Elite wives amaze me


Emily Hand
Bassmaster Elite Series wives gather for lunch during a tournament.

My neck’s been bothering me a little bit lately.

I wish I could say it was from a vicious hook set or from dragging a big whitetail deer out of the woods.

But it’s actually from trying to do impressions of Kimberly Lester. She’s the wife of Bassmaster Elite Series pro Brandon Lester — and when she’s stressing a point, she does that really cool thing where her head moves from side to side on her shoulders as if independent from her spine.

I’m sure you’ve seen people do it.

Kimberly refers to that neck-twisting, finger-wagging, you-better-listen-to-me style of communication as “sass.”

Call it sass. Call it confidence. Call it strength.

Whatever it is, all of the good women on the arms of the men from the Elite Series have it — and year after year, they never cease to amaze me.

Before you even meet any of them, you have to marvel at the idea that at some point, their significant others told them they wanted to fish for a living, and they didn’t run away screaming.

Let’s face it, some ladies wouldn’t immediately consider that the best path for supporting a family. It’s a risk that some women and their mothers and fathers might have their doubts about.

But not only did these women not run away in terror at the thought of being married to a professional angler, they can most often be found standing beside those anglers anytime B.A.S.S. rules allow it.

Kimberly Lester was certainly front and center at the angler meetings held for the Elite Series pros in Birmingham back in December — and she wasn’t the only one.

After a nice dinner on Monday night, the wives and significant others joined the anglers for a day-long series of meetings that were wildly important, but not exactly in the category of must-see entertainment.

They weren’t there to be entertained. They were there because they play a vital role in the success of their men.

Christy Talley sat right next to her ­husband, Frank, and took notes like she was taking a college course.  

At one point, I asked Tennessee pro Skylar Hamilton if he knew the date for an Xpress Boats media event that was coming up in Arkansas. He didn’t bother attempting to answer. He just looked toward his girlfriend, Kristiana Russell, who knew the dates right off the top of her head.

Throughout the calendar year, there are so many moments that remind you these ladies are the true heartbeat of the Elite Series.

Whether it’s watching Steve Kennedy’s wife, Julia, back his boat into the water before daylight during a tournament or listening to Jennifer Lowen cheer for her husband, Bill, at a weigh-in, you never have any doubt why these guys stay so motivated.

You may not think you’ve heard Jennifer Lowen cheer for Bill. But trust me, if you’ve ever even had the live stream of a weigh-in playing as background noise on your computer, you couldn’t have missed it.

It’s impossible to name all the wives and all that they bring to the table for this sport in a column this short.

Chris Zaldain’s wife, Trait, is not just part of his cheering section at Elite Series events. She’s a professional angler herself, with her own line of pink rods through Wright & McGill and aspires to someday fish the Elite Series.

Hank Cherry’s wife, Jaclyn, can light any conversation on fire with just a few words — even if she often does it by calling me a “bandwagon jumper” for wearing an Alabama hat.

Kayla Palaniuk has seen the world with Australian pro Carl Jocumsen, and some of my favorite pictures on Facebook are the ones that Rick Clunn’s wife, Melissa, shares daily from their back porch in Missouri.

I won’t burden you with clichés like “Behind every good man is a good woman.”

I don’t think that applies here anyway.

When I see these ladies, they’re standing beside their men — or in front of them.

Without them, this just wouldn’t work.