DEL RIO, Texas The first day of the first event of the 2007 Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour was also something of a first for Karla Bullard of Del Rio, Texas.
"This is the first time I've ever led a WBT tournament," said Bullard, whose five-fish limit of 19 pounds, 13 ounces, put her in front on Thursday in the Lake Amistad competition.
A regular competitor on Amistad as part of the Val Verde BASS Federation Nation club, Bullard took advantage of her experience on the spacious reservoir and put herself in prime position for the top prize of a Triton/Mercury rig valued at $50,000. Bullard holds a two-pound plus lead over Kentucky's Secret York.
The start of Thursday's competition was delayed for more than one hour by heavy fog. Soon after BASS tournament officials cleared the pros and their co-anglers for take-off, a misty wind kicked up, which some contenders said hampered their search for the big bass of Lake Amistad.
Bullard, a 56-year-old dental hygienist, said she used Thursday's windy conditions to her advantage.
"The wind is your friend on this lake," she said. "If the lake is glassed over, the water is so clear and the number of bites is going to go way down."
In second was York of Benton, Ky., who wrapped up Thursday with 17-10. In third was Lisa Sternard of Clarksville, Tenn., with 16-14. In fourth was Lisa Johnson of Aragon, Ga., with 15-11 and in fifth was Laura Moore of Brookeland, Texas, with 15-5.
The vast Rio Grande impoundment that straddles the Mexico-U.S. border reportedly gave up many big bass to competitors during practice earlier in the week.
The promise of lunkers in the livewell panned out for many of the women on Thursday; and the largest, a 7-11, was brought to the scales by Sternard, who earned Thursday's Purolator Big Bass premium of $1,000.
Leading the field of co-anglers was Kim Tucker of Red Bay, Ala. Fishing her first tournament, she weighed-in 22 pounds, 2 ounces of bass. Tucker was ahead of Julie Shivers of Del Rio, Texas, who had 15-8. Trailing them were Alabama's Crystal Langston with 15-0; Indiana's Kimberly Martin with 13-11; and Massachusetts' Colleen McKay with 11-15.
Co-anglers are competing for a top prize of $1,000 cash and a fully rigged Triton boat worth $25,000.
On Friday, the WBT anglers compete to make the cut of the top 25 pros and top 25 co-anglers for the final day of competition Saturday.
The Lake Amistad event kicks off the second season of the WBT. The success of the regular 2006 season will be crowned later this month when the inaugural WBT Championship takes place on Lake Mitchell in Alabama held in conjunction with the Bassmaster Classic.
Many WBT Championship contenders are in the field at Amistad including two-time WBT winners Tammy Richardson and Dianna Clark.
"I was concerned how I would focus on this tournament, knowing Lake Mitchell was coming up," said Dianna Clark, 2006 Toyota Women's Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year and currently sitting in eighth place. "But I began to feel comfortable once I got here."
2007 Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats
Stop No. 1
Del Rio, Texas
Feb 8-10, 2007
Day 1 Big Bass
Pro: Lisa Sternard, Clarksville, Tenn., 7-11
Co-Angler: Sarah Busby, Grand Lake, La., 8-1
103; cut to top 25 after Day 2
Launch and weigh-in
7:15 a.m./3:15 p.m.
Diablo East Launch Ramp