As the first woman with a rock-solid chance at qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series, Janet Parker of Little Elm, Texas, is garnering a lot of media attention.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I’m trying to handle it with grace.”
Fishing-related print and digital media have been especially attentive. One webcast dubbed her bid “the story of the year.”
“I can’t get over how the fishing community is responding,” she said.
Parker’s chance at the Elite Series will happen at the Oct. 20-22 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open on Table Rock Lake out of Branson, Mo. As the third of three Central Opens of the 2011 season, the Missouri event will mark the finish line of the points race. Elite Series berths will be offered to the Top 5 anglers in overall points. Parker owns the No. 2 spot in points going into Table Rock, the product of a sixth-place and a 10th-place finish in the first two Central Opens of 2011.
To get where she is in points, Parker had to out-fish most of the Central Open field — twice. While several other women compete in the Central Open circuit, the field is male-dominated.
At Table Rock, she’ll have to turn in a decent performance to seal an Elite Series berth. She estimated that to stay within the Top 5 in points, she needs to finish at Table Rock in 50th place or better.
If she qualifies, Parker said she won’t let the opportunity slide to turn Elite, to make fishing history as the first woman to compete at the top level of Bassmaster competition.
She’s thought only briefly about the media spotlight that is likely to come with such an accomplishment. She witnessed the media microscope trained on Kim Bain-Moore in 2009 when Bain-Moore was the first woman to compete in a Bassmaster Classic; both fished the now-disbanded Women’s Bassmaster Tour through which Bain-Moore won her Classic qualification.
Like Bain-Moore, Parker has already shown she can handle media attention. A second-year Open competitor, who also has the experience of several other circuits since 2005, she is used to being interviewed. She makes scores of appearances each year for the charities she supports and on behalf of her sponsors, like her annual appearance at a Talladega Superspeedway event to lead the NASCAR parade with her Aaron’s Dream Machine, a Ranger-Evinrude E-TEC rig wrapped by Aaron’s, the rent-to-own retailer that’s one of her major sponsors.
Bassmaster.com will closely follow Parker’s quest to be Elite. During the Table Rock event, the website will post reports and extensive photo galleries dedicated to her bid.