PARK FALLS, Wis. – The events of the past few months have redefined “normal” for almost everyone. Many have found it difficult to adapt. But for women who have spent years in the fishing industry, challenges and obstacles are things they’re accustomed to facing and well equipped to tackle.
Michigan native and angling veteran, Barb Carey, is no stranger to life’s ebbs and flows. A retired police officer, mother, educator, outdoor communicator, USCG-licensed charter captain and founder of WI Women Fish, Barb is used to having very little free time. When it recently became much more abundant, she was able to slow down and rediscover her own backyard.
“COVID-19 stopped me in my tracks,” says Carey. “I got reintroduced to my house and my immediate surroundings. It was the first time I have slowed down since I can remember. I am discovering new fishing spots in my neighborhood I never knew existed, because I never had time to look for them.”
At home in Central Wisconsin, Barb is fortunate to have access to exceptional spring fishing, which is something she no longer takes for granted. “The walleye run is practically in my backyard, so I’ve been able to sneak out in the boat and have a great time vertical-jigging.”
St. Croix’s Eyecon series are Carey’s go-to rods for walleye, not only because of their performance, but also due to the sentimental value they hold. “Whenever I pick up one of my Eyecons, it brings back memories of teaching my gals how to jig,” says Carey, referring to the hundreds of women she has been able to teach and mentor on the water at WI Women Fish events over the years. “After struggling to feel the bite with their own rods, I hand them over the Eyecon and soon there is this ‘AH HA!’ moment that happens when they can actually feel the walleye suck in the minnow. The fish gets hooked and so do they.”
When targeting spring river walleyes, Barb focuses in on gravel and relies on feel. “I rig up a sliding weight with a hook and a minnow or a fly. I work the rod with gentle sweeps and feel the weight rise up off the bottom. I can feel if that weight is hitting gravel, mud, rock or sand. Finding those spots with gravel makes for a day of great fishing, and the sensitivity in the rod is what helps to find the spot within the spot.”
When it comes to bass fishing, Captain Barb drills down on one of her favorite techniques. “St. Croix offers a 6’10”, medium-light power, extra-fast action spinning rod in many of its different rod series, which is a really excellent choice for fishing the Ned Rig,” says Carey, who points to the Mojo Bass version (MJS610MLXF) as a standout choice. “When I teach new anglers to fish, I steer them towards products that strike a balance between performance and value, and techniques that produce results. The Ned Rig is one of those techniques… I call it the ‘sandwich bite’ because it’s hard for me to even take a bite of my sandwich when someone’s in my boat fishing the Ned Rig!” continues Carey, who uses hi-vis mainline paired with a fluorocarbon leader for Ned Rig-fishing so she can watch the line and help her students understand when they have a bite. “It’s easy to teach, easy to fish, and provides a great means for someone to experience a lot of bites. And the 6’10” medium-light extra-fast Mojo Bass rod is just ideal. It has great sensitivity and medium-light power is perfect, because that extra-fast tip provides immediate access to that power,” she says. “It’s an important part of an overall system designed to create the most-rewarding fishing experiences for my students.”
When Barb isn’t fishing, she remains firmly focused on her mission of introducing more women to the sport. Along with founding WI Women Fish, Barb has put on numerous events designed to teach women how to fish across the country and communicates through many forms of media. “I am thrilled to see the surge of women anglers hitting the water,” she says. “I see women gain self-confidence through this sport and that carries over to other areas of their lives.”
When asked what advice she would give someone just getting into the sport, Carey suggests that they take their time and do their best to just enjoy the experiences and the process. “Figure out what your goals are. Spend time on the water improving your skills. Don’t ask for the answers that are going to be on the test but study the lessons and develop the instincts to continually improve. That’s how anyone becomes a better angler. And make it a point to support each other. We are better together and it is not a competition.”