Within the coming weeks the WBT Championship on Lake Hamilton, in Hot Springs Arkansas will crown it’s reining 2008 WBT Champion. Besides all of the quickly growing opportunities blossoming from the three-year old WBT trail, the 2008 WBT Champion will have earned a berth into the coveted BASSMASTER CLASSIC!
GEICO Power Sports (www.Geico.com) Professional Bass Angler Christiana Bradley of Bealeton, VA has been competing on the Women’s Bassmaster Tour since it’s inception in 2006, rates the WBT competitive spirit second to none. “Simply log unto www.Bassmaster.com and click on ‘WBT’, the home page alone mirrors that of the Bassmaster Elite Series Anglers! Add to the equation only 20% of the 100-Boat field quality for the Championship and we have some serious Pit-Bull attitudes when we cast-for cash,” laughs Bradley. (www.ChristianaBradley.com)
Don’t let Christie Bradley’s beautiful smile mislead you. Mentored by her older brother Gary, Christiana started competing on Virginia’s local and regional bass circuits back in 1998. Having been molded with attributes framed with versatility and persistence this Triton/Mercury (www.MercuryMarine.com) sponsored anglers strength is Flipping and Pitching in heavy cover.
“My best finish this year came on Lake Lewisville, Texas where I finished 4th”, recalls Bradley. No doubt………..Christiana flipped her way to a $4,000.00 payday, scored the only five-bass limit of the final day and anchored her 26.11lb creel with a five pound bass, only to lose the Lake Lewisville title to Kim Bain by a mere 1.01lbs. The difference in dollars and cents however was approximately $47,000.00!
With the final qualifying tournament of 2008 on Clark’s Hill Lake in Evans, GA and a shot to qualify for the 2008 Championship at Lake Hamilton on the line, Bradley knew she needed a strong consistent pattern and a Top-20 finish if her Championship Contender Dream were to become a reality. “For two weekends in a roll my husband Mike and I traveled nine-hours to Clarks Hill before the official off-limits period, then I added four good days of official-practice prior to the tournament,” says Bradley.
WBT rules call for all anglers to compete the first two-days, but only advance the Top-20 Anglers/Co-Anglers into Day #3, where each of the competing anglers will collect tournament checks and higher points based on their final day performance. For Bradley there was no options, Christie had to produce or her 2008 WBT Tour was over.
“I felt really confident going into this tournament, although the lake conditions had changed drastically and the water level was fifteen feet below normal pool, I was totally focused and ready for competition.” Equipped with an arsenal of G-Loomis rods matched with Shimano reels, Christiana Bradley’s TR 21X Triton’s front deck revealed her baits of choice. Harvesting a one-two-three rotation covering the entire water column, Christie scanned the surface with a Fish Belly soft plastic popper (www.FishBelly.com), scratched the bottom with a Hot-Shot Lures 1/8 oz Shakey Head (www.HotShotLures.com tied to 12lb Seaguar Fluorocarbon (www.Seaguar.com), but her go-to-bait was a 3/8oz double-willow leaf Baby Bass pattern spinnerbait. “The spinnerbait allowed me the versatility to vary my retrieve speeds and cover a variety of depths.”
Concentrating on specific areas where clay banks made a transition with scattered patches of Hydrillia vegetation, Christiana Bradley continued to load her G-Loomis rod making long cast as she maneuvered her Baby Bass spinnerbait in and out of isolated pockets of Hydrillia. Her efforts paid dividends at the scales as Bradley found herself idling in 19th place going into Day#2.
“I was definitely in the zone and prepared to stick with my spinnerbait pattern for Competition Day#2, in fact I tried to duplicate the Baby Bass skirt by hand tying two extra spinnerbaits the night before,” reflected Bradley. Jumping on plane her Mercury 250 Opti Max ProXS outboard powered her back to the isolated patches of Hydrillia along a barren clay bank point. “These scattered pods of Hydrillia formed pockets and ditches making for excellent ambush points for largemouth bass.” Holding her Triton Boat in 25 feet of water Christie proceeded to work her spinnerbait through her bass targets. “On my third cast I set the hook on a largemouth bass in the 2.5lb range, but before I could land it the bass made a strong run and broke-off swimming away with my best spinnerbait!”
Devastated by the lost of her Baby Bass spinnerbait, coupled with her inability to produce keeper size bass on her duplicates, the GIECO Pro Angler continued effortlessly making cast-after-cast, knowing that a single keeper size bass could very well be her ticket to the Championship. When the scales were closed on Day #2 at Clark’s Hill Lake, Christiana Bradley dropped to 39th place, ending her 2008 WBT tour with an overall WBT 27th Place finish. Christie missed qualifying for the 2008 WBT Championship by seven places.
Then with a look of enthusiasm in her eyes, while wearing a huge patented Christie Bradley smile she stated positively, “Hey, I’m living my dream, I finished 18th in my Rookie year, and then 15th last year. B.A.S.S. has blessed us with the Women’s Bassmaster Tour, and every year it gets bigger and better with additional incentives! Besides, the 2009 WBT schedule has two locations I have fished previously and the trail next year lends itself to anglers familiar with river systems, and I consider rivers one of my strengths!”
Pennsylvania’s Bridget Allen is quick to agree with Bradley. “Christiana is absolutely correct, I too am excited with the 2009 WBT schedule. Returning to both Alabama’s Lake Neely Henry in April and then making our final stop at Tennessee’s Old Hickory in September has certainly been a major boost in my confidence level!”
Competing in her first year as a Professional Bass Angler on the Women’s Bassmaster Tour, Bridget Allen may not have won any tournaments nor did she qualify for the WBT Championship! (Final overall 2008 standings for Allen, 33rd Place.) However, this Philadelphia Police Officer (Bridget’s full time job, when not competing professionally on the WBT.) definitely turned some heads and made her presence known.
“I competed as a Co-Angler in 2007, and although I drew some wonderful Pro partners, I learned that my goals and angling abilities were limited competing from the back deck,” says Allen. After a 22nd finish on Lake Guntersville, Alabama in 2007, and an overall standing finish of 45th Place, Triton Boats (www.TritonBoats.com) Professional Angler Bridget Allen made her transitional plans to switch her angling status.
Recapping her 2008 Rookie Year, competing on bodies of water Bridget had never fished before, and the thrill of standing in the WBT weigh-in line side-by-side with Legendary female anglers like Penny Berryman, Lucy Mize, Pam-Martin Wells, Diana Clark and list goes on, Bridget Allen knew in her heart she was now living her dream.
“My best angling performance this year came on Old Hickory Lake in Tennessee,” echoes the Mercury (www.MercuryMarine.com) sponsored WBT Rookie. Continuing, “I finished 12th in this event, collected my first WBT B.A.S.S. check ($1,100.00) as a professional angler, catapulting me into the final event at Clarks Hill with the opportunity to qualify for the WBT Championship.”
Banking on her angling strengths Bridget Allen’s arsenal consisted of ALL Star Buzzbait Rods (www.AllStarrods.com), saddled to Pflueger President Series Baitcaster Reels (www.PfluegerFishing.com) spooled with 20lb Berkley monofilament line, tied to 1/2oz Gold-on-Gold Buzzbaits. “I concentrated on points with clay banks, and varied my retrieve speed as the bite dictated,” said Allen. The WBT Rookie came out swinging for the fences, narrowly missing qualifying for the WBT Championship with a 28th place finish on Clarks Hill.
“I only practice two days, due to mechanical problems. However, during those two days I felt I assembled a very strong topwater pattern with my buzzbait. In fact I landed several bass in the 5lb range rotating through my milk-run.” Then with a bass-eating grin Allen gave me a wry smile, “Sometimes I think it’s easier to catch criminals than it is bass!”
“To actually be able to say I can compete with the best female anglers in the world, is a dream come true!” With a highly competitive positive attitude Yamamoto Baits Bridget Allen is one WBT Pro Angler to follow come 2009! (www.Baits.com)
By Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau
God Bless and Best Bass’n
Bill Decoteau is an outdoor journalist with a strong passion for pursuing the Black Bass. His activities include covering and photographing professional bass trails, the New England Paralyzed Veterans of America Bass Trail, as well as emceeing benefit tournaments such as Maine’s Special Olympics. Bill may also be found on the water filming his television show The Bass Bureau…………Where the Road meets the Water or in the classroom holding bass seminars, sharing winning techniques utilized by some of the nationals Top-Bass Pro’s.