The (bassin') girl next door makes history

I’m fortunate to be around history every day. If I look out of my office window, I can easily see the Washington monument; and if I crane my neck a bit and face the other way, I can see the White House. When I fish my home waters of the Potomac River, I regularly find myself in front of George Washington’s house. If I head the other way from my usual launch spot, I pass Quantico Marine Base and then Mallows Bay, a grave site for over 200 World War I ships.

Nevertheless, even though B.A.S.S. has made the Potomac a frequent stop on its various circuits, I never expected major fishing history to emerge close to home. I’ve been told that Ray Scott once dreamed of a Potomac River Bassmaster Classic with the trailered boats in formation driving along Pennsylvania Avenue, but with the move to a February Classic that seems highly unlikely. Similarly, while we’ve had some tour level pros who’ve called the region home, few stay in the area. In order to pursue his dream on tour, my friend Kurt Dove decided it made more sense to operate out of Del Rio, Texas, than in the vicinity of the Beltway.

That’s why I’m excited about Christie Bradley. She’s a homegrown pro who made a little bit of history by finishing 4th in the recent Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open on Tennessee’s Douglas Lake. That’s the top female finish in the Opens to date. To put her accomplishment in perspective, out of the nearly two dozen Elite Series pros who fished the event, none of them beat her. Their ranks included Classic winners Chris Lane, Rick Clunn, Paul Elias and Davy Hite (plus non-Elite Series pro Woo Daves), along with past Toyota Anglers of the Year Aaron Martens and Gerald Swindle, plus a local hammer named DeFoe. Granted, it was only one tournament, and I suppose someone could get lucky, but Christie’s track record indicates that luck was not part of her equation.

At some point, a woman is going to make the Elites. Not if – when. Last year, it appeared that Janet Parker had a shot but she fell just a little bit short. Based on her media-savvy, marketing skills and apparent angling ability, it seems that Janet would have been a good ceiling-buster. Whoever does make it will need to be of impeccable character, a good ambassador and most importantly, she will need to be able to catch fish. The women who’ve achieved great things in co-ed bass fishing in recent years – Pam Martin-Wells, Kim Bain-Moore, Janet Parker – have all fit that bill. At the same time, I think the competent women’s cause has been hindered by the fact that there are a whole lot of female “pretenders” who’ve marketed themselves as pros. In this respect, the now defunct Women’s Bassmaster Tour (WBT) was a double-edged sword; it gave them all some visibility, but at the same time it reduced the true players to the lowest common denominator, thus diluting the value and respect for those females who are the real deal.

Here’s what I can tell you about Christie, based on observations, a few conversations and my knowledge of local tournament results. She’s the real deal: out there every week on the water fishing for dough, not for show. I talked to her last week, and she made it abundantly clear that her goal is to make the Elites and to do it without any favors. Last year she finished 8th in an EverStart tournament, but that was on the Potomac, where she fishes regularly. Beating the big boys on Douglas, a totally different type of water, is a bigger statement. It’s another one-off performance, but you get enough dots on the graph and eventually you have a pattern of success.

Many of the top women she fished against in the WBT – competitors including Sheri Glasgow, Tammy Richardson, Pam Martin-Wells, Kim Bain-Moore and Melinda Mize – have elected not to fish the Opens. That frustrates Bradley, because she believes that several of them could consistently be competitive. Then her achievement wouldn’t be an oddity. She said that she was Janet Parker’s biggest fan last year. “I was psyched for her,” she stated. At the same time, only one woman will get a chance to be first and Christie Bradley – a competitor to her core – hopes to be that woman. A lot of other people who know her, especially people who’ve fished with her, hope so, too.

In his eulogy for George Washington, Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee said that the father of our country was “First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Later, as the now defunct Senators floundered through another hapless baseball season, the joke became “First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.”

Many baseball experts predict that the Senators’ eventual replacements, the Nationals, will be the best team in the league this year (albeit the National League). Unfortunately, if you mention the word “Washington” to people around the country, their first reaction is not about baseball. In many cases, their first thoughts are negative. They’ll cite political deadlock, occasional corruption and our mind-numbing traffic as their first impressions. Isn’t it time we be recognized for something good?

Christie Bradley doesn’t live in Washington per se – she’s actually 40 miles away, as the crow flies – but she’s built her skills on our nation’s river. Nothing against any other woman out there, but I believe it’s time for our area to make history in other ways, and like lots of folks in our tight-knit bassing community, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings one bit if the history-maker was Christie Bradley.

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