Sixteen years ago, an 8-year-old girl joined her father to watch a bass fishing weigh-in. That particular event, the Elite Series Santee Cooper Showdown, shattered all sorts of records, with six anglers cracking the 100-pound mark and Preston Clark landing almost 116 pounds for the win. However, the effect it had on that little girl was likely the most profound result.
“I don’t know why, but the excitement around that event, seeing the fish and watching the people … I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” explains Anastasia Patterson. That’s quite a statement, but one the South Carolina native is certainly living up to.
Patterson submitted the photo you see on the cover of this issue as part of our #iambassmaster cover photo contest. She, along with nearly 800 fellow B.A.S.S. members, submitted images and the stories behind them to share our combined passion for bass fishing. As Patterson continued to tell her story, it became clear that a greater power (and the love of a devoted father) led her to the path she is on today.
“I grew up hunting and fishing with my father. So, I already loved the outdoors. But after watching that weigh-in, something just clicked inside my soul. I knew I wanted to be a professional angler.” Still, even the young version of Anastasia realized there may be some hurdles.
“I recognized that there weren’t many people on stage that looked like me. Not just the color of my skin, but the fact that there were no women.” This sank in a little bit more when she reached high school. Although she was fishing tournaments with her father, his friends and “anyone else that would let me in their boat,” Patterson wasn’t always surrounded by voices of support. “I remember I told a guy in high school that I wanted to fish professionally, and he said that a woman would never make it, period. I let that swim around in my head for a while. Then, I decided to use it as fuel for my desire to not only prove him wrong, but to work hard and push myself to be better.”
After graduating from high school, Patterson attended Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C. There, she founded the school’s bass fishing team. That was also when she became a B.A.S.S. member in an effort to compete in the Bassmaster College events. She fished competitively at the collegiate level for 3 1/2 years until she graduated, noticing more and more women competing alongside the young men.
“It’s wonderful to see more women competing at a high level. I believe we are earning the respect of our fellow competitors.”
Once Patterson graduated from college, she began competing on local team trails, as well as larger regional events. The fish she is holding on the cover is from one of her practice days. “I was pre-fishing for a regional on the St. Johns River. A friend of mine said he had caught a double-digit bass on a particular stand of trees in Lake George, so I went to check it out. The tides were all wrong, so I thought I’d make a cast to see how the fish might set up on it. I cast a wacky-rigged Strike King Ocho to the base of the tree … and the line started moving. When I set the hook I didn’t think it was a bass. She ended up weighing 10.26 pounds.”
Currently, Patterson is working as an event planner for a duck hunting club in South Carolina (“best of both worlds!”) when she is not fishing tournaments. Still, her goal is singular: “I want to fish at the Elite level. I’m not worried about being the first woman to achieve this; I am simply focused on achieving it. I seriously have dreams about being on the Classic stage. I get chills just thinking about it. I don’t know how to put it into words, but I think the Lord called me to do this at a young age. And I do not have a plan B.”
Based on Patterson’s passion and focus, I don’t think she will need one.