Wong's Winning Ways
November 17, 2009
Judy Wong’s fellow competitors on the Women’s Bassmaster Tour have to hope that she has a tough regular season. Once she makes it to the post-season, she’s hard to top.
“I’ve won both WBT championships that I’ve qualified for,” Wong said. “I missed it the first and third year (of the tour) but I won the second and fourth year.” Her wins came at South Carolina’s Lake Keowee and then this year at Louisiana’s Cypress Black Bayou Lake.
But the competition wouldn’t have to worry about Wong at all but for a 2001 WBFA victory on Louisiana’s Red River.
“At that point in time, I had thought about quitting or retiring, if you want to call it that,” she recalled. “I thought that maybe I was not meant to fish tournaments. I was at a junction where I had to make a decision. I prayed really hard about it. I know that the Lord has given me a gift for painting and art. I promised that if he gave me the knowledge to win, I would create that art. I won and I’ve been trying to fulfill that promise ever since.”
Her opponents probably wish she’d focus a little more heavily on art, and a little less on fishing, because now that she’s fully engaged in the latter activity, she’s hard to beat. After the 2001 Red River victory, she won another WBFA championship, two other national tournaments and three WBT events, including the two championships.
She claims that she approaches the championships much like she would a regular season event: “I might put in a little extra time prepping, with map study,” she said, but prior to any event her focus is on tackle prep. “I spend a full day or even two days going through everything in my boat so I’m real efficient.”
While the process may be similar, she admitted that the mental approach to a championship requires greater focus. “It shouldn’t be any different but really it is because there’s a lot more at stake,” she said.
During the tournament, however, she’s more vigilant about controlling those variables that are within her grasp. “I cut and retie on every fish, and maybe even every 20 casts without a fish. I check my line every five casts and if there’s any type of abrasion I’ll retie it. If I lose a fish because there’s a nick and I don’t retie, that’s my fault, so I take every precaution.”
She noted that most of the top anglers at any level have the on-the-water skills to win, but in many cases there’s a psychological roadblock preventing them from doing so, so getting the first major victory out of the way is critical. “Mentally it just gets easier. You develop more confidence in your abilities.” And while the championship field may be stacked top to bottom, she noted that with fewer competitors to beat, it’s easier in some respects. “We’re not really competing against the anglers as much as the fish, but with only 20 (in the WBT championship), only a few of them might be a real threat.”
Her most recent victory, at Cypress Black Bayou, might have been the most satisfying since her first. The tournament was scheduled to take place on the Red River, which has been kind to Wong, but the conditions were unsafe, so they moved the event to the alternate site with what amounted to zero advance notice.
“It was a body of water that none of us had every fished before,” she said. “We had no information so it was an even playing field. I’m a fishing guide as well, so I can find bass.”
While she’s adept at locating fish quickly, she opined that success in practice is not always indicative of success during the tournament. She practices to find groups of fish that will last for multiple days, so it’s not necessarily in her best interest to rip a lot of lips until they count.
“I do better when I don’t have a real good practice,” Wong said. “Just because I haven’t caught many fish doesn’t mean I haven’t figured them out. You kind of know coming out of practice, and that’s when your instincts come into play.”
Rick Clunn may be the king of the Bassmaster Classic, with an unparalleled four victories on his resume. In baseball, Reggie Jackson is known as baseball’s “Mr. October” for his post-season exploits. With another win or two, Judy Wong will likely become a member of that pantheon, a superior performer when the big rewards are on the line.
“Every one that I fish, I tell myself that I’m going to win,” she said.
The proof is in the trophies.