There’s change in the air surrounding the Bassmaster Central Open tour: The roster for the April 8-10 season opener on Texas’ Lake Amistad includes 20 women.
Women have always been eligible to compete in Bassmaster Opens, and several women have done so. One, Pam Martin-Wells, the second woman to qualify for a Bassmaster Classic, has been entering Opens as a pro for three seasons. While 20 women out of 400 entrants may not constitute a core demographic shift, it’s a noticeable change from the circuit’s predominantly male makeup.
A dozen of the 20 will compete at Amistad as pros; eight signed on as co-anglers. Many of them will continue on with the circuit and fish all three Central Opens this season.
One such pro is Meta Burrell. At 22, she is both young and female. From Fort Worth, Texas, Burrell transferred to the Central Open after the Women’s Bassmaster Tour folded in late 2009.
So did Christiana Bradley of Bealeton, Va.
“I prefer to stay with BASS — it’s the premier tour and tournament organization,” said Bradley, whose face is familiar to many anglers since being featured in a full-page advertisement for her primary sponsor, Geico. Most recently, the ad ran on page 3 of the April 2010 issue of Bassmaster.
“Another key (to the decision) was that Geico wanted to see me at a national level,” Bradley said. “I explained to them that I thought I’d get even more exposure with the Opens than I did on the WBT.”
While Bradley retains her “day job” as an IT specialist, Burrell had a decision to make when the WBT disbanded. The Central Opens made the most sense to her.
“I think it’s going to be a good new start in my career, and I’m looking forward to competing at a higher level,” Burrell said. “I’ve fished all my life. It’s my career, and my goal is to make the Elites. I know a lot of people might look at me and say, ‘Oh, a girl, she won’t be able to do it,’ but I’m here to compete and go as far as I can.”
Burrell’s one previous taste of Open competition was as a co-angler in 2008 on Santee Cooper in South Carolina. She limited each of two days of the weather-shortened tournament, finishing second, just 2 ounces behind the winner.
Besides Burrell, Bradley and Martin-Wells, other women entered at Amistad as pros include Dianna Clark of Bumpus Mills, Tenn., a three-time WBT champion and 2006 Toyota Tundra WBT Angler of the Year; Judy Wong of Many, La., winner of three WBT events, including two championships; and Lisa Johnson of Centre, Ala., who competed as a pro in the 2008 Bassmaster Southern Open circuit.
Bassmaster.com will carry all the Amistad action. Coverage from the lake just outside of Del Rio, Texas, includes real-time leaderboards during weigh-ins; BASSCam video reports; extensive photo galleries; and results and standings. Weigh-ins are set to begin at 4 p.m. ET daily.