MADISON, Tenn. — The regular WBT season ended here Saturday, setting the field of 20 pros and 20 co-anglers for next month's Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Women's Tour Championship.
The pro field is led by Pam Martin-Wells of Bainbridge, Ga., who has been in front since she won the season opener in March. Martin-Wells won the 2006 championship in the tour's inaugural year.
The 2009 championship will be Oct. 16-18 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La. Pros will be in hot contention to earn enough points to take the 2009 Toyota Tundra WBT Angler of the Year title, which comes with a berth in the 2010 Bassmaster Classic.
The list of WBT championship qualifiers reads like a who's who of the sport. Besides Martin-Wells, the roster includes 2007 champion Judy Wong of Many, La., who on Saturday won the regular season finale event on Old Hickory Lake.
Others include the holders of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Toyota Tundra WBT Angler of the Year titles: respectively, Tennessee's Dianna Clark, Oklahoma's Sheri Glasgow and Alabama's Kim-Bain Moore, who was also the 2008 championship winner and first woman to compete in a Bassmaster Classic.
The full list of WBT championship qualifiers is below.
Four-time WBT event winner Martin-Wells has successfully beat back all challengers since she grabbed the points lead with the win in the 2009 season opener. Saturday, the points she earned with her fifth-place finish on Tennessee's Old Hickory Lake sealed her position for now.
"It ain't over 'till the fat lady sings, and there's one more to go," Martin-Wells said. "It's not over until the last tournament (the championship). I'm pleased with my performance, but I'm not counting any chickens."
She knows several anglers will continue to lay on the pressure. Juanita Robinson of Highlands, Texas, is one challenger. She now had 841 points, close enough to Martin-Wells' 862 points to create a little sweat.
Many well-known pros are championship repeaters, but the field also has a few first-timers. One is Meta Burrell of Fort Worth, Texas, a 22-year-old who intends to earn her living as a pro angler. She entered the Old Hickory event 24th in points, four places out of the cut, but she ended as the 12th qualifier, thanks in part to her good finish there, and in part to the points system that drops each angler's lowest tournament.
"I was surprised," Burrell said. "I am the youngest angler on tour, and this means a lot to me. It was my goal coming into this. I wanted to win one, but I made it to the championship."
For others, such as Robin Babb, qualifying means a career boost. She competed in the inaugural 2006 championship, but missed qualifying for the 2007 and 2008 events. The Livingston, Texas, pro finished sixth at Old Hickory this week, a big move for her career and boost to her points total.
"My heart was racing (during the announcement Saturday). My year hasn't been so good, so I kept trying to be steady, and I guess steady got it," Babb said.
The October championship will be the pros' final chance to earn enough points to be the 2009 Toyota Tundra WBT Angler of the Year. Pros will post more points according to their finishes in the Red River competition, and the pro who is able to amass the highest points total will claim the season's biggest prize package: the 2009 AOY title, a new Toyota Tundra, and a berth in the 2010 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 19-21 on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala.
The co-angler field training ground for future WBT pros will compete from the back of the boat. Each pro will be randomly paired with a co-angler for the three days of championship competition.
Pro Field for 2009 Academy Sports + Outdoors WBT Championship
Oct. 16-18 | Red River, Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
1. Pam Martin-Wells Bainbridge, Ga. 862
2. Juanita Robinson Highlands, Texas 841
3. Laura Gober Pendergrass, Ga. 807
4. Judy Wong Many, La. 807
5. Dianna Clark Bumpus Mills, Tenn. 800
6. Tammy Richardson Amity, Ark. 785
7. Janet Parker Little Elm, Texas 784
8. Sheri Glasgow Muskogee, Okla. 782
9. Debra Petrowski Arlington, Texas 776
10. Kim Bain-Moore Alabaster, Ala. 759
11. Melinda Mize Ben Lomond, Ark. 754
12. Meta Burrell Fort Worth, Texas 748
13. Lisa Sternard Clarksville, Tenn. 745
14. Paula Alexander Lincolnton, Ga. 739
15. Lisa Johnson Centre, Ala. 732
16. Lucy Mize Ben Lomond, Ark. 732
17. Cindy Hill Smyrna, Tenn. 732
18. Robin Babb Livingston, Texas 727
19. Emily Shaffer Mount Juliet, Tenn. 721
20. Patti Campbell Waxahachie, Texas 714
Co-Angler Field for 2009 Academy Sports + Outdoors WBT Championship
Oct. 16-18 | Red River, Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
1. Terri Bittner McKinleyville, Calif. 870
2. Donna Newberry Van Buren, Ark. 836
3. Martha Goodfellow Simpsonville, S.C. 823
4. Stacy Zhelesnik Hoboken, N.J. 822
5. Debbie Pegoli Loveland, Ohio 802
6. Colleen McKay Worcester, Mass. 781
7. Monica Altman Angier, N.C. 781
8. Bonnie Ward Snohomish, Wash. 768
9. Gail Wood Russellville, Ark 761
10. Kim Martin Clayton, Ind. 757
11. Linda Owens Brandon, Miss. 756
12. Teri Cindric Hermitage, Tenn. 743
13. Barbara Gaskins Suffolk, Va. 741
14. Sherry Melton Monterey, Tenn. 727
15. Vicki Henderson Ashdown, Ark. 722
16. Charlotte Frazier Dallas, Texas 722
17. Diane Smith Fayetteville, Ga. 716
18. Bertha Cavakis Amity, Ark. 708
19. Kala Wright Spiro, Okla. 706
20. Linda Walker Beebe, Ark. 704