Texan Trait Crist has nothing against men. She actually dates one of them, namely Chris Zaldain, one of the Bassmaster Elite Series pros. That doesn’t mean she’s willing to sit back and let the male gender have the Elite Series and the Bassmaster Classic all to itself.
No woman has ever qualified for the Classic or the Elite Series by competing against men. Crist is determined to go where no woman has gone before via the Bassmaster Opens.
Crist was little more than a toddler when her grandmother and great aunt would strap her in a life vest and sit her on the end of a dock with a fishing pole. “Perch jerking” kept the youngster occupied while the women tended to other things.
“I started fishing with my dad in his bass boat when I was 5 or 6 years old,” Crist says.
Those early outings were typically for crappie. Crist’s father, Larry, was, and continues to be, an avid bass tournament angler. His tournament participation has been limited mainly to local events near home, which is Ft. Worth.
“My dad is a great fisherman,” Crist says. “But he owns his own business and never had time to fish tournaments across the country.”
It wasn’t long before Crist was bass fishing with her dad. Rather than buy a spin-casting outfit for his daughter–the first rod for many beginners–dad handed Crist one of his bass rods. All of them sported baitcasting reels.
Crist had no choice but to learn how to handle a baitcaster. It was sink or swim. She managed to stay afloat.
From kindergarten through 12th grade, Crist never fished a bass tournament with her father, although she was welcome to do so. That was due, in large part, to her participation in sports. She lettered in basketball, volleyball and golf.
It seemed destined that Crist would play basketball at the collegiate level. She surprised everyone when she enrolled at SMU and retired from sports.
“I decided I wanted to enjoy the social aspects of college life and concentrate on getting my degree,” Crist says.
After graduation, Crist worked for an investment firm in Dallas. It was during this phase that she began bass fishing with her father on weekends. As her skill improved, Crist started feeling confident in her ability.
“My dad told me it was time to put my money where my mouth is,” Crist says.
This prompted Crist to enter her first bass tournament in April of 2011. She and her father teamed up to compete in the longest running bass tournament in Texas, the Texas State Bass Tournament. It was at Toledo Bend, familiar waters.
“My dad let me go where I wanted to go and to fish the way I wanted to fish,” Crist says. “We finished in fourth place.”
That experience was love at first bite. It filled a competitive void that Crist had been missing since she stopped competing in high school sports. She knew that this was what she wanted to do with her life.
Last season, Crist competed in the Bassmaster Central Opens. She was still working at the investment firm. To make time for a more serious investment in bass fishing, she resigned from the firm and went to work for her father.
This year the 26-year-old is fishing the Bassmaster Central and Northern Opens. Next year she intends to fish all nine Bassmaster Open events.
Crist’s primary sponsor is her father’s company, Keystone Oilfield Fabrication. She is also supported by Strike King, G. Loomis, Shimano, Raymarine, Seaguar, Navionics and Rock & Roll Offroad.
“My dad loves that I’m fishing the Opens,” Crist says. “He’s getting to live his dream through me.”
Now that Crist is traveling and fishing across the country, she isn’t able to fish as often with her father. This saddens Crist, because she knows that her father would like to continue being her teacher.
However, now that Crist is fishing vastly different bass waters across the country, she’s had to learn new tactics. This includes finesse fishing with spinning tackle, something her father doesn’t do.
Papa Crist can take heart that his daughter inherited his bass fishing preferences. They include searching for dirty water, power fishing with baitcasting tackle and a heavy emphasis on flipping and pitching.
Whenever Crist can find dirty water, she has her favorite pitching rod in her hands. It consists of a G. Loomis NRX 854 rodand a Shimano Core 50MG7baitcasting reel filled with 17-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line knotted to a Strike King 3/8-ounce Bitsy Flip jig with a Rage Tail Craw trailer.
“I want to do it the right way, on my own… not relying on locals to feed me information or using my connections with the Elite guys for help,” Crist says.
“Just because I am a female doesn’t mean I want special treatment. I want to qualify for the Classic (and Elites) through the same avenue that the guys have to qualify for it. I want the fishing community to have a reason to respect me, not just because I’m a female but because I can really fish.”