HOT SPRINGS, Ark. A heavy fog delayed the take-off for the final day on the WBT Championship on Lake Hamilton, but the implications of the next eight hours were clear.
By the end of Saturday, they will have crowned a WBT champion, a Toyota Tundra WBT Angler of the Year and somebody would be set to make history at the Classic.
Wrapped boats launched one after another from wrapped trucks as ladies in sponsor-littered shirts fired up their 250 hp motors and idled to the middle of the cove. It was a much different scene than the tour's first launch three years ago, but in the same way 10 pounds could have or should have been 15, contentment was not the mood on the dock.
"I'm pleased with it, but I think we could get a little more publication and get on TV a little more," said Juanita Robinson, who started Saturday in third place. "But you start as a baby and you grow."
The opportunity of fishing the Classic, which goes to the AOY winner, has spurred different opinions. Robinson said it's definitely added to the experience and Sheri Glasgow, the 2007 AOY winner, said the opportunity is good for the sport, albeit a year too late.
"I got aggravated, because they didn't think faster," Glasgow joked. "I've been fishing since 1992, and this is something I never thought would happen."
Lucy Mize, wife of Elite Series angler Jimmy Mize, said the opening into the Classic is both good and bad, but if she had her way, the WBT AOY winner wouldn't get an automatic berth.
Mize, in addition to fishing all the WBT events, has been trying to work her way into the Classic and onto the Elite Series through the BASS Open events.
"After today, there is going to be a woman going to the Bassmaster Classic," Mize said. "That's a great opportunity for somebody."
She spoke slowly on the topic, choosing her words carefully. Mize said she'd much prefer a woman earn her way into the Classic by competing with the men in the Opens, but stressed she wasn't trying to take anything away from Kim Bain's performance on the WBT tour this season. (Bain is all but a lock to win AOY and qualify for the Classic.)
"I think that would give more credibility to the sport," Mize said of qualifying through the Opens.
But Robinson said the Classic gave her an extra bit of motivation this season and sees it as something that should help the sport in a big way.
"This year's been really exciting," Robinson said. "Working toward going to the Bassmaster Classic has been a real good experience, and I think this can continue to grow."
Ever the competitor, Robinson, who has the best shot at catching Bain in AOY, will be disappointed if it's not her on bass fishing's biggest stage.
She may have gotten a little help Saturday.
"I hope we get started on time," Robinson said as she stared down the fog. "But then again, I haven't really had an early morning bite "
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.