(Editor's Note: The writer's opinions and observations expressed here are her own, and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policies or positions of FLW.)
You know what the best thing is about fishing? Fish don’t discriminate! So why should we?
Fish don’t know if you are male or female, young or old, black or white. Even though competitive fishing is a male-dominated sport, it should not matter whether you are male or female competing for that trophy. Although competing with men is intimidating to some women, I want this article to encourage you to go after it. I want to shed some light on the realities of being a female in the industry and give you steps to start a career in fishing. Additionally, I want to give advice for you female anglers already in the industry. If you want to be successful and be taken seriously, I feel it comes down to a winning attitude and how you portray yourself on and off the water.
I’ve always been extremely competitive. Repetitively, my father told me if you want to be good at sports you play against the boys. To fuel my ambition, that’s exactly what I did – in sports, in school and in jobs. My end goal was to prove discrimination doesn’t play a part in obtaining my successes. To those men in my life who encouraged me, especially my father, I thank you.
When I started fishing competitively in 2013, that winning attitude was the attitude and mindset I had going into tournaments. I quickly learned the obstacles I’d face as a female in the sport. Avoiding these obstacles meant not lowering my morals to the stereotypical “male agenda” by posing in a bikini or being a victim of degrading chatter like “girls can’t do it, you are just a pretty face, etc.” I wanted to be recognized and remembered as the strong-minded, hard-working, loving and ambitious, Christian, female athlete that I am.
With a burning fire inside, I aspired to be different. To be a role model. To be the woman my father raised me to be. Strong-willed, driven, bold and someone who speaks her mind to help others.
I aspired to be someone my kids would be proud of, someone who speaks and acts with integrity, keeps her clothes on, takes fewer selfies, fishes hard, takes feedback and is proud of her faith in Jesus Christ. Too many female anglers feel the need to fall to lower standards to get social media likes or sponsorship. Although there is some truth to the phrase “sex sells,” it doesn’t mean we have to bare it all in hopes for that “big break.”
Listen ladies: In this industry, you will gain more respect and awareness by being yourself, helping others and fishing hard. You can be recognized for your fishing skills and athleticism in a “male-dominated” sport and not just as a “female.” It is no different in the business corporate world, or any other industry for that matter. Again, fish do not discriminate, so why should we? With this mindset alone, I feel I have overcome a lot on the water, especially the mental negative self-talk. With this mindset you can register for your first tournament if you have been wanting to. I suggest you start by being a co-angler in the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League division in your area. Co-angling is the fastest way to learn and adapt in the sport, which I feel is crucial to developing your game-day decisions.
FLW does a tremendous job (they don’t discriminate) at supporting women in our sport, and there are several strong female anglers throughout the FLW circuits.
With that being said, for you female anglers already in the industry, stop saying you want to support women in the sport, but secretly hate when other women compete against you. Not only does this lack maturity and confidence, it creates a huge stigma in our sport. We all need to support and encourage one another and work on ourselves and how we portray ourselves on and off the water. Stop comparing yourself, change your attitude, fish hard and be grateful for how far you have come. Whether you are fishing B.A.S.S., FLW or local tournament circuits, be a welcome mat to other women, not a doormat.