Fish America: Women on the Water

In Virginia Beach I had the opportunity to fish with Dr. Julie Ball (pictured here). Julie holds more world line-class records than I could ever aspire to attain.

In the small town of Del Rio, Texas, Judy and her husband Tim Reneau have built and expanded a rod company from the ground up in five years, and they now sell 26 casting and two spinning rods, and are getting into the lure-making business this winter.

In Maryland I fished with commercial striper fisherman, Mike Benjamin. It was July, and over 100 degrees, and we spent more than 14 hours on the water. Although I found myself passed out more than once while running between fishing destinations, Mike’s mom, who opened a tackle shop in Maryland with her husband at the age of 19, never slowed down the whole day, catching, tagging and boxing stripers steadily.

Then there was Ashley Day, a 22-year old aspiring writer who fought through seasickness to take advantage of a bluefish blitz in the name of journalistic inquiry off the coast of New Jersey.

There is no shortage of literature out there heralding the everlasting bond that can be forged between father and son on the water, nor any shortage of testosterone flowing through the fishing industry.

But a little research has revealed that it doesn’t take a Y chromosome to catch fish. Nope, not even the really big ones. I’m sure I’ll encounter more women that can fish circles around me before Fish America is done, but the ones I’ve had the pleasure to fish with have reminded me that the women in our sport are largely an unsung entity.

And while Dr. Ball and anglers like her serve as role models for getting more women on the water, I suspect that perhaps the greatest contribution women make comes without even landing a fish and goes largely unseen. Like that of the bank manager that, for some reason known only to her, put a career, Denver, Florida and Long Island in her rearview mirror to drag a whining kid that never tired of fishing, at ridiculous hours of the morning and in all weather, to ponds, lakes and rivers around Utica, New York and ordered countless Christmas presents out of Bass Pro catalogs.

(Happy Birthday Mom.)