BENTON, Ky. (Oct. 16, 2002) - Karen Savik of St. Louis Park, Minn., finished 15th on the pro side of the EverStart Series Northern Division this season. More importantly, she earned a berth in the EverStart Series Championship, making her the first woman ever to qualify as a pro angler for an FLW Outdoors bass-fishing championship.
Savik put together a successful string of finishes in four qualifying tournaments, finishing as high as 20th at the Mississippi River tournament June 28 in Red Wing, Minn., and again on Lake Champlain July 26 in Ticonderoga, N.Y., to secure her spot in the EverStart Series Championship. She will fish against 149 other anglers for a top pro award of more than $60,000 in cash and prizes, including a Ranger boat powered by Yamaha or Evinrude. The event, which is to be held Nov. 6-9 on Lake Martin near Alexander City, Ala., boasts a $325,000 total purse.
"It's a head shaker," Savik said. "It's hard for me to believe."
Believe it or not, Savik will be a serious contender in this year's championship, and she says she got there by taking a different approach to her fishing. "This year, I've said I'm just going to go do what I do," said Savik, who started fishing the EverStart Series last season. "I said I would go enjoy it and just go fishing. I think maybe taking some of the pressure off myself has helped."
2002 has been a banner year for female anglers. Judy Israel of Clewiston, Fla., won the Co-angler Division of a Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League event in July and earned the distinction of being the fifth female angler in history to win an FLW Outdoors tournament. By qualifying for the championship, Savik takes her place next to Israel and other trailblazers like Wanda Rucker of Cocoa, Fla.; Renee Flesh Hensley of Edwardsburg, Mich.; Nobie Lebert of Brooklyn, Texas; Glenda Jackson of Las Vegas, Nev.; Beverly Little of Greensboro, N.C.; Tammie Muse of Little Rock, Ark.; and Shirley Crain of Van Buren, Ark., in the line of successful female anglers.
Although finding success as a pro angler is a path not forged by many women, Savik considers it par for the course. "Sometimes people shout, 'Karen, do it for the women,'" Savik said. "I don't think I'm doing this for all the women. I have a hard time doing it for me, let alone all the women! I have to forget that I'm a woman out there because it isn't an issue. You just get out there, and you just do it."
While Savik says she doesn't really consider herself a role model, she does hope that her efforts can inspire other female anglers to take charge and join the sport of competitive fishing. "Hopefully they'll see that women can compete in this," Savik said. "I don't think I'll make the difference, but if I do for just one woman, I'd be pretty happy. I sure would."
Competitive fishing is one of the few professional sports where women and men compete against one another on the same playing field, says Charlie Hoover, president and CEO of FLW Outdoors. "That's one of the great things about this sport," he said. "It's open to everyone. Men and women, people of all races and backgrounds, they all fish. There are no limits to the opportunities if you are dedicated and develop the right skills. Professional fishing is a fast-growing, big-money sport, and the doors are wide open."
Each year 14.3 million women fish for recreation, according to the National Sporting Goods Association. That's more than the number who participate in jogging, basketball, volleyball, softball, golf or tennis. Thirty-three percent of these female anglers fish for bass, making bass fishing the most popular type of fishing among women, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. Research also shows that fishing is the fastest-growing sport among the 10 most popular women's sports and recreation activities, with participation rising 10.8 percent between 1999 and 2000, according to the National Sporting Goods Association. Women spend $3 billion per year on fishing equipment and trip-related fishing expenses, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service.
Notable Accomplishments by Female Anglers
Wanda Rucker, Cocoa, Fla. - First woman to win an FLW Outdoors tournament, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League Gator Division, Lake Okeechobee, Fla., March 1, 1998.
Judy Israel, Clewiston, Fla. - First woman to qualify for a Wal-Mart FLW Tour final round, ninth-place co-angler, Lake Okeechobee, Fla., Jan. 29, 1999. Leading female money winner in FLW Tour history. Fifth woman to win an FLW Outdoors tournament, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League Northeast Division co-angler, Thousand Islands, N.Y., July 13, 2002.
Nobie Lebert, Brooklyn, Texas - First woman to win an EverStart Series tournament as a co-angler. Second woman to win an FLW Outdoors tournament, EverStart Series Central Division co-angler, Toledo Bend Reservoir, Texas, Feb. 13, 1999.
Tammie Muse, Little Rock, Ark. - Second woman to qualify for a Wal-Mart FLW Tour final round, ninth place co-angler, Wal-Mart FLW Tour, Lake Okeechobee, Fla., Jan. 26, 2001.
Beverly Little, Greensboro, N.C. - Highest finish for a woman in Wal-Mart FLW Tour history. Third woman to qualify for an FLW Tour final round, third-place co-angler, Wal-Mart FLW Tour, Pascagoula River, Miss., Feb. 16, 2001.
Shirley Crain, Van Buren, Ark. - Highest finish for a woman in the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Pro Division, 16th-place pro, Wal-Mart FLW Tour, Lake St. Clair, Mich., June 21, 2001.
Glenda Jackson, Las Vegas, Nev. - Third woman to win an FLW Outdoors tournament, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League Colorado River Division Super Tournament co-angler, Lake Mead, Ariz., Oct. 7, 2001.
Renee Hensley, Edwardsburg, Mich. - First woman to win a national bass-fishing championship. Fourth woman to win an FLW Outdoors tournament, EverStart Series Championship co-angler, Pickwick Lake, Ala., Nov. 9, 2001.
Karen Savik, St. Louis Park, Minn. - First woman to qualify for an FLW Outdoors championship as a pro. EverStart Series Championship, Lake Martin, Ala. Nov. 6-9, 2002.