Can you recall your very first fishing memory? If you are my age, over half a hundred, it might be tough. But, for some reason, mine stands out. I was with my aunt on the bank of a small park pond in Wichita Falls, Texas, where I was born. Pretty sure I was still in diapers. She was helping me hold a small rod that had about 15 inches of line tied to the tip, a tiny hook holding a piece of corn on the terminal end. We would dip the corn in the water, and I would giggle as minnows and tiny bluegill came to peck at the kernel. I don’t remember catching anything, but I do remember loving to watch those tiny fish nip away at the bait. I’m not sure what inspired her to take me, but I do know that I’ve had a desire to return to the water’s edge ever since. 

Not to remain overly sentimental, but one of my next earliest fishing memories is making doughballs with my grandmother to fish for carp off the bank of Texas’ Lake Arrowhead. Nanny, as I called her, had a magical mixture of oats, garlic power and dehydrated cheese that would beckon bottom-feeders from miles around. She’d moisten the mixture, then squeeze it over a treble hook before casting the weightless glob a dozen yards into the murky water. She’d hand me the rod and tell me to reel when the line started moving.  

I mention these moments, which were fundamental in nurturing my love for our sport, because they were orchestrated by women in my life. I’m willing to bet I’m not alone in this regard. Fishing, and more specifically bass fishing, has long been branded a sport for men. Sure, women could support the effort, but when it came to serious participation and competition, that’s men’s work. And when women tried, they were either ignored or made fun of. 

Need an example? Pam Martin-Wells qualified for the 2010 Bassmaster Classic on Lay Lake. Now, Martin-Wells was the most decorated female angler of all time heading into the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing, dominating women’s circuits. But, when she arrived at the Classic, she was ostracized by competitors and media alike. Her response? She became the first woman to make the Classic cut, ending in 22nd place and beating the likes of eventual Classic champs Randy Howell, Alton Jones, Casey Ashley, Skeet Reese and Boyd Duckett (who weighed in only 1-2 on his home lake). 

I mention all of this to say that we have done a poor job embracing women in our sport. This needs to change. As a first step, B.A.S.S. is introducing a new initiative: BassmastHER. This will be a series of workshops that kicks off on April 20 (at the St. Johns River Elite event) and on June 15 (at the Wheeler Lake Elite event). Another workshop is planned for the Waddington Lake Elite event on August 17. These one-day seminars will teach the fundamentals of bass fishing and get into more advanced techniques for those ladies who already know the basics. More importantly, we hope to build a community of support for women who have an interest in our sport. Women have historically faced roadblocks to participation. We want to knock those down.

For the record, this is not some “woke” effort or a situation of pandering to a demographic. To me, this is the opportunity to both expand the reach of our sport and introduce a new generation of kids in diapers to dobbing a piece of corn on pond banks.