HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Kim Bain has been to the Bassmaster Classic as a spectator and an ESPN2 analyst, and now, in four months, the Alabaster, Ala., pro will attend the Classic as the first woman competitor in its 39-year history.
Bain secured the ultimate prize Saturday, earning the Toyota Tundra Women's Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year and the subsequent Bassmaster Classic berth with a dominating season-long performance.
In her first year competing on the Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Academy Sports & Outdoors, Bain has been cool and collected throughout, fighting the significant nerves in trying to accomplish the historic feat.
The 28-year-old broke down Saturday after finishing first at the Women's Bassmaster Tour Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors on Arkansas' Lake Hamilton, her second victory of the five-event season. Bain scored bookend victories in her banner season sandwiched around two second-place finishes and a sixth.
Bain left her birthplace of Brisbane, Australia, when she was 19 to pursue a career in professional bass fishing, which was a tough decision at the time. The AOY, Classic berth and Championship win have cemented her reputation as one of the top women anglers in the world and validated her decision.
"I truly have come full circle. I grew up watching the Bassmaster Classic and reading about it and have experienced it on many levels" said Bain, who was presented the Classic invitation by Bobby Murray, the 1971 and first Bassmaster Classic champion. "Qualifying is a dream come true. Hopefully, I can make female anglers everywhere proud."
Despite Bain's dominating regular-season performance, she entered the tournament with two anglers within striking distance for the AOY. Cindy Hill of Smyrna, Tenn., and Juanita Robinson of Highlands, Texas, failed to leapfrog Bain at the Championship. Bain seized the momentum on the second day of competition, taking home a $55,000 boat package and $5,000 with the victory.
Bain now has four months to experience the publicity onslaught sure to follow her to the 2009 Bassmaster Classic, set for Feb. 20-22 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
"I had a big dream as a kid to fish in the Bassmaster Classic," said Bain. "Anytime you accomplish something that you have put a lot of work and time into, it is pretty special."The full list of AOY standings can be found below.
The Championship event closed out the WBT season, which Academy Sports + Outdoors supported as a presenting sponsor. Jerry deBin, outdoor marketing director for Academy, reflected on the history-making season.
Academy Sports + Outdoors is excited to be sponsoring another women's sporting event" said deBin. "We are especially pleased to partner with BASS in creating an environment where the first woman angler will qualify for the Bassmaster Classic."
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Women's Bassmaster Tour Championship from Lake Hamilton, Ark., Oct. 23-25, 2008. Daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 4:00 p.m. ET.