WOMEN IN PROFESSIONAL BASS FISHING
WOMEN IN PROFESSIONAL BASS FISHING
By Steve vonBrandt
I had surgery last week and couldn’t fish or drive, so I was working on the website and talking to some friends on Facebook while watching some live tournament coverage, and the subject of why we don’t see many women fishing in professional bass events came up.
It really made me think because I hadn’t paid as much attention to this as I should have.
I decided to contact some old friends in professional bass fishing both male and female and get their thoughts on it, and I think you’ll be surprised at what some of them said.
First, in case you weren’t aware it, women haven't always been allowed to fish B.A.S.S. events.
The first woman to compete in a co-ed B.A.S.S. tournament was Vojai Reed. She fished the 1991 Missouri Invitational and finished 58th! not bad, but it wasn’t anything to indicate that women were going to win a lot of Bassmaster Angler of the Year awards or start taking home Bassmaster Classic trophies.
And as of 2018, they haven’t!
I had a tackle store, guide service, and a radio show at the very beginning of the internet.
I had been involved in the old Redman Tour where I met a lot of anglers who are fishing at a professional level today, and I had opened Bass Pro shops in Harrisburg, Pa where I did seminars for TTI Blackmore, allowing me to associate with a lot of professionals in bass fishing. I contacted Andre Moore,who had Reaction Innovations and started carrying his baits, and interviewing him on the radio shows.I was at the Classic when he proposed to Kim Bain on stage.
I thought, how perfect is this, a team like that fishing the Classics together, she will go far.
Kim Bain-Moore was the first woman to compete in the Bassmaster Classic. She qualified by winning the 2008 Women's Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year title. In the Classic, she finished 47th out of 51 anglers. It was her first and last!
Pam Martin-Wells became the second woman to fish the Classic. Like Kim Bain-Moore, she qualified after winning the 2009 WBT AOY award. She finished 22nd out of 51 anglers in the Classic.
Pam Martin-Wells is easily the most accomplished female angler in B.A.S.S. history.
Martin-Wells ranks 123rd on the B.A.S.S. all-time prize money list with $308,321.14. Ninety-nine percent of that was earned through the WBT or in her one and only Classic appearance.
After the dissolution of the WBT in 2011 no woman has even come close to qualifying for the championship.
Janet Parker came pretty close to qualifying for the Elites in 2011.
Sabrina Thompson was profiled a while back on a local news station in Texas, she is a Pro Angler and was participating in that weekend's Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Opens.
So why is that a big deal?
She was the first black woman ever to compete in the bass fishing tournament.
She serves as the Vice President of the International Federation of Black Bass Anglers, and has a non-profit organization "Texas Wrangling Anglers", where she teaches women and children the basics of fishing.
Having been involved in bass fishing in the Northeast, and traveling across the country bass fishing and guiding , for more than 30 years, I had a chance to get to know a lot of professional anglers, both male and female, I spent time with Judy Wong at the Classic, I was there at Christie Bradley’s first tournaments on the Potomac river, so I had high hopes of seeing a women win the Class or FLW tour.
Christiana Bradley posted a fourth place finish at the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open on Douglas Lake, making B.A.S.S. history.
It was the best finish ever by a woman in a co-ed B.A.S.S. event, beating Dianna Clark's fifth place finish on the Red River at a 2010 Open.
I took Mary Divincenti, Womens Bassmaster Classic champion, out prefishing for the FLW and had her on my radio shows, so I was expecting a great deal from these women in professional bass fishing, given the fact that things were changing in bass fishing for women and I knew some of them personally, which is what prompted me to contact the top female and male anglers today and see what their thoughts were on why this hasn’t happened.
Here’s what they said when I asked “Why Don’t We See More Women Fishing At A Professional Level Today?”
I think with the popularity of the sport growing you will see women fishing at the highest levels soon. With the high school and college programs growing at the rate they are it's getting girls involved at earlier ages which lets them spend more time on the water to learn. Until now the guys that have done well at the professional level have many years of fishing experience with fathers, grandfathers, uncles or friends. This time on the water gives them a huge advantage over women. With women getting involved much younger and seeing a viable profession they can invest their time and effort in it will draw women to the sport.
I would say it is just the mathematical percentages. There are probably some great woman anglers, but for every one of them there are literally tens of thousands of great male anglers. That’s why no women qualify for the Elites. The first one will make a solid half million a year if she sells it! We shall see.
Statistics show that women anglers is a growing number.
Your question is why the number of competitive women anglers isn’t larger?
Personally, my story started with a family that fished, a husband who fished and now is supportive of my competing in the Lady Bass Anglers (LBAA) and before that as a co-angler in the Bassmaster Women’s Pro Tour (WBT).
I started fishing tournaments with my husband, back in the mid 80’s. I was very comfortable fishing with my husband. But, I do admit, that the first time he asked me if I’d fish a team tournament with him, I wasn’t sure the other men would welcome a lady angler. I admit, I was wrong and I was very welcomed and later my husband became known as “Martha’s husband.” ?
Making the change to fishing in a draw tournament was huge for me. Since my husband and I always fished together, I was concerned about going out with other anglers, male or female. Having a female tour (WBT) was the opportunity I needed. With that, I started fishing the BFL, and ABA Opens (both as a co-angler and a boater). Now I fish as a Pro/Boater with Lady Bass Anglers.
I also had family support.
In the 80’s, my sister would watch our two children so my husband and I could fish the Saturday tournaments.
My husband, is awesome! He is my "bass caddy" as I travel across the states competing in tournaments. He supports me and helps other ladies.
What’s needed for more women anglers:
Ladies to feel comfortable to begin the new adventure
Opportunities to “grow” the number of lady anglers
Promoting ladies involvement
letting ladies know how to get started
Currently, the women’s pro tour is the Lady Bass Anglers. The days of Bass n’ Gals and WBFA, WBT, etc… are gone. I’ve seen so many new anglers get their start with LBAA. Having the opportunity to fish with a ladies tour is huge. Some ladies need that comfort zone to get started. (I did…)
Would love to see more support and involvement with LBAA.
Today’s women’s pro tour and opportunity for ladies is the Lady Bass Anglers. Having better sponsors, being able to offer better prize packages and payout would be huge. To many anglers the financial awards aren’t enough to warrant the long distance travel and time commitment.
Vacation time and the time to compete… LBAA now has three regular season tournaments and a Classic.
Child care – Women are typically the main person to take care of their families.
In one boat families, the husband should share the “boat time with their wives”. I’ve seen to many husbands have an upcoming tournament so they have the boat and the “wife stays home with the kids.”
Ladies need to know how to feel comfortable competing in predominantly male tournaments.
To get more comfortable, start competing in team tournaments with a family member or friend
Check out team trails:
American Bass Anglers Couples Series
Fishers of Men
Local team trails
Open team tournaments
First question is how to use the restroom…
Invest in proper clothing. Dress for the weather.
I honestly think it's all about to change... Girls today have the opportunity to start perfecting their bass fishing skills with support from their family, Team members and Coach from their High School Fishing Team, Not just Dad or Grandad anymore.
I think that girls interested in the sport will get a push by parents because in the end Fishing could earn them a full paid college scholarship! Then they have their college fishing team to lean on! You cant just wake up one morning and say I'm going to fish the classic this year. But its way more possible today then it ever has been. I think you will see more girls in the sport in the coming years.
Sarah Boyett Hicks
For one, the money isn't where it needs to be. But, for that to happen, more women would need to be buying the boats and motors, not fishing out of a shared boat. This topic came up many years ago with Mr. Dan Shad of Mercury.
I think one of the big problems is most women do not get involved for the right reasons. Many women fish with a boyfriend or a husband. Not because they have a through-and-through passion for the sport. I live breathe and sleep fishing. I feel like I have a natural instinct for the sport. I really think it starts at a youth level. We need to get our young girls involved in the sport as early as possible.
I have a lot to say on this subject. It’s something I ponder daily. I think there are so many reasons. Passion. Sacrifice. Families. Confidence. Duty. Responsibilities. Lack of respect. Pressure. Time. Finances.
I think a question to get to the bottom of is why women fish? Or why men fish? Why women fish could differ. Some could say- well I did it to spend time with my significant other. I did it for attention (most would never admit this). To find those that say it’s my passion and all I can think about would be few and far between and that is what it takes or make it at this level. Women feel the pressure because everyone looks at the standings to see where they finish. We are our own worst enemies because we don’t believe we can fish. We have responsibilities to our families and to be mommies. It makes us feel so selfish leaving our babies to chase our dreams when we don’t technically have to be away. That’s hard to swallow as a mom.
Sometimes you sacrifice time at home, time at your job, or too much financially to outweigh the gain of what you receive. If you do go then when the sacrifice is unbalanced then you are fishing looking over your shoulder.
Sometimes it’s just not worth it to fish for women because their male peers don’t treat them with respect. They’re not taken seriously. They’re talked down to. They are treated as they are less than the men. Also, sometimes they’re just treated like a piece of meat. Who did she sleep with to her info? Why would women want to do that when they are having to deal with all of the others?
So much more I’d love to say. We need more women. It’s how we grow and some of the best parts of life are working in your passion and living in it.
Melinda Mize Hays
I tried to contact Lauren Stamps, The First woman to get a college scholarship in bass fishing, but at time of this article, I still had not heard back from her.
I contacted Krista Fields, who operates TheReelagent.com to get her thoughts as she is the agent for Hank Cherry, Jacob Powroznik and other pro anglers.
She said she believes it is the women that are preventing themselves from competing at a professional level with the men on tour. It’s a mindset, and that they need to get out of their own heads and realize that it is a “Fishing Game Not A Gender Game”, the bass don’t know if you are a man or a woman! They don’t know who your sponsors are! Be the woman who knows that and don’t allow the judgment of others to have any control or meaning in your life. You are on the same playing field when you hit the water!
I spoke with Christie Bradley on the phone and she had a lot to say, much of what was said was very similar to what Krista Fields had said. Christie also mentioned that she also has a lot of experience with problems that occur while on the road and has confidence in her ability to fix a flat, work on the trailer or motor, and get back on the water. It doesn’t affect her mental game. Most of it is just financial for her at this point.
I had a lot of thoughts about this after speaking to everyone and reading what they had to say on the Facebook post I made.
Do we still have men today who are sexist? Sure, probably always will.
Will the sponsors who step up and promote the top high school and college female anglers today have an opportunity to be in on the ground floor of a real money making opportunity? Yes!
After talking with all of the anglers and some sponsors, one thing that stuck out was this, “The First woman to step up with the confidence and attitude that it takes to compete and win on tour with the men will not only go down in bass fishing history, but will get rich doing it!
The one and only woman’s name that stuck out, that has the ability to do that was Christie Bradley, something that anybody who knows her is in agreement with!
If we see a woman make the ELITES and make history, it will be Christie Bradley.
You can visit her and see for yourself on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ChristianaBradley/