a story of two notes, grabbing the first from his right pocket.
"There's a 70-year-old, grey-haired angler out there who wants another crack at the Classic, has a gang of history and his name is Martin." Then when he got to Lewisville for the Central Open, McKinnis was confused, he said, reaching into his other pocket and pulling out a similar note. "There's a 70-year-old, grey hair guy, a lot of B.A.S.S. history, who'd like to another shot at the Classic, and his name is Martin." No mix-up. The first was nine-time Angler of the Year Roland at Toho, the second 1974 Classic winner Tommy.
Tom and Jerry
Besides being real good friends, Tommy Martin and Jerry McKinnis have another connection. Of course it includes bass fishing. "He and I went into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame at the same time," said McKinnis, famed for "The Fishin' Hole" show and more recently for being a B.A.S.S. co-owner. Martin was the 1974 Classic champ who fished this Central Open. Yet let's not forget who else went into the Hot Springs, Ark., hall in 2003. Lure designer Tom Mann, two-time Classic champion Hank Parker and 1972 Classic champion Don Butler were inducted in the same class. Nice company. No penalties ... yet
As of the Day 3 launch, tournament director Chris Bowes has not assessed any penalties to the field. The most common penalties are for dead fish (and 8-ounce penalty) and being late to check in (1 pound per minute). Three factors are in the field's favor for a flawless tournament: the lake is relatively small compared to other impoundments B.A.S.S. visits, the final day's field consists of just 12 boats, and the cooler water temperatures on the lake mean that the fish mortality rate will remain low.