GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. Lake Guntersville's bass bit early on Thursday for Cindy Hill of Smyrna, Tenn., who ended the day with a five-fish limit of 17 pounds, 4 ounces and just a three-ounce lead in the Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats tour third stop.
Hill squeezed past Dianna Clark of Bumpus Mills, Tenn., whose 17-1 bag of four bass put her in second. Tammy Richardson of Amity, Ark., placed third with three largemouths that weighed 16-0.
To stay on top for two more days to claim the top prize of a Triton/Mercury rig valued at $50,000, Hill must fend off 93 other pros, including Clark and Richardson, two of the WBT's most successful anglers. Clark is the reigning Toyota Women's Bassmaster Angler of the Year, and both she and Richardson are two-time WBT winners.
"My fish came before 11 a.m.," said Hill, who finished seventh in the 2007 Women's Bassmaster Tour Championship in February. "The shad are spawning, and I hit them early. But once the shad bite stopped, I had to slow down and go deeper."
She said the pattern she worked on Thursday was exactly how she fished during the tournament's practice period earlier in the week. Not so for Clark.
"I had a horrible practice," said Clark. "I just didn't catch fish. Then today my first fish didn't come until 11 o'clock that was five hours without a fish. Then I just got on the right place and caught all four. My largest, a 5-7, came at about 2 p.m."
Fourth place was tied between Sandi Karnes of Livingston, Texas, and Audrey McQueen of Canon City, Colo., who both weighed-in 15-5.
For many WBT anglers, the Guntersville tournament the '07 season's midpoint is pivotal. Pros who have done well in the season's first two events must maintain their pace against the up-and-comers in the Toyota Angler of the Year race. All have an eye on the title and prize, a 2008 Toyota Tundra.
Going into the Guntersville event, Sheri Glasgow of Muskogee, Okla., led the AOY race with 605 points, but Texas' Juanita Robinson had 590 and Georgia's Pam Martin-Wells had 575.
Leading the field of 94 co-anglers on Thursday was Elizabeth Sanders of Brandon, Miss., who weighed in 14-9. In second was Jan Hudson of Harrison, Ark., with 13-11. Right behind Hudson was Virginia Buckner of Scottsboro, Ala., with 13-4. In fourth was Crystal Langston of Leighton, Ala., with 12-6. Karol Whitehurst of Winnsboro, Texas, with 11-2 was fifth.
Co-anglers are competing for a first-place prize of $1,000 cash and a Triton/Mercury rig worth $25,000.
For the first time, WBT fans can watch live video of the weigh-in and view a real-time leaderboard at www.espnoutdoors.com. Live coverage from the Guntersville event continues Friday and Saturday beginning at 2:10 p.m. CT.