SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, La. Pam Martin-Wells and Judy Wong shared a fishing spot for three days at the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Women's Tour Championship on Louisiana's Cypress Black Bayou Lake. When it came down to trophies and titles, they split them.
Martin-Wells won the coveted 2009 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Women's Tour Angler of the Year trophy and the 2010 Bassmaster Classic berth and new Tundra that go with it.
A four-time WBT winner from Bainbridge, Ga., Martin-Wells is only the second woman in history to qualify for the sport's biggest event. Kim Bain-Moore of Alabaster, Ala., was the first, winning the 2008 Angler of the Year and a berth in the 2009 Classic.
"Words can't describe this," Martin-Wells said. "I can walk through the living room and see a commercial on TV for the Bassmaster Classic I freeze, watch it and get goose bumps. Now I'm going to get them for real. It's going to be an awesome experience."
After Day 2 of the three-day competition in Louisiana, it was evident that Martin-Wells would take AOY honors, but she did not consider it her prize until the title was officially awarded.
"With these ladies, you don't know what can happen, they're all excellent anglers," she said. "Juanita (Robinson) is a friend of mine, and she's very consistent, and she had me scared. The first day when I had 13 pounds, it helped. But I wasn't comfortable until they announced it."
Wong's victory Sunday was her second championship title, her first coming in 2007. Her prize this time was $5,000 and a Triton/Mercury boat rig valued at $55,000. With a win last month on Tennessee's Old Hickory Lake, the championship gives Wong back-to-back victories on the tour.
Along with the AOY title, Martin-Wells took second-place honors in the championship. For that she took home $4,000 and a $39,000 Skeeter/Yamaha boat rig.
With a three-day weight of 36 pounds, 10 ounces, Wong bested Martin-Wells by almost 5 pounds. Finishing in third was a hard-charging Robin Babb of Livingston, Texas, with 30-15. Juanita Robinson of Highlands, Texas, was fourth with 23-5.
Robinson made a run at the AOY title, staying close to Martin-Wells since the season opener, at which Martin-Wells took the win and the AOY points lead. Coming into the Louisiana championship, Robinson had a shot at overtaking the points leader, but her fourth-place finish wasn't enough.
Wong, 55 points behind Martin-Wells coming into the championship, did all she could to catch the leader, including leading all three days and collecting 15 bonus points. No deal; Martin-Wells was in second place after Day one and settled in for the duration.
"I came into this to lead all three days and win this championship," Wong said. "It was unfortunate that I couldn't catch her, but I did the best I could."
Wong and Martin-Wells camped out on a short bridge throughout the tournament, each taking an opposite side. Both worked Gary Yamamoto Senko lures in the rocks, as well as crankbaits. Wong relied on a Rapala DT-14 and DT-10, while Martin-Wells used an Academy H2O Express.
The co-angler competition turned into a rematch between 2008 champion Barbara Gaskins of Suffolk, Va., and 2008 runner-up Monica Altman of Angier, N.C. But Altman made it to the winner's circle this year with 27 pounds, 0 ounces, earning her a $40,000 Triton/Mercury rig and $3,250.
"It's always been my goal to make it to the championship and be the best that I can be," Altman said. "I just came here to get five keepers each day and enjoy being here."
Most of her fish came out of reeds and grass, but casting to seawalls and docks also helped fill her livewell, said Altman, whose three BASS co-angler wins include the Old Hickory Lake event last month in Tennessee.
Altman finished 10 pounds ahead of Gaskins, who last year bested Altman by 1 pound, 5 ounces. Gaskins took second place with her 17-0 total, worth $2,500 and a $35,000 Skeeter/Yamaha rig.
Rounding out the top five in the co-angler division were Colleen McKay of Worcester, Mass., with 13-14; Donna Newberry of Van Buren, Ark., with 13-11; and Diane Smith of Fayetteville, Ga., with 13-5.
Newberry emerged as the top co-angler of the season by earning the most points through five events.
Sponsors of the Women's Bassmaster Tour
Title Sponsor: Academy Sports + Outdoors
Official Sponsors: Toyota Trucks, Berkley, BOOYAH Baits, Mercury, OPTIMA Batteries, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha Marine, Ramada, Triton Boats, LaserLure and Legend Boats.
Local sponsors for the event include Shreveport Regional Sports Authority.