ESPY winner tops WBT leaderboard

Winner of the 2006 Best Angler ESPY award, Tammy Richardson leads the Women's Tour in North Carolina. 

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — If you just won an ESPY, do you relax and rest on your laurels?

Not if you're Tammy Richardson of Amity, Ark., winner of the 2006 Best Angler ESPY award. Just two weeks after she beat three Bassmaster Elite Series anglers and went to Hollywood to bring home the prestigious award, Richardson took the Day 1 lead Thursday in the Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats event on Lake Norman.

"Winning the ESPY just made me determined to fish harder," said Richardson, 34. "I want to show that the ESPY wasn't a fluke, that I can really fish."

The five fish weighing 9 pounds she brought to the scales gave her just a 10-ounce lead over second-place holder Michelle Armstrong of Denver, N.C., who weighed in four fish for 8-6.

Richardson, who made history when she won the inaugural women's event in April on Neely Henry Lake in Alabama and is in second place in the Toyota Angler of the Year race, said she tried everything to get her fish.

"Today I did what I call 'trash fishing' — throwing shallow, deep, shallow, deep," she said. "I had 10 to 15 holes and didn't spend much time at any one of them. When I had gone through them all, I circled back to try again. It was just hard to get a pattern."

Lake Norman's bass showed a streak of stubbornness to the entire field of 94 pros and their amateur partners fishing the third event of five on the 2006 WBT circuit. Just a handful of anglers brought five-fish limits to the scales. A regular on Lake Norman and local favorite to win, Armstrong called the lake "very fickle."

"I fished not so much a pattern as I did known spots," said Armstrong, who added that she often fished competitively with her husband, Troy, as a partner, "but when WBT was created, I decided to go out on my own."

Third place was a tie at 8-5, just 1 ounce behind Armstrong. Sharing it were Christie Thomas of Limpopo, South Africa, and Tammie Muse of North Little Rock, Ark. With 7-14, Patti Campbell of Waxahachie, Texas, scored fifth place.

WBT contenders are fishing for points as well as pounds. Points count toward qualifying for the inaugural Women's Bassmaster Tour Championship, Feb. 22-25, 2007, on Lake Mitchell in Alabama. Only the top 12 pros and 12 co-anglers in the points standings are invited.

The pros also are amassing points with an eye on becoming the first Toyota Women's Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year. The points leader at the end of the season gets the title and a 2007 Toyota Tundra.

The Lake Norman WBT winner earns 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.

On the co-angler side, Monica Altman of Angier, N.C., pulled into the lead with a catch of 5 pounds, 10 ounces. Trailing Altman were Cheryl Bowden of Plano, Texas, with 5-7; Heather Sullivan of Sitka, Alaska, with 5 pounds; Sharon Withers of Many, La., with 4-12; and Gerry Threadgill of Onalaska, Texas, with 4-3.

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

Pros and co-anglers will hit Lake Norman on Friday at 6 a.m. to determine which six pros and six co-anglers make the cut for Saturday's finale. Friday's weigh-in is scheduled to begin at 2:15 p.m. ET at Blythe Landing on Lake Norman in Huntersville.

After fishing Lake Norman on Saturday, the anglers will trailer to nearby Charlotte for a 3:15 p.m. weigh-in at the Cricket Arena, also site of the Bassmaster American presented by Advance Auto Parts weigh-in. The American is part of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series season and features same-day television coverage on ESPN2 on Sunday, July 30 at 7 p.m. ET.