BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Pam Martin-Wells is the first woman in the 40-year history of the Bassmaster Classic to make the cut and fish the final day.
She admits that it is a historical achievement as long as you're looking at it from the right angle.
Calmly sitting backstage in the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center surrounded by six reporters and a camera, Martin-Wells explained that the event is not historical because she's a woman and she made the cut. It's historic because she's only the second woman to ever fish the Classic, and she's the first to make the cut.
It's a small distinction in words, but vastly different in attitude.
"I've said it plenty before, but the fish don't know who's on the other end of the line," she said.
BASS announced at the start of the 2008 season that the Academy Angler of the Year in the Women's Bassmaster Tour would get a spot in the Classic. It was settled that history would be made, it was just a matter of whom it would be.
Kim Bain-Moore won the season and immediately became the most talked about storyline going into the event. More media attended the 2009 Classic than any before it, and after winning, Skeet Reese said it might be the only one in history where the winner didn't get the most press.
Martin-Wells was said she was initially jealous when Bain-Moore qualified, but after watching the frenzy that surrounded the event, she felt differently.
"Kim got bombarded and she handled it fantastically," Martin-Wells said. "She did much better than I would have."
This year, as the second woman to fish the Classic, the hype wasn't there. Martin-Wells came in mostly unheralded, which she regrets.
"At first, I was happy to come in under the radar so I could just come and fish," she said. "But that was selfish. We fish to promote our sponsors."
It may have worked perfectly for the Academy Sports and Outdoors sponsored angler, because the media is here now.
Martin-Wells had the fastest limit on both the first two days of the Classic, and she led after an hour of fishing on Friday. Her weights were consistent (6-13 and 9-15) and she culled six times on Saturday while both Denny Brauer, Skeet Reese and Greg Hackney failed to catch a single keeper.
That's not where the list of people she beat ends. Also included are Terry Scroggins, Alton Jones, Mike McClelland, Gary Klein, Boyd Duckett — and the list goes on. There are 26 on that list, to be exact, and it could get much longer on Sunday. Martin-Wells said she's not paying attention to it.
"I'm not worried about anyone else on the water," she said. "I can't control what they do. I can only control what I do."
Perhaps she takes that attitude because she said she's hardly seen anyone all tournament. In a Classic with a lot of shared water, she has three spots all to herself. On Friday, she stayed in her primary spot all day, but on Saturday she fished all three, which is why she said she improved three pounds while most weights were dropping.
"I'm as confident as I have been all week that I can catch a limit," she said. "Good or bad, this is my plan and I'm sticking to it."
Her plan has been to keep it simple. Her primary spot is a ditch with a few stumps and she's been throwing a shaky head and a jig. It's a style and area that she's very comfortable fishing. But her primary weapon in most tournaments is flipping mats, which she's given a significant amount of time to both days with nothing to show for it.
"I guess a woman wouldn't be known for flipping like Terry [Scroggins] or Bobby [Lane] out there, but I love to flip," she said. "I can't believe I haven't caught a fish flipping."
Martin-Wells' plan coming in included making the top 25, but it didn't stop there.
"Every tournament I enter, I enter to win," she said. "It doesn't matter who I'm fishing against."