HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Some days the sky begins as a mess and clears out with the dawn. Day One of the Women's Bassmaster Tour Championship was a bit like that. Two hours before dawn, rain spat down; as the sun rose, clouds yet wreathed the horizon.
Then there are mornings like the one that greeted the 20 anglers in the Championship on Day Two. Without clouds to catch even the scant light pollution emanating from the Ouachita Mountains, constellations capered around the void. A shooting star fell. And when sunlight finally did arrive, almost stealthily, around 7 a.m., it bleached the firmament uniformly azure.
In short, it'll be high bluebird skies for the field on Day Two. That atmospheric consistency is good news for anglers who often struggled to catch keepers a day earlier.
Without adhering to a specific pattern, the fish are all over the place. "You're basically junk-fishing until you get to a specific thing," Pam Martin-Wells said.
"These fish here like sunshine," said Juanita Robinson, who was in third place with 6 pounds, 6 ounces after Day One. "That's what I've prayed for: sunshine, and the hotter the better."
With a 7-12 stringer, Debra Petrowski took the early lead, one round pound ahead of Lisa Sternard. Six other anglers have at least 5 pounds apiece, including seventh-place Kim Bain. She leads the Toyota Tundra Women's Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race — and thus the inside track on the Bassmaster Classic berth that will for the first time accompany the TTWBAOY title.
Interviewed at the dock before launch, Bains told a camera crew that she felt less pressure after surviving the first day.
"I was a little disappointed with my 5 pounds," she said, "but in the overall scheme of things, it wasn't that bad."
Low weights of course mean a single decent fish can change the course of the tournament.
"The fish are moving," said Helen Gordon, who claimed sixth place on Day One. She said the fish she has found are not precisely where she would expect. But they're still around.
As for the possibility of a nice kicker fish, Gordon said, "I saw one yesterday. I'm going to visit her today. She was way over 3 pounds."
The trouble she encountered was one that Lucy Mize, down in 14th place, encountered: a fickle bite.
"In practice, you couldn't hardly shake them off," Mize said. On Day One, she said, they bit short. She alone missed eight keepers. That's the kind of luck that loses tournaments.
Mostly, the anglers were exhibiting almost none of the nerves that might be expected, given the occasion. Mize advised against reading too much into that. "We may be balled up on the inside," she said.
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Women's Bassmaster Tour Championship from Lake Hamilton, Ark., Oct. 23-25, 2008. Daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 4:00 p.m. ET.