Michigan native becomes first woman to win national bass fishing championship - Major League Fishing

Michigan native becomes first woman to win national bass fishing championship

November 9, 2001 • MLF • Archives

Eakins grabs lead in Boater Division

FLORENCE, Ala. – Renee Flesh of Edwardsburg, Mich., made history Friday as the first female angler to win a national bass fishing championship. Her record setting catch of two bass weighed just 4 pounds, but it landed her $40,000 in cash and prizes and a spot in the record books.

Flesh qualified for the prestigious $325,000 EverStart Series national championship presented by Conseco during her first year on the circuit. She entered the tournament, which began Wednesday on Pickwick Lake, as the 13th ranked co-angler in the series’ Northern Division.

Despite tough fishing throughout the championship, Flesh remained near the top of the leader board from day one when she took big bass honors with a 5-pound, 6-ounce smallmouth. She captured the lead on day two by adding three more bass that weighed a total of 5 pounds, 3 ounces. Overall, her two-day catch of four bass weighing 10 pound, 9 ounces made her the No. 1 seed going into Friday’s final round of co-angler competition featuring the top 10 anglers from the original field of 162.

Anglers started the round from zero, however, so Flesh and her male counterparts were once again on even footing.

“I was fishing against the fish, and the fish don’t know who you are,” said Flesh, who was the only female angler to make the final round. “I didn’t have a good practice session, so I was just excited to make it to the finals. It really hasn’t sunk in yet.”

Flesh landed her winning catch while fishing a crankbait in shallow water.

Jeffery Carman of Liberty, Ky., finished second in the Co-angler Division and collected $7,000 with one bass weighing 2 pounds, 6 ounces followed by Gary Collins of Russell Springs, Ky. ($6,000); Bo Standley of Silsbee, Texas ($5,000); and Chuck Welch of Knoxville, Tenn. ($4,000). Collins, Standley and Welch failed to catch a fish Friday.

In the Boater Division, the EverStart Championship has boiled down to one final day of competition as Jim Eakins of Nixa, Mo., leads five anglers into Saturday’s final round with a four-bass catch weighing 6 pounds, 13 ounces.

Eakins, who has used a jig exclusively throughout the tournament, caught a two-day total of seven bass weighing 15 pounds to make the semifinal-round cut in sixth place Thursday.

Rounding out the final-five Boater Division contenders are Greg Pugh of Cullman, Ala., with two bass weighing 6 pounds, 2 ounces; Ricky Shumpert of Lexington, S.C., with two bass weighing 4 pounds, 11 ounces; Richard Grosse of Hebron, Ohio, with two bass weighing 4 pounds, 6 ounces; and Joe Balog of Independence, Ohio, with one bass weighing 3 pounds, 4 ounces.

All finalists start on equal footing Saturday as weights from previous rounds are cleared.

A total of 324 anglers (162 boaters and 162 co-anglers) from 32 states and Canada qualified for the championship.

Saturday’s action begins at 6:30 a.m. at McFarland Park. The final Boater Division weigh-in begins at 3:30 p.m. at the Florence Wal-Mart Supercenter on Hough Road.

The 4-year-old EverStart Series includes three divisions-Eastern, Central and Northern-with four events each. Tournament winners and the top 50 boaters and co-anglers from each division earned a spot in the championship. Top EverStart competitors may also qualify for the Ranger M1 tournament in Mobile, Ala., Feb. 27-March 2, 2002, where they could win up to $1 million in the world’s richest freshwater tournament.