Becca Golightly brushes off the historical moment the Wyoming woman will make at the 2016 Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Magellan Outdoors.
“There really should be at least one woman on every regional championship team,” she said, when asked about being the first woman in the championship.
There will be more on that idea to come. For now, Golightly, also president of the Wyoming B.A.S.S. Nation, is fishing as a co-angler at the championship, marking another first. That division was added this year and doubled the number of qualifiers.
“I like the new format, obviously, but what it can really do is motivate and inspire more anglers to join clubs or compete in the tournaments,” she added.
The championship’s qualifying format is designed with those thoughts in mind. In states like Wyoming, it can be a helpful recruiting tool for small clubs.
“We barely keep the minimum required for a roster,” said Golightly. “We had a few newcomers this year fish for the chance to qualify for the championship.”
Her family has a past with the championship. Bill Golightly, her husband of 24 years, has qualified multiple times since joining the Cache Valley Bassmasters in 1999. The club, located in their hometown of Preston, Idaho, fishes for Wyoming. That’s not uncommon in Western states where tournament lakes can be closer to towns in another state.
“We can either drive all day to a lake in Idaho or just a few hours to Flaming Gorge in Wyoming,” she explained.
After accompanying Bill to tournaments boredom set in for Becca, who already enjoyed fishing with him and their son, Jaxon.
“I got tired of waiting around for the weigh-in so I figured, why not me, too?” she added.
Golightly, an insurance agent for 20 years, joined the club and then volunteered to coordinate mailing the state’s newsletter. She assumed the role of president when it opened up in 2010.
Her goals for Wyoming and the B.A.S.S. Nation overall are twofold — encouraging more youth and especially women to compete, and continuing the strong conservation initiatives tied to the B.A.S.S. Nation.
That initiative is underway on Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the largest impoundment in Wyoming and shared by Utah. The lake is plagued by burbot, an illegally introduced exotic resembling a cross between a catfish and an eel. Burbot are voracious predators and aggressively feed on prized gamefish such as smallmouth. Flaming Gorge even has a catch-and-kill regulation for burbot.
The Wyoming B.A.S.S. Nation works with state fisheries agencies from both states to relocate smallmouth from the lower end of Flaming Gorge to the lake’s upper reaches. How they do that is by catching smallmouth and transporting the fish where they can reestablish a diminishing population.
“The idea is to help recruitment of smallmouth and stabilize the population throughout the lake,” explained Golightly.
Over the past two years, 2,400 smallmouth have been relocated with the idea of improving spawning success and survival in the lake’s upper end.
“We are small in the big scheme of the B.A.S.S. Nation, said Golightly. “It’s our responsibility to do whatever we can to set a good example while working to improve the bass population.”
Golightly has already set an example for her other goal of recruiting more women to join the B.A.S.S. Nation. There were encouraging signs at Lake Mead, where she qualified for the championship via the 2016 Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Western Regional presented by Magellan Outdoors.
Women from four states competed as nonboaters. Student anglers of both genders came from the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series. Some are members of clubs affiliated with the B.A.S.S. High School program.
“It was good to see how the B.A.S.S. Nation is encouraging high school, college and, of course, women anglers to compete,” she said.
Golightly now has the chance to shine the spotlight on that goal this month at Lake Conroe.