On the hook with Emily Freeman

Support from groups like the Lady Bass Anglers Association and her Murray State University team has fueled her success in college fishing despite challenges as a female angler.

Introduction to fishing

My first fishing memory has to be fishing with my dad on Table Rock or Lake Taneycomo. My dad was a guide down in Branson, MO, and without him teaching me the importance of the sport and conservation and just giving me the opportunity to fish with him, I wouldn’t be the happiest person in the world. He is the reason why I fish today; I do it for myself but definitely for him and try to share the passion he gave me with others.

Experiences and challenges

Starting with some positive experiences that I’ve gone through as a woman in the fishing community, the support system by other female anglers is out of this world. I will say other females really support you and try to encourage you to be your best and fish really hard. The top two things that really help being a female in the fishing community are the ICAST USA Bass Fishing Cup, where women can compete against each other to have the opportunity to fish for the United States best team, and the Lady Bass Anglers Association. This trail is all female anglers only competing against each other; it is truly the best of the best female anglers across the country. I really enjoy this because I get to be influenced by others in the sport, and it’s really encouraging to fish against them and compete for a high-stakes tournament.

Although some of the challenges I’ve faced in the sport include finding a school that would accept female anglers on their team. When I was in high school, it was really only me and another girl who were fishing in high school in Missouri. I didn’t have much opportunity after high school to go fish for other schools. I talked to other coaches, and they just said they wanted me to fish with another girl; they didn’t want me to fish with another guy. But there weren’t a lot of other girls that would fish, so ultimately, I couldn’t fish on their team. But Murray State University was an open university, and anyone could fish.

This opportunity was given to me, and I took it, and without this school, I don’t know if I would be fishing in college. The team is a very big support group for me, and now they are all like my brothers. This year we have two girls I recruited to be on the team, so we are slowly growing with females, and I have been on the board for two years as well, so it has been nice to have female representation on the officer board for the team. I would say this has been ultimately the hardest challenge that I have faced so far.

Support systems

Definitely, two groups that have really helped me out in the industry have been Girl Gang Fishing and the Lady Bass Anglers Association. Both groups really help you connect with other female anglers in the industry. Girl Gang Fishing is a group on Instagram that I got involved with about my freshman year of college. I have met a lot of girls off of the group, and they’re always so supportive, commenting on your Instagram posts, keeping you updated on what they have going on.

It’s really nice meeting other females in the sport. With the Lady Bass Anglers Association, they have really helped show me that there are other anglers that are as passionate as I am about the fishing industry. I have really enjoyed how they run the women’s trail. If you’re looking for great support, that is definitely where one should look for female anglers.

Personal achievements

Probably my most important fishing achievement that I am particularly proud of is in 2023 when I won the Women’s ICAST Cup. This was located on Lake Tahoe, and it is held every year on the Tuesday before ICAST starts. If you win the event, you qualify to fish for the United States bass team. My partner, Rhonda Pitts, and I won the tournament, and in September of 2024, we’re actually competing in Canada on the United States national team for the 2024 Pan American tournament. I would say fishing in that ICAST Cup gives the opportunity for all women to showcase their talents and their ability to fish on a well-known team and literally fish for their country.

Advice for aspiring female anglers

For a female to do well in this sport, you can only be as good as the next male. Females still fish like men, run a boat like a man, and can back up a trailer like a man, but ultimately, it is the support system behind the female. The only reason why you do not see a female in the elites is not due to talent; it is due to those people that are backing her up. If we have struggles with a support system and people helping us get to where we need to go, we can have as much talent as we possibly can.

If I could give one piece of advice to any young women and girls interested in pursuing a career or hobby in fishing, it is just to go for it. Don’t let anything get in your way of doing what you want to do in life. The only thing that can ultimately stop you is yourself. If you have a dream, if you have a purpose, go and follow it. If I stopped after all the negative comments I’ve heard from men in the sport and just stopped, then I would be just working behind a desk right now. Instead, I am out on that water every day, casting just like a guy, fishing just like a guy, and enjoying my life every moment of it on the water.

You can follow Emily on Instagram: @emily.fishing and TikTok: @emily.fishing