BRANSON, Mo. — She’s on the board, and that’s some consolation for Janet Parker. But the one keeper fish she landed Thursday wasn’t enough to be declared the first woman in fishing history to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series.
To qualify, the Little Elm, Texas, pro must end the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open points race within the top five. After two events of three, she was No. 2. Elite invitations will be handed out after the Oct. 20-22 Table Rock Lake event.
After Thursday, she had fallen to 15th place in the points tally.
“I still have hope,” she said. “At least I have one fish, and if the fish cooperate just a bit (Friday), I feel I can pull up.”
Points aren’t final or awarded until the tournament concludes Saturday. The points standings can change — and usually do — on the second and third days, as anglers move up and down the tournament leaderboard.
Parker said her hopes hinge on lake winds abating by Friday morning.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow because the wind isn’t supposed to blow like it did today, and that’s going to help me and my bite,” she said.
Her one largemouth weighed 2 pounds, 5 ounces, putting her in a three-way tie for 76th place.
“I lost two. One for sure was a keeper, the other I don’t know if it was or not. And I had one short fish,” Parker said. “I think a lot of the problem was my areas were heavily, heavily windblown, and I couldn’t fish them like I needed to fish them.
“I know the fish are there. One that looked like a 4-pounder chased my bait all the way to the boat.”
She said she caught her fish late in the day, about an hour and a half before she checked in.
“I knew it was going to be a tough day because of the wind,” she said.
She feels her ace in the hole is that less wind might hurt those who centered their strategy on windy conditions Thursday.
“I don’t wish that on them, or anybody, but it’s going to be a different ball game for everybody,” she said.
Only 13 pros in the field of 134 bagged limits Thursday. Thirty-three, including Parker, brought in just one fish. Thirty-one pros zeroed.
Parker was calm and methodical as she bagged her catch and walked it to the bump table. She said she never felt nervous all day.
“I tried a lot of different baits to adjust to the wind, but the bass just wouldn’t take them. Maybe I’ll get them tomorrow. I just need all the stars to align.”
In Thursday’s unofficial points standings, Jared Miller of Norman, Okla., was in first place, up from fifth. The former leader, Chris Zaldain of San Jose, Calif., slipped to second. Two 2011 Elite pros from Texas, James Niggemeyer and Clark Reehm, jumped up into third and fourth places, respectively. Casey Scanlon of Lenexa, Kan., moved into fifth, up from 15th.
Like Parker, Zaldain and Miller have publicly stated that they’d take the opportunity to turn Elite.