Mike Self, Franklin County Times
Kim Tucker said her main goal heading into last week's season-opening event on the Women's Bassmaster Tour was to avoid embarrassing herself.
Instead, after just one day of the three-day event, she was already putting the competition to shame.
Tucker, a local angler from Red Bay, put on an astounding fishing display in her first-ever tournament on the tour, leading the entire field (pro anglers and co-anglers alike) after one day and ultimately finishing in second place in the event held on Lake Amistad in Del Rio, Texas.
"I was so nervous before the tournament that I couldn't sleep for three days," Tucker said. "I was just hoping I wouldn't embarrass myself."
Tucker entered the tournament as a co-angler and proceeded to weigh in last Thursday with 22 pounds, 2 ounces of bass, six pounds more than the next closest co-angler and nearly three pounds more than the best pro on the day.
"It was unbelievable. It was really a life-changing experience," Tucker said. "I've never caught fish that big before, and I've never caught fish that consistently throughout the entire day. I just told everybody it was beginner's luck."
Each co-angler was paired with a different pro for each of the three days.
"You're pretty much at the mercy of your pro as far as where you go," Tucker said. "You can make suggestions, but they don't really listen to you.
"I felt bad for the pro I was with on that first day, because she wasn't catching anything. I think she was surprised at how well I was doing, but she was very supportive and very helpful. I learned something from all three pros I was paired with during the tournament. Everybody was very nice and congratulated me. They're all wonderful people."
Tucker was still leading after eight hours of fishing on Friday, and she ended up finishing less than three pounds behind the first-place co-angler.
"The girl that beat me was a local angler, and it's hard to compete against that," Tucker said. "She gets to fish that lake all the time, and I had never even seen it, much less been out on it."
Tucker said she has been fishing pretty much her whole life.
"My daddy had five daughters, and I was kind of like a son to him," she said. "We lived on a farm, and the three oldest daughters were like his work hands. When the work was done, we grabbed our fishing poles and went fishing. I've been doing it for as long as I can remember."
Tucker began fishing local tournaments four years ago, and she said it was during this time that she began to hone the skills that helped her make such a big splash in her debut.
"Some of the best fishermen around here let me go out on the water with them, and I learned so much," Tucker said. "They taught me everything I know, and that's the main reason I'm able to be successful today."
Tucker began winning local events in the Birmingham area, and she contemplated joining the WBT last year.
"I was ready to join the tour, but then I looked at some of the dates on the calendar," said Tucker, whose youngest daughter was a senior at Red Bay High School last year. "A lot of them conflicted with senior prom or graduation or things like that, and I just didn't want to miss those. So I decided to wait until this year."
Tucker said that, despite her success last week, she intends to continue entering events this year as a co-angler.
"I want to keep learning as much as I can from the pros," said Tucker, who has her own boat. "The plan is for me to turn pro next year."