WALSTONBURG, N.C. — Samantha Gay experienced a season of firsts this year in B.A.S.S. Nation tournaments.
The 34-year-old elementary school technology assistant fished as a co-angler in her first North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation tournament in May during the North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation Western Qualifier on High Rock Lake. During the North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation Wildcard Qualifier Oct. 28-29, she fished Lake Norman for the first time, caught spotted bass for the first time and experienced catching bass for the first time in 15 to 25 feet of water. Gay finished second in the co-angler division of the Wildcard Qualifier to qualify as the first female member of the North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation state team.
After fishing on farm ponds most of her life, Gay developed an interest in bass fishing three years ago.
“I would go fishing with my boyfriend at the time, and he was always using artificial lures and I would always have earthworms and crickets with me,” she said. “He would always catch bigger bass than me, so I wanted to take it up another notch to catch bigger fish.”
Gay said she learned a lot about competitive bass fishing from a family friend when she fished with him in a Neuse River team tournament trail. She expanded her tournament fishing knowledge by joining the Pitt County Bassmasters this year.
“I have learned tournament fishing is a whole lot different than I expected it to be,” she said. “There are a lot of really interesting people you get to fish with and learn from. Fishing from the back of the boat in Nation events was a totally different experience. I had to be ready for anything.”
During her first tournament as a co-angler, she experienced being “back-boated a little bit” by her partner, but she never let it bother her.
“I just changed up my style,” Gay said. “I tried to keep my head up and kept fishing the whole time. I would get maybe one cast in to every five of his.”
Gay’s next first will be fishing Maryland’s Upper Chesapeake Bay in the 2017 Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Regional presented by Magellan Outdoors, June 14-16, 2017. She said she hopes the regional will be a springboard to reach higher levels of competition such as the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens.
“Ultimately, one day I would love to make it to the Bassmaster Classic,” she said. “I know I have a very long way to go and a lot to learn between now and then, but I think anything is possible if you set your mind to it and work hard to achieve it.”