It has been said that 90 percent of what we think about a person is determined in the first 90 seconds we meet them. When I first met Kathryn Ealey at the 2008 Bassmaster Classic in Greenville, S.C., I could tell by her firm handshake and warm smile that she was a confident woman who knew what she wanted out of life. I was anxious to learn more about this new pro angler from Moody, Ala.Kathryn was born in Karsrule, Germany, where her dad served in the U.S. Army. She is the oldest of three girls. Her family moved back to the States and settled in Waverly, Ohio, when she was 6 years old. They lived with her grandmother out in the country and it was here that she was introduced to fishing by her uncle and cousins. She caught her first fish — a panfish — at the age of 8.When she was 11, Kathryn found herself in Cleveland, Ohio. They lived near Lake Erie and she would ride her bike to the lake so she could fish from the bank. By the time she was in high school, her attention turned to other sports, which included softball, basketball and volleyball, where she was the team captain.Following in the footsteps of her father, Kathryn joined the Army one year after high school graduation and was going through basic training in Fort Jackson, S.C., on her 21st birthday. She trained at Fort Leonard Wood in Mississippi and at Fort Campbell in Kentucky to be a truck driver. During her training, she would spend her down time off post — alone — fishing. It was a cheap hobby that gave her something to do outdoors.It was on a four-day pass at a best friend's family barbecue in November of 2001 that she met her future husband, Stuart. Although Stuart is a golfer and not a fisherman, some of their dates were spent fishing. Kathryn caught her very first bass on Lake Purdy in Alabama. Due to a knee injury, Kathryn was discharged from the Army after two years of service. She and Stuart dated for three years before marrying in November of 2004.
After building their house and a business partnership together, Kathryn was ready to buy her first boat. This is when she met pro angler Warren Lovvorn of the Alabama State Fishing Team. It was Warren who introduced her to the Women's Bassmaster Tour and told her how to register and get started in tournament fishing. With Warren's coaching and the support of her husband, who also taught her how to run her new Ranger Z22, Kathryn was eager to enter her first event.In preparation, Stuart and Kathryn went to Kentucky in 2007 to observe a WBT tournament and see how it was run. They were very impressed with the organization, and Kathryn registered for the final event of 2007 on the Red River in Shreveport, La. Her confidence was shattered when she zeroed both days of the event. Her friend and mentor Warren was there. It was his advice that put Kathryn back on track. While she was wiping down her boat in the weigh-in parking lot and feeling sorry for herself, he told her to get the chip off of her shoulder, go up to the weigh-in area, introduce herself and mingle with the other anglers and make some friends. That advice helped her connect with Mike and Lisa Johnson, also from Alabama. Kathryn and Lisa and Mike and Stuart bonded immediately.
It was Lisa's second year on the tour. Kathryn asked Lisa if she would teach her everything she knew about tournament bass fishing in exchange for sponsorship. Thus, Team Conquest was born. These two Alabama gals worked hard the next few months preparing for the 2008 season.Kat's rookie year on the WBT in 2008 was a testament to her determination and discipline as she achieved her main goal of qualifying for the 2008 WBT Championship. At her first tournament weigh-in, Kathryn was asked by master of ceremonies Steve "Lurch" Scott what she would like to be called on stage. She replied, "Just call me 'Kat.'"