Talmadge breaking down barriers

by Best on Tour

In 1972 Bernice Gera became the first woman to umpire a professional baseball game, retiring after one game citing the resentment of other umpires as her reason. Heather McDaniel was the first female referee in the NHL, serving as a ref for one game in 1995. Violet Palmer followed in 1997, becoming the first official female ref for the NBA, while Sarah Thomas stepped foot on the gridiron making her debut as the first female ref for the NFL in 2015.

In the world of professional bass fishing Lisa Talmadge joined this list of trailblazing women, when she was promoted to full-time tournament director of the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2021. With this promotion Talmadge became the first woman to serve as a tournament director of a major fishing organization. She is several events into her first full year in the position, but she has been paying her dues for nearly two decades before reaching the top.

“Back in 2004 I was offered a position by B.A.S.S. to be the ESPN Outdoors Weekend Series manager and jumped at the opportunity. Prior to taking the position I was a teacher but had a great love and appreciation for fishing and the outdoors in general. My time as a teacher was the perfect training ground for helping to run the events as I was used to keeping things organized and on schedule,” said Talmadge.

Talmadge’s stint as the manger of the Weekend Series was not a long-term fit, as the series was eventually disbanded, however she returned to B.A.S.S. in a part-time role. That changed in 2018 with the retirement of assistant tournament director Chuck Harbin. “When Chuck retired, I received a call from long time B.A.S.S. tournament director Trip Weldon asking if I would like to come back and take Chuck’s position. I had already learned so much from Trip while I was with the organization previously, so I knew that it was going to be an awesome opportunity to work directly underneath one of the best to ever do the job.” Talmadge continued.

Learning from one of the icons of the sport definitely provided Talmadge with a leg up, but it hasn’t made the job any easier. “It is an extremely rewarding job but certainly isn’t an easy one. Every decision you make is potentially not going to be applauded by all of the anglers. At the end of the day my job is to be fair, honest and most importantly keep everyone safe. It can be stressful at times, particularly in dealing with the calls you have to make on the weather, but I have to protect the anglers from themselves, as well as the Marshals, cameramen, B.A.S.S. staff and also the fans.” says Talmadge.

Earning the respect of the Elite Series anglers is something Talmadge has taken very seriously, and she feels she has done that in her first year as tournament director. “Being the first female tournament director, it was very important to me to earn the anglers’ respect. I believe I have done that by showing up and doing what I am supposed to do, as well as doing my job with passion and integrity. I am a fishing junkie at heart and love the aspect of competition as well, so this job is just the perfect fit for me.” Talmadge concluded.  

This story originally appeared in the Best on Tour newsletter. To sign up visit bestontour.net.