GADSDEN, Ala. April 20 was a day that Phoenix, Ariz., angler Darla Bardelli circled on her calendar some time ago. It marked the opening of the Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats a tour Bardelli was extremely excited about since she first heard about the new, five-event series.
Now, Bardelli has the date circled twice.
The 52-year-old is planning to marry her boyfriend, fellow Phoenix resident Don McDowell, just before tournament launch of the first event on Thursday at Gadsden Boat Dock in Gadsden, Ala. She will then fish Neely Henry Lake with the other 103 pro anglers and 103 co-anglers competing in the tournament. Although the couple previously discussed getting married, they made the final decision during the 36-hour drive from Phoenix to Gadsden.
"It is so appropriate for us to get married right before the WBT inaugural season starts," Bardelli said. "Don is my bass-fishing partner and it just feels right to get married at the most significant bass-fishing event I have ever competed in."
When they arrived in Gadsden, Bardelli and McDowell, 54, purchased wedding bands from a local store and visited the Etowah County Courthouse for a marriage license.
Despite the seemingly added pressure of an impending wedding, Bardelli said that she is maintaining her focus on the event. She is fishing as a pro angler and vying for a first-place $50,000 prize package, including a fully rigged Triton boat and Mercury outboard.
"The competition is going to be very fierce out there," Bardelli said. "To tell you the truth, I want to get the whole marriage out of the way and get out there and fish."
Bardelli and McDowell already are professional partners. They host two outdoors radio shows together, tape an outdoors television show together and organize outdoor shows and expos.
This will be the second marriage for both. Fellow WBT angler Terri McKinnon of Ontario, Canada, will serve as Bardelli's maid of honor.
"We both love Alabama and we figured why not get married here," Bardelli said. "Now, I just hope I can win the tournament because that would be a great week."
The Women's Bassmaster Tour will kick off its 2006 season with a full field of anglers and co-anglers on Neely Henry Lake in Gadsden, Ala., April 20-22.