On the hook with Hayley Troutman

A female angler shares her journey, challenges, achievements, favorite techniques, and advice for aspiring female anglers.

Introduction to fishing

The first fishing memory I have is probably when I was about 4 or 5 years old, out on my dad’s Nitro boat on Kentucky Lake. This was before I even held a rod in my hand. My dad is the one who got me hooked on fishing. I remember being little and going around to different spots in LBL (Land Between the Lakes) here in Kentucky where we live. We’d fish a lot of bank spots and catch anything—bluegill, crappie, catfish, and bass. Before I got into high school, I was going around and fishing ponds at the local parks, catching bluegill. But my true passion and love for the sport didn’t really start until I was a freshman in high school, and I’ve been addicted since.

Experiences and challenges

As a female angler, I honestly experienced a lot more negative than positive being on my high school bass fishing team. For a little bit, I was the only girl on the team, and the only girl who really stuck with it. Some of the guys on the team would tell me that I couldn’t fish because I was a girl, and they would tell my fishing partner, who was male, that he couldn’t have a fishing partner that was a girl, and basically make fun of him for it. They never said any of that stuff personally to my face.

To be honest, it never really bothered me, and I never let it get under my skin because, in the end, they were just jealous and their pride was hurt because a female could outfish them. I kind of laughed about it because, in 99% of the tournaments we had, I either weighed in fish and they didn’t, or weighed in more weight than they did. There were a few guys on the team that did have my back during those times, and I’ll always be thankful for them. They’ve become family.

In the long run, all the smack talking made me push harder to be the best I could be and make my place in the fishing world. I didn’t come from much when it came down to fishing, and actually having knowledge about it. I didn’t know how to use a bait caster, spinning reel, or how to tie knots when I first started on the team. I didn’t know any lures at the time or when to use them or how to use them. I was going into the sport completely blind. I felt so dumb at times, not really even knowing the basics when everyone around me did.

It only pushed me harder to do research and go out and practice any chance I could get, and mainly all of what I’ve learned and the knowledge I have now is from the internet and watching fishing videos. I couldn’t drive at the time to go fish banks whenever I wanted, and I didn’t have a boat I could go out on and fish. I just took what I had and made the best with it.

Personal achievements

A moment in my fishing career I’m really proud of is when I fished regionals on Barkley Lake and placed 8th with 13 pounds 7 ounces out of 102 boats. I know that really won’t seem like a big deal to a lot of people, but that was my dream through those four years of fishing on the high school team. To get to that point where I got to fish regionals and place to go to state, and I did it my senior year.

To be honest, those few practice days and then the actual day of the tournament was the most fun I ever had fishing. I don’t know what it was about it, but it just felt different from all the tournaments I fished leading up to that specific tournament. Maybe it was because we had the few practice days and we really got dialed in on them, and had a game plan for the tournament—something I never did before. Or maybe it was because I was finally chasing after that dream I always wanted, and that’s a feeling I just can’t put into words.

I caught 4 out of the 5 bass and they were all decent sizes. I lost a giant that will forever haunt me. I honestly wanted to fall out on the boat deck when that happened. It spit the hook right at the boat, but I just had to shake it off and keep going, because we had our limit not even an hour in, and there was still plenty of time to find another giant. I had never had a 5-bass limit in any tournament before except that one. I used one rod and soft plastic all day, never picked up any other rods or tried a different lure or soft plastic. It truly was the best day of my fishing career.

I worked so hard to get to that point all four years and I put everything I had into my senior year. One reason was that my dad had passed two weeks before my senior year started, and fishing was the only reason I really got out of bed and kept my grades up. It was the hardest year of my life. Fishing is what kept me going and I knew he wouldn’t have wanted me to give up. And maybe that’s why the tournament felt so different from all the others. I had my guardian angel watching over me, cheering me on from the best seat in the house.

Secondly, I knew I owed it to myself. It was my last year and I had to go out with a bang, and I feel I did exactly that. Three months after I graduated, I got the soft plastic I used that got me 8th place tattooed on my arm. Not that I’ll ever forget that day, but if someone asks, I get to talk about it and relive it again.

Favorite fishing style

I would have to say my favorite fishing style is Texas rig, and I think it’s because it’s what I caught my first ever bass on. I love flipping and pitching. When you pull your rod up and feel that weight at the end and set the hook, it just gets your heart racing. To me, it’s just one of the most fun ways to fish.

Advice for aspiring female anglers

The advice I would give to young female anglers and girls who want to get into fishing—I know this is going to sound cliche and all—but DON’T GIVE UP, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something all because of your gender. You go out there and give it EVERYTHING you’ve got. You want it bad enough, you’ll do whatever it takes. You’re going to have haters and people talking down on you, and that’s only because they’re jealous of you and because you’re doing something right.

I say this because I came from nothing when it came to fishing. I went in so blind and had no absolute clue of what I was doing. I had so many things going against me, especially when it came to being on a team. I honestly felt stupid at times like I mentioned previously, because I didn’t know a single thing, and I never want you to feel that way. Find someone you trust or message and ask me! I love talking about the sport, and helping any way I can. Seriously, when I get on the subject of fishing, I could talk about it for hours.

Being on the team, you either had to have a boat, your partner had to have a boat, or know someone who had one in order to even fish a single tournament. My freshman year, I only fished one tournament because of that reason. I had people telling me I should give up because I wasn’t able to fish tournaments like I wanted, and sometimes I thought to myself, “Maybe this wasn’t meant for me,” because it just felt like everything was against me. But I knew I couldn’t just give up that easily, not when I knew in my heart that I wanted this so badly, and knowing the possibilities that awaited. And because I never gave up, I got to live out a dream I always wanted, and that’s the best feeling in the world—it’s indescribable.

The last big piece of advice I can give that truly helped me and helped me get through the hard times, is to ALWAYS be YOU and trust your gut. You don’t have to follow the crowd. Do your research and learn as much as you can and follow through with it! Whether that be what lure you throw that day or where you cast, follow what your gut tells you, even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else, and even if you’re the only one doing it. All that matters in the end is that it makes you happy and you love it.

A big thank you to my family for believing in me and letting me follow my dream, and my mom being there at every tournament. And a big thank you to Dan Morehead and Kevin Baker for seeing something in me and pushing me to be the best angler I could be, and that I never gave up. And my dad watching over me from above. Yall were my #1 fans. I couldn’t have done it without yall. I’m forever thankful for you all

You can follow Hayley on Instagram:@hayleytroutmanfishing