Vannetta Groeteke (left) and Hillary David (right) are the first two female officials on the Bass Pro Tour. Photo by Phoenix Moore
By Mason Prince - February 8, 2020
EUFAULA, Ala. – This past Thursday was National Women and Girls in Sports Day, and two women found themselves celebrating as they prepared for the 2020 Bass Pro Tour. Hillary David and Vannetta Groeteke made history this week as the first-ever female officials on the Bass Pro Tour.
David and Groeteke passed all of their training and exams with flying colors prior to the start of the season to get their names on the roster of officials.
David had the honor of being the first of the two on the water for Day 1. She was paired with Josh Bertrand, who finished his day with seven bass for 26 pounds, 6 ounces and good enough for second place. David said she definitely had some first-day jitters riding shotgun with Bertrand.
“I was excited but also a little nervous,” David said. “When I found out I was going to get to be an official this season, I was just beside myself. To finally be here and getting to be a part of this sport is just amazing.”
Groeteke echoed those sentiments, but as she got her season started today on Qualifying Day 2, she had one hope going into her first round of competition.
“I just hope my angler catches some fish,” Groeteke said with a chuckle. “We saw eight guys not catch one on the first day so I was thinking to myself, ‘Well that would be the pits if that happened.’ I’m excited to do my job and also learn from these amazing anglers. I can’t wait to weigh that first fish for them and see the joy in their face.”
David made the decision to become an MLF official after watching her husband, Mike, have so much fun doing it last season. Although she didn’t know much about professional bass fishing when she was younger, she developed a passion for it as she started to get older. While she sat at home and watched her husband on MLF NOW!, she got the idea that officiating could be right in her wheelhouse.
“I would go out fishing with my husband and we would fish with MLF rules,” David said. “I would call penalties on him if it was a fish-landing violation or something like that. I would sometimes point out things to him that I saw on the live stream and he would say, ‘You know more than I do!’ He was definitely a big help for me, personally.”
When both women got the word that they would be officials in the 2020 season, both said they were over-the-moon excited. However, that excitement was also met with some nerves.
“My biggest fear was getting here and not being accepted because I’m a woman in a male-dominated sport,” Groeteke explained. “Thankfully, I’ve been welcomed quite nicely. Everyone I’ve met over the last few days has been very kind and accepting. It’s nice to just be part of the group.”
Whether they want to be or not, the two women have become de facto role models for other women who want to break into this side of professional bass fishing. David and Groeteke hope that their work this season can motivate other women to join them.
“I’m honored that I can do something like this and show other women that we belong out here,” David said. “If I can inspire women and make them feel more comfortable in the bass fishing world, then I’m happy to do that.”
“I’m very proud and honored to be here with Hillary, and I certainly hope that other women will follow our footsteps,” Groeteke said. “It’s probably one of the main reasons I’m here. I hope we see more female professional anglers one day, because I know they have the skill and smarts to compete.”