On the hook with Reagan Mills

From learning to fish with my dad to competing for Auburn and winning tournaments, my journey has been about overcoming challenges and celebrating achievements.

Introduction to fishing

The first person who taught me to fish was my dad; he taught me from a young age to bait a hook! I have fished since I was very young. Years later, my boyfriend started teaching me bass fishing basics, and it took off from there. He taught me everything I needed to know, from throwing specific bait to driving the boat. When I transferred to Auburn after switching my major, I joked about joining the team. Months later, my partner and I won a tournament, and from that moment on, I was hooked! I wanted to work hard and make something out of bass fishing.

Experiences and challenges

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is the perception that fishing is primarily male-dominated. It can be challenging to break through those stereotypes and prove I belong on the water just as much as anyone else. From facing skepticism at the boat ramp to needing to constantly prove my skills, being a woman in the fishing world often means working twice as hard to earn respect and recognition. Finding a partner who shares my passion for fishing can also be challenging. Many men in the fishing community may not expect to encounter women who are as skilled or enthusiastic about the sport as they are. This can make it difficult to form connections and find someone who respects my abilities and shares my love for being on the water.

Despite these challenges, the positives of being a woman in the fishing community far outweigh the negatives. One of the greatest joys is the camaraderie and support among male and female fellow anglers. Whether swapping tips and tricks or celebrating victories, the fishing community brings people together and fosters lifelong friendships. My most memorable experiences have come from competing in good and bad tournaments. From the adrenaline rush of reeling in a big catch to the disappointment of losing a prized fish, each tournament teaches me something new and pushes me to become a better angler. And then there are the quieter moments, like watching the sunrise over the water during early morning tournaments or marveling at the wildlife that calls the ocean home. These moments remind me of the beauty and wonder of the natural world and reinforce my love for fishing.

Ultimately, being a woman in the fishing community is about embracing the challenges and rewards of pursuing my passion. It’s about proving that gender doesn’t determine skill or dedication and finding strength in the support of those who share my love for the water. Through it all, I continue to learn and grow, both as an angler and a person, thanks to the experiences and friendships I’ve gained.

Support Systems

Supportive networks and groups within the fishing community are crucial in empowering women anglers and professionals. I’ve been fortunate to find several that have significantly impacted my experience. First and foremost, my family has been my most extensive support system. They’ve always encouraged my passion for fishing and have gone above and beyond to support my endeavors, such as purchasing me a boat to pursue my hobby more effectively. Their unwavering belief in me has given me the confidence to push past challenges and pursue my dreams on the water. Additionally, my boyfriend has been incredibly supportive, understanding the importance of fishing and standing by me every step of the way.

Beyond my immediate family and personal relationships, I’ve also found support within the broader fishing community. Several members of the Auburn team and my sponsors have been instrumental in cheering me on and providing valuable guidance and encouragement. Whether it’s sharing tips and strategies or offering encouragement before a tournament, their support has been invaluable in helping me grow and succeed as an angler. Having personal sponsors passionate about seeing women succeed in fishing has been particularly meaningful. Their support not only provides practical assistance, such as gear and equipment, but also a powerful affirmation of the value and potential of women in the sport. Knowing that I have sponsors who believe in me and are invested in my success motivates me to continually strive for excellence and push the boundaries of what’s possible as a female angler.

Representation and visibility

There has been progress in recent years toward greater representation of women in fishing media, events, and leadership roles. More women are featured in fishing magazines, television shows, and online content, showcasing their skills and contributions to the sport. Events and tournaments for women anglers are also becoming more common, providing opportunities for female anglers to compete and network within the industry. Additionally, increasing numbers of women take on leadership roles in fishing organizations and companies, bringing fresh perspectives and driving positive change within the industry.

However, work must still be done to ensure that women are adequately represented and valued within the fishing community. Despite advancements, women continue to be underrepresented in many aspects of fishing media and events, and leadership positions remain predominantly held by men. This lack of representation can contribute to feelings of exclusion and marginalization among female anglers and perpetuate stereotypes about women’s capabilities in the sport.

My personal experience modeling for Under Armour Fishing and Landco Outdoors reflects both the progress and the ongoing challenges of representation in the fishing industry. While it’s empowering to see women featured in prominent fishing brands and media outlets, it’s essential to recognize that these opportunities are not yet equally accessible to all women. Additionally, while representation is necessary, ensuring that women are not simply tokenized or used as marketing tools but actively involved and respected within the fishing community is equally crucial.

Ultimately, achieving true gender equality in the fishing industry requires ongoing efforts to break down barriers, challenge stereotypes, and create inclusive spaces where all anglers, regardless of gender, feel welcome and valued. While progress has been made, much work is still to ensure that women are given equal opportunities to succeed and lead within the fishing community.

Personal achievements

One of the proudest moments in my fishing career was winning a Southern Collegiate Bass Tournament. It was an incredible feeling to compete against skilled anglers and come out on top, showcasing my dedication and proficiency in the sport. Additionally, placing 25th out of 111 boats in my first Phoenix Bass Fishing League tournament was a significant achievement, demonstrating my ability to perform under pressure on a larger stage.

Another highlight was the opportunity to model for esteemed brands like Under Armour Fishing and Landco Outdoors. Being selected as a representative for these respected companies validated my skills as an angler and opened doors for new opportunities within the fishing industry. Moreover, gaining personal sponsors was a milestone that I’m immensely proud of, as it reflects the recognition and support I’ve received for my dedication to fishing.

Lastly, I will be serving as the social media manager for the Auburn Bass Fishing Team during the 2024-2025 fishing season. It will allow me to combine my passion for fishing with my communication and marketing skills, contributing to our team’s growth and visibility while fostering community among fellow anglers. Each of these achievements has been a testament to my hard work, perseverance, and love for the sport of fishing.

Advice for aspiring female anglers

For young women and girls interested in pursuing a career or hobby in fishing, I have several pieces of advice that I’ve found valuable in my own journey:

  1. Educate Yourself: Take the time to learn as much as you can about fishing techniques, equipment, and local fisheries. Read books, watch videos, and seek advice from experienced anglers. Knowledge is power; the more you understand fishing, the more confident you’ll be on the water.
  2. Network and Make Friends: Building connections within the fishing community can be precious. Attend fishing events, join local fishing clubs or online communities, and make friends with other anglers. Not only can they offer advice and support, but they can also introduce you to new fishing opportunities and experiences.
  3. Use Social Media Wisely: Social media can be a powerful tool for connecting with other anglers, sharing your fishing adventures, and learning from others in the community. Share your experiences, ask questions, and engage with fellow anglers to build relationships and grow your knowledge.
  4. Don’t Focus on Size or Gear: Fishing is more than just catching big fish or using expensive gear. Whether fishing from a boat or the bank, with high-end equipment or basic tackle, what matters most is your passion for the sport and enjoyment from being on the water. Don’t let comparisons or judgments keep you from pursuing your love of fishing.
  5. Persist and Persevere: Fishing can sometimes be challenging, and success doesn’t always come quickly. Stay patient, keep practicing, and don’t be discouraged by setbacks or slow days on the water. Every experience, catching a trophy fish or learning from a missed opportunity, is an opportunity to grow and improve as an angler.
  6. Have Fun and Enjoy the Journey: Above all, remember to have fun and enjoy the adventure of fishing. Whether you’re exploring new waters, sharing laughs with friends, or simply enjoying the peace and tranquility of nature, fishing is about more than just catching fish—it’s about the joy of being outdoors and connecting with the world around you.

You can follow Reagan on Instagram: @rem__outdoors