GADSDEN, Ala. — Despite the fact she has a history of success on Neely Henry Lake, Pam Martin-Wells figures the Coosa River impoundment still owes her.
The Bainbridge, Ga., pro moved into position Friday to collect on that debt by taking the lead with 25 pounds, 9 ounces, on Day Two of the 2009 Academy Sports + Outdoors Women’s Bassmaster Tour season opener.
“I’ve been fishing this lake for 22 years, and finished in second place here a bunch of times,” said Martin-Wells, who won the 2008 WBT event on Neely Henry by a margin of more than 9 pounds, her third WBT win. “This lake still owes me.”
Tammy Richardson of Amity, Ark., could say the same. She won on Neely Henry in April 2006, the first event of the WBT’s inaugural season, but finished 61st in the event Martin-Wells won. On Friday, Richardson brought 15-11 to the scales — the day’s heaviest bag — and catapulted herself from 28th to second place with a 22-15 total.
“I couldn’t quite figure out the fish yesterday,” said Richardson, a three-time WBT winner. “Today I made a little change. I figured something out. If I’d done it yesterday, I’d be sitting a lot better than I am now.”
Each with a Neely Henry notch in her fishing belt, Richardson and Martin-Wells led the list of the top 20 who made the cut for Saturday’s final round.
The changing lake level — down several feet Thursday, back up about a foot Friday after heavy rains — plus a fast-running current and fickle weather patterns challenged the anglers. Saturday’s weather forecast has them wondering how their patterns will hold. Air temperatures are expected to drop and heavy rain is probable.
“As far as the weather goes, it’s been a mixed bag every day we’ve been here anyway,” Martin-Wells said. “My fish have been holding; I just have to move around a little bit to find them. If I can catch 10 to 12 pounds tomorrow, I’m going to be happy. I’m not saying that will win it, but I’d be consistent.”
First-day leader Emily Shaffer of Mount Juliet, Tenn., slipped to third place with a two-day total of 22 pounds, 0 ounces. Melinda Mize of Ben Lomond, Ark., brought in 11-7 to pull herself up from 15th place into fourth with 21-1. One-time WBT winner Laura Gober of Pendergrass, Ga., moved into fifth place with 20-2.
In the co-angler division, Day One leader Donna Newberry of Van Buren, Ark., easily stayed in first place with a two-day total of 20-1. Terri Bittner of McKinleyville, Calif., and Colleen McKay of Worchester, Mass. made the move into the top three. Bittner had a two-day total of 17-12, and McKay logged 16-10.
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