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BASS Reporter's Notebook

4/28/2009

Women's Bassmaster Tour angler Janet Parker of Little Elm, Texas, lapped the entire Academy Sports + Outdoors Women's Bassmaster Tour field April 25 in Louisiana on the Ouachita River when she took her first BASS win by a margin of more than 8 pounds.

A scheduled appearance the next day in Alabama gave her the opportunity to do two more laps — victory laps, if you will — on the track at Talladega Superspeedway.

Parker led the parade lap at the April 26 Aaron's 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. It was the third year in a row she led the race parade in her Aaron's Dream Machine bass rig on behalf of her major sponsor, Atlanta, Ga.-based Aaron's.

She also was at Talladega to accept a commendation given to her and Aaron's by the U.S. Army Freedom Team Salute. The award was presented to Parker on the Talladega driver introduction stage.

The U.S. Army Freedom Team Salute is a program of the Secretary of the Army and Chief of Staff of the Army. Founded in 2005, it recognizes "special supporters" of soldiers and the Army's mission.

"We've raised in excess of $90,000 so far for the Armed Forces Foundation through auctions of a donated boat rig and sponsors' products. All my sponsors have really stepped up," Parker said. Aaron's has donated thousands more to military and veteran groups over the years, she added.

She started her charity efforts soon after making an appearance to talk about fishing at an Air Force base and decided she wanted to do more.

"Although I can't begin to comprehend the sacrifices the military and their families make for our country, I want them to know that it is appreciated," she said.

About that second "victory lap" at Talladega: Parker was a passenger in a pace car.

"I wasn't expecting to do that," she said. "The G force at 150 mph is incredible. It was scary and very exciting at the same time. The adrenaline going through me was about the same as when I caught my largest bass of 12 pounds, 5 ounces."

That bass, for the record, was not at a WBT event, but in Mexico at Lake El Salto last December,

VIRGINIA PICKS ELITE EVENT FOR ROLLOUT

A new way to promote recreational and tournament angling in Virginia got a kick start April 26 when it was unveiled on Hooked Up, the live show on Bassmaster.com that preceded the final-day weigh-in at the Advance Auto Parts Blue Ridge Brawl on Virginia's Smith Mountain Lake.

The announcement of Fish Virginia First!!, was made by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello, who appeared on Hooked Up with co-hosts Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders.

"We've long known that Virginia has some of the nation's top fishing destinations," said Bolling. "Fish Virginia First will raise our visibility and I'm excited to support this community-driven economic development initiative."

Actually a marketing partnership, the initiative is funded through Virginia Tourism Corporation's Live Passionately marketing leverage program.

Those who signed up to be a part of the effort so far include the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation; and 17 communities, counties and city tourism bureaus.

The partnership's logo shows a leaping bass and the slogan, "Fish Virginia First — Follow the Trail."

Statistics about sportfishing in Virginia show the largemouth and smallmouth bass as among the state's top gamefish.

Smith Mountain showed its true colors last week as a productive bass fishery with Kevin VanDam accumulating 61 pounds, 13 ounces, over four days for the victory. The Elite Series is set to return to Smith Mountain Lake in Aug. 12-15, 2010.

Said David Smith, deputy secretary of Commerce & Trade: "Southern and Southwest Virginia's fishing assets are of a national quality in terms of trophy fisheries, guide services and event hosting potential. Yet these resources have not been marketed in an integrated method to angling communities. Fish Virginia First will place Virginia's fisheries in the national spotlight. The Commonwealth is excited to support this exciting grassroots tourism initiative."

Information on Fish Virginia First!! is available at www.fishvirginiafirst.com.

POINTED EFFORT

Pam Martin-Wells of Bainbridge, Ga., has a shot at being the first woman to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series and the Bassmaster Classic in the same year.

To reach the 2010 Classic, set for Feb. 19-21 on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala., she has two avenues. One is through the Academy Sports + Outdoors Women's Bassmaster Tour, and the other is through the Bassmaster Southern Open circuit.

The WBT points winner — the 2009 Toyota Tundra WBT Angler of the Year — will qualify for the Classic. The top two points earners in the Southern Open receive Classic berths.

Martin-Wells is leading the WBT points race after two of four regular-season events. She won the WBT season opener in March on Alabama's Lake Neely Henry, then placed seventh at last week's Ouachita River event in Louisiana.

But her WBT lead is not dominant. With 582 points, she's in front by 26, just ahead of Juanita Robinson of Highlands, Texas, who has 556, and Laura Gober of Pendergrass, Ga., who has 553.

Her road to the Elites can be achieved through the Opens and she is performing well in that circuit too. The top seven in the points standings at the end of the each Open division season receive Elite invitations.

She's 23rd going into the Southern Open presented by Oakley on Wheeler Lake out of Decatur, Ala. The event is set for this weekend on April 30 – May 2. She's 81 points from the leader, Bryan Hudgins of Orange Park, Fla.

"Sure, I'd like to make the Elites, just to try it. But I'm fishing the Southern Opens because I love to compete," she said. "But it's very early in the game. I just have to take one tournament at a time."

The big question: Just off the WBT in Louisiana, is she too tired to fish well or so primed she'll whack 'em at Wheeler?

"Probably a little of both, if that makes sense," she said. "I'm exhausted, but I am ready. Fishing's like any other sport — the more you compete, the better you are."

Live, streaming video and real-time leaderboards of the Wheeler Open will be at Bassmaster.com Thursday-Saturday beginning at 3 p.m. ET. Also at Bassmaster.com will be daily standings and photo galleries.

THE WIZARD

"It was just one of those magical weeks where everything fell into place." — Four-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., right after his 15th BASS victory last Sunday