New Bass Fishing Circuit Draws Women
CELEBRATION, Fla. - While the newly created Women's Bassmaster Tour is luring first-time women anglers to compete in the five-event season in 2006, a few tried and true fishing professionals also have signed up to compete.
Well-known in the industry and masters of their abilities, anglers including Penny Berryman of Hot Springs, Ark., Judy Wong of Many, La., and Shelley Perry of Hurricane, W. Va., are matriarchs in women's bass fishing. All have captured national fishing titles and have carved out careers as fishing guides, seminar speakers and media personalities.
"The WBT is an amazing opportunity for all of us," said Berryman, 55, who co-hosted the Sportsmen's Challenge on ESPN in the early '90s and has appeared on more than 200 television shows, including guest stints on cable network programs and being interviewed for a History Channel program on bass fishing.
Even though she already is an accomplished angler and successful businesswoman, Wong - a fishing guide for 16 years in Texas - is looking to the Women's Bassmaster Tour for even more fortune. "The WBT is an opportunity like we've never had before," she said. "I like that I can compete against other women across the country while gaining exposure for my sponsors."
The top-ranking women on the tour will weigh-in on the same stage as the top Bassmaster Elite Series anglers on the final competition day. This, Wong said, offers the women a "built-in audience" to help grow awareness among their peers. Wong, in her 50s, actually traveled internationally to grow awareness, as she was a member of lure manufacturer Gary Yamamoto's "Bass Battalion," which visited American troops recovering from war injuries in Germany in 2003.
Wong's work, as well as the other womens', is in an effort to be both successful and bring more women into the sport.
"Women are underrepresented in this sport and I want the WBT to grow," said Perry, who has fished competitively since 1994 and holds fishing seminars, attends trade shows and makes personal appearances.
While Perry also has competed against men - she's fished in 13 BASS events - she said the camaraderie at women-only tournaments is unique and something not offered by BASS before. "This is my chosen career path and BASS and ESPN have lined it with solid concrete," she said.
All of the pros believe the Women's Bassmaster Tour also offers opportunities for up-and-comers just starting their fishing careers. "We who have been in competition for many years welcome women who love to fish and who are ready to test their skills," Berryman said. "You may be the next rising star."