ESPY winner Richardson leads early, eyes Angler of the Year title

Day One standings

THEODOSIA, Mo. — Tammy Richardson, winner of the 2006 Best Angler ESPY and champion of the inaugural Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats event, emerged Thursday as the Day 1 leader in the last event of the Tour season.

Though fish were scarce and weights were lean for most anglers, Richardson pulled 6 pounds, 5 ounces of keeper bass from the cool, clear depths of Bull Shoals Lake here. Her creel included three spotted bass and one 2-13 smallmouth, but no largemouth to bulk up her haul.

"I had to fish deep," said Richardson of Amity, Ark. "It's my first time fishing this lake, and I am not used to this type of fishing. Deep for me is 20 to 25 feet, and today the fish were 30 to 40 feet down."

Richardson was just 5 ounces ahead of Mickie Wolfinbarger of Half Way, Mo., whose four fish weighing 6 pounds scored second place. With 5-4, Tammie Muse of North Little Rock, Ark., placed third. In fourth with 4-9 was Teri Neal of Cumming, Ga.; her single fish was the big bass of the day. In fifth with 4-5 was Kris McClendon of Spicewood, Texas.

Not one pro managed a five-fish limit.

For the 95 pros and 95 co-anglers, there's more at stake this week than the title of the Bull Shoals event. Many are keenly focused on improving their standings in the season-long Women's Bassmaster Tour points race. This tournament is the fifth and final one where anglers can accumulate points and the top 12 anglers and co-anglers in those standings advance to the inaugural women's championship, Feb. 22-25, 2007, on Lake Mitchell in Alabama.

Richardson, who won the Neely Henry Lake event in Alabama in April, sits in second place in the points standings, just 33 points behind two-time WBT winner Dianna Clark of Bumpus Mills, Tenn. A win on Bull Shoals for Richardson could also mean enough points to capture the inaugural WBT Angler of the Year title and its prize, a 2007 Toyota Tundra.

But Clark, who was tied for 31st place after Day 1 with 1 pound, knows she must step up her game to keep that first-place spot in the points race. "When you see a field this size with the fish that came in, how can you be down on yourself?" she asked. "I caught a lot of 14 1/2-inch smallmouth today. Maybe tomorrow they'll be bigger."

A smallmouth bass must measure 15 inches to be a legal catch.

The winning pro of the Bull Shoals event gets a Triton boat rig with Mercury outboard valued at $50,000. The event pays a total of about $85,000 to the top 25 finishers in the pro division.

In the co-angler division, coming out on top on Day 1 was Colleen McKay of Worcester, Mass with 3 pounds, 5 ounces. Just 3 ounces behind was Vicki Hester of Rainbow City, Ala., in second. In third was Lila Bass of Austin, Texas, with one fish that weighed 2-7, the big bass of the day on the co-angler side. Tied for fourth with 2-5 were Alabamans Heather Sullivan of Montevallo and Patti Harland of Crane Hill.

The first-place co-angler prize is a Triton and Mercury package valued at $24,000, plus $1,000 cash.

The field will cut to the top six pros and six co-anglers for Saturday's finale. After fishing Bull Shoals Lake, the 12 anglers will trailer to Kimberling City, Mo., for a 3 p.m. CT weigh-in at What's Up Doc Marina, also the site of the final CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series event, The Rock presented by TheraSeed, on Table Rock Lake.

Location & Field
Bull Shoals Lake
Theodosia, Mo.
Sept. 14-16
95 pros, 95 co-anglers
Field cuts to top six for the final day of competition on Saturday

Day 1 Big Bass
Pro: Teri Neal, Cumming, Ga., 4-9
Co-Angler: Lila Bass, Austin, Texas, 2-7

Sept. 14-16, 6:30 a.m. CT
Theodosia Marina Resort
Lake Road 160-25
Theodosia, Mo. 65761

Sept. 14-15, 2:30 p.m. CT

Theodosia Marina Resort
Lake Road 160-25
Theodosia, Mo. 65761

Sept. 16, 3 p.m. CT
What's Up Doc Marina
49 Lake Road
Kimberling City, Mo. 64686

Sponsors of the Women's Bassmaster Tour include Mercury Marine, Triton Boats, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Advance Auto Parts and Plano.

Local sponsors include the Theodosia Marina Resort