Confessions of a Female Non-BoaterConfessions of a Female Non-Boater Here's a glimpse at tournament fishing from a woman's perspective.
There are a lot of great things about being a woman bass fisherman. (Fisherperson?) One of the best perks is that there is almost never a line at the ladies’ room at bass tournaments. One of the worst things is dealing with the problem of having to pee when you’re on the water. More on that later.
I started fishing tournaments with my husband decades ago, and we fished team tournaments. We joined a couples’ fishing club and we loved it. Couples’ tournaments are pretty relaxed -- half the time the wives would be sunbathing on the back deck while the husband fished, which paid off pretty well for us since we both fished the whole time. After the weigh-in and the payout, we’d all have a big potluck dinner and a super good time. This was a very small club and it was strictly for married couples, so the competition was friendly and the entry fees and checks were small.
The only problem with a club for married couples is that if several of the couples decide to get divorced, there goes the club. That’s what happened to our little club. My husband and I tried a different couples’ club, but it was not the same at all. A major difference was that the teams did not have to be married. This meant that local pros could grab any willing female and fish the tournaments, which meant that the rest of us were out of our league. It was pretty big, too, and very clique-y. Seriously, it was like junior high school all over again. So we decided what the heck, if we are going compete against the big guns we may as well go in head first.
For years we fished a big team circuit that had a couple’s option, and although we didn’t get a check every time, we did well enough to remain interested. Besides, the fishermen and the tournament staff were hilarious! We really enjoyed fishing that circuit and stayed with it for years. We made the championship tournament nearly every year, even without taking the couple’s spot. We never won it, but we sure had a good time.
All that fishing with my husband did not prepare me for the first time I fished as a non-boater in another guy’s boat. One day we got a phone call from a tournament director who was trying to fill non-boater spots on a tournament in our state. He said he’d comp our fees if we’d each fish as a non-boater. It was a two-day tournament on a slot lake, but we fished that lake a lot, so we agreed to fish.
I was paired with a local guy. He seemed really nice and he told me when and where to meet him in the morning. All was well. Then I met up with him in the morning. He had a brand new truck and was he ever proud of it. He went on and on about it as we headed for the ramp. There was just one problem. It was a stick.
Honestly, putting him into the water wasn’t too bad. I didn’t roll too far back when I was putting the clutch in, and the empty trailer didn’t drag me too far. But the ramp we were using was a typical Arizona boat ramp – LONG and a bit steep. This particular ramp had a long steep run into the water, then a fairly level area, then another steep but twisty bit of road to the main parking lot. It was when I went to pick him up that the trouble started.
My dad taught me how to drive a manual when I was a kid. The first time we came to a stop sign on an uphill slope I ended up having to park it and switch places with him. I mean, come on – the instant you take your foot off the brake and depress the clutch, you start rolling backwards! I couldn’t handle it. So you can imagine my stress when I had this guy’s brand new rig on that steep, wet and slippery ramp. To make matters worse, once the boat was on the trailer, fishermen started jumping into the back of the truck and even into the boat to get a ride up that long steep ramp. I somehow managed to get that truck started uphill and I only left about half his tires on the ramp. The smoke from the burning rubber was intense.
When I got to that little level spot, I decided I had had enough. He could just darn well get his rump out of the boat and drive his awesome rig the rest of the way up by himself. So I put it in neutral. And got out
Thank God my husband was one of the guys that had jumped in the back of the truck. He told me later that he just knew I was going to do what I did. As the rig full of people began to roll backwards toward the crowded ramp, I had visions of dozens of fatalities. I caught a glimpse of wild eyed men with open mouths. I froze. But my awesome, incredible, wonderful husband reached the door, smashed down the emergency brake, and saved a multitude of lives. My boater, God bless him, was more than generous: he didn’t choke me. I found him later and gave him all the cash I had on me for “gas money”. It was hours before the weakness and shaking in my legs eased up.
I have been an observer in many big championships, and that is a whole different thing. First, you don’t have to drive. One time we were way down south refereeing a tournament on a big river. I had never been down there before. My experience with forests in Arizona did not prepare me for this. In Arizona, we have pine forests. The trees are nicely spaced and the ground is pretty much open between them, with a nice carpet of pine needles to walk on. I took a look at the forest down there and wondered how in the world did pioneers got through this stuff.
The first time I had to “use the facilities”, I just asked the fisherman to put me ashore. No problem. But as the day progressed I began to notice things. Things like snake skins hanging from the tree branches on shore. Things like giant boars gnashing their fangs. My boater casually mentioned that he was going to pitch rather than flip, since the snakes around there were mostly cottonmouths and water moccasins, and they tended to drop from the trees into the boat. Really? At least OUR snakes have the courtesy to rattle at you before they kill you! After that I decided hell would freeze over before I would step foot out of that boat into that jungle again. From then on I just made a deal with my boaters – if they had to go, I’d look the other way, and vice versa. It takes some getting used to, believe me.
One time at a boat show I was chatting with some other lady bass anglers and we were telling stories about our experiences fishing with guys we weren’t married to. One of them had us all laughing because she said she always peed in a coffee can. One morning when she was loading her gear into her partner’s boat, she couldn’t find the can. She asked the boater if he had seen it, and he said, “Oh, yeah, I put it in with the lunches.” She never did tell him what it was for after that!
By now I have probably fished with 100 different guys and only once did I ever get paired up with one that wasn’t nice. Ninety-nine out of 100 bass fishermen are awesome guys. I’ve learned that if the boater doesn’t talk, neither do I. I’ve learned to settle the bathroom arrangements before we leave the dock. I’ve learned to ask about netting procedures before anyone catches a fish. I try to do whatever they ask no matter how hard it is.
I was in a lock with Dee Thomas one time and instead of tying on, he just had me hang onto one of the pipes on the wall of the lock. But hey, this was Dee Thomas. Of course half a dozen boats came along side him and hung on to his boat so they could talk to him. My arm about came out of the socket before we got out of that lock, but I hung on. Later at dinner he told his wife I was a, “Tough old broad.” I was pleased as punch!
The one time I had a miserable time on the boat was when I got paired up with a guy who thought women on the boat were bad luck. I have no idea why he didn’t ask to be re-assigned. Instead, he grumbled all day. He caught nothing but trash fish, and it was my fault. His one bass got off the hook and that was my fault too. I was a black cat. I was bad luck. He was really ticking me off. Man, that was a long day. But in all these years of bass fishing, this was the only bum ride I ever had. I think bass fishermen are the coolest dudes around.
The thing women need to understand about bass fishermen is when the men are on the decks of their boats, they have only one thing on their minds. A friend of mine went fishing with her husband soon after they were married. They were way up the river and there were plenty of trees around, so she stripped off every stitch of clothing and struck a pose. “Mikey,” she cooed in her most seductive voice. Her newlywed husband glanced back at his wife and growled, “Can’t you see I’m trying to fish here?” Ladies, that sums up everything you need to know about bass fishermen.
Better than a coffee can: http://www.go-girl.com
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