In the trenches: Lisa Talmadge

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James Overstreet

Ask Lisa Talmadge about what it takes to succeed as a woman in a man’s world, and you might be surprised at the response from the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament manager. 

“It takes gaining the pros’ respect, and I am always up for that challenge,” she said. “I really do like my job and holding my own in a man’s world.”

She does that well. Talmadge has 11 years of experience in tournament operations, and over time she has indeed gained respect from the anglers. What matters the most to Talmadge — gender aside — are her proven skills and experience as a valued B.A.S.S. employee.

Talmadge is responsible for event planning and assisting Tournament Director Trip Weldon with daily operations of the events. Attend the upcoming 2020 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, and you will find Weldon in the spotlight performing his weighmaster role. In the trenches will be Talmadge and the team responsible for making the Classic and the Elite Series events undeniably the best run in the sport.

Talmadge is quick to point out that she is not the only woman on the B.A.S.S. tournament staff. She is joined by Gretchen Sheppard, Dannette Jackson and Tanya Arnold. Her job title is tournament coordinator, while Jackson is tournament manager administration and Sheppard is senior tournament manager administration.

Through and through, fishing is her life and there couldn’t be a better fit for the job. Here is more about Talmadge, her job and why she loves fishing. 

Where are you from and what was your career background?

“I am from Albuquerque, N.M. I was a teacher.”

What inspired you to change careers?

“I joined a New Mexico B.A.S.S. Nation club and fished the club tournaments as a non-boater. More than a few times I beat the guys from the back of the boat. In fact, doing that I won a tournament and was the only woman at the time to do it. In 2004 I was named woman of the year.”

That was quite an achievement back then for a woman. What happened next?

“I stayed at our tournaments after they finished and helped out with breaking down the weigh-in. It grew on me, and I started thinking about a career in the fishing industry. I liked it. If it didn’t work out then I could always go back to teaching.”

What happened next?

“In 2005, I put my resume out there and was contacted by B.A.S.S. about a tournament position for what at the time was the Bassmaster Weekend Series. I accepted the job thinking I was just going to run some tournaments. Turned out, I was emcee, weighmaster, did scoring, enforced the rules, set up and break down, all of it. It was quite an eye-opener. Looking back, it was great experience for the future. I did that two years for B.A.S.S. and then three more for American Bass Anglers (ABA) when they took it over. After that ended, I did four years as a B.A.S.S. contract tournament assistant, more or less doing everything like I did for ABA. I had an opportunity for a full-time job with benefits and took it working for the Shimano Experience marketing and promotions program. I did that for three years. I really did miss B.A.S.S., though.”

What made you come back?

“Trip contacted me and said there was a full-time tournament manager position open, and he wanted me to come back. I didn’t hesitate to accept. It was a great opportunity to come back to B.A.S.S. and work with him and the staff.”

What do most like about your job?

“I am a tournament junkie, love everything about tournaments. I love going to the takeoffs and seeing the boats leave the dock. Just being part of the excitement and anticipation of what the day might bring for the anglers. When I think about people that sit at a desk job all day, and that’s all they do, it reminds me of how much I like my job. Every day is different. Every sunrise is different. It’s a fun job and a fun sport. It’s something that I love doing that I get to be part of.”

But you do have an office job. What do you do?

“I do the event planning by applying for the permits, ordering any supplies we need on-site, work with the event hosts about our needs at the venue. I also manage the volunteers and coordinate logistics with the service crews. We have a fleet of trucks and trailers, and I manage those too. I basically assist Trip with everything related to the planning side of an event, including the Classic. It’s a full-time job. I look forward in going out on the road (laughs).” 

Describe your work day at the tournaments.

“I continue managing all of the logistics and planning tasks that I do prior to the tournament. I manage the Marshal program, the contract tournament assistants and oversee the weigh-in set up. On tournament mornings I handle the takeoff, line up the boats, and then in the afternoon I manage everything behind the scenes while Trip is on stage. I try and take care of any issues that might come up and try and resolve them. I’m also Trip’s backup should he be unable to be there.”

What is the most challenging part of your job?

“Rules. Ours are very specific and get refined as the tournaments evolve. Even with all that in place, and ours are the standard in the sport, every situation is different. You always must make sure you are keeping decisions consistent and in the best interest of the integrity of the sport, be fair to the anglers, and for B.A.S.S.”

What do you most like about the travel?

“My tournament family. We all love what we do, and do it well. I know of no other job where your coworkers are like a family. We spend so much time away from home that it’s rewarding to be with them, work together and see the tournaments run successfully. Everyone is there to have fun, compete. It’s fishing. How could you not enjoy going to work on the water?"

Any travel quirks?

(Laughs). “I way overpack all the time and everyone gives me a hard time about it. But I’d rather be prepared for any kind of weather. When the guys see me with my bags they always laugh and ask if I’m moving somewhere.”

What do you like to do on down time?

“I like to be home and fish with my husband (Bryan), for fun and in couple’s tournaments around home in central and northeast Alabama.”

What is your personal best?

“A 10-pound, 2-ounce largemouth, caught on Lake Amistad, with a Yum Money Minnow swimbait.”

What do you most like about fishing?

“How peaceful it is. I’m a control freak, a classic Type A personality. So, my mind is always thinking about what I must do next. When I’m on the water, I don’t think at all about it. I’m just out there thinking about catching the next fish. I’m at peace. Just being on the water brings me peace.”