The Lady Bass Anglers Association (LBAA) was created with the goal of having a professional tournament trail for women. Its mission is to provide women with an opportunity to fish professionally, to grow the sport of bass fishing and to build a program that will allow future generations of young ladies with more opportunities to compete in the sport of bass fishing. The organization was founded in 2010 by Secret York and Cheryl Bowden.
Sports Destination Management: We’ve covered a lot of fishing tournament trails, including those for children, high school and college students – but we have not yet covered one specifically for women. How did the Lady Bass Anglers Association get started?
Cheryl Bowden: The LBAA started in 2010 after a previous organization dropped the women's fishing side of their organization. We met in Kentucky for a "farewell" tournament in May of 2010 and we knew there was interest in operating a women's tournament trail. When all was said and done, the group asked, "Why don't you guys run it? You organized this one." Secret and I looked at one another. Secret said, "I'm game if you are!”
We started our first full season in 2011, averaging between 28-32 boats per event. Our events are pro/co events or boater/non-boater. Anglers register and are randomly paired on each day of the event. Regular season events are two day events with anglers earning points toward the title of Angler of the Year. Our season culminates with the Lady Bass Classic each fall. This is a three-day event with the top anglers from the Angler of the Year race and others through wildcard opportunities. We just finished our 10th season in 2020.
SDM: What is the LBAA season like?
Bowden: We provide four events per year with anglers paying to enter as boaters or co-anglers. Anglers are fishing for cash, prizes, contingency money and points toward the Angler of the Year title and Lady Bass Classic. Our final regular season event is a wildcard event. It offers additional opportunities for anglers to qualify for the Lady Bass Classic.
Anglers can qualify for the Lady Bass Classic in several ways. 1) Win the previous year's Lady Bass Classic and fish all of the current year’s events. 2) Win any event and fish the remainder of the year. 3) Be one of the top two finishing anglers at the Wildcard not already qualified by AOY points and finally 4) All anglers who fished every event during the season but have not qualified by any other means go into a drawing for one boater and one co-angler.
We also have regional federations who can qualify one boater and one co-angler to the classic through their own means.
SDM: Is participation up or down?
Bowden: We currently have 150 members in the LBAA. Our tournaments have been ranging from 23-29 boats per event in recent years. There tend to be more co-anglers who register for events than we have boats available.
SDM: Obviously, there are far fewer women on the water than men. What do you think are some of the obstacles for women in competitive fishing?
Bowden: It’s difficult; at LBAA, we’ve have had a couple of down years when we were struggling to get more than 20 boats in the water at tournaments. There’s a lot of competition out there. There are couples tournaments and that has taken our numbers down as well. There’s also no denying that you have problems because of the traditional family roles; in the vast majority of households, if there’s a bass boat, the husband is not going to be the one at home watching the kids while the wife is out fishing.
SDM: Does that change as people age?
Bowden: I wish it did. When women are younger, say, in their thirties, they are raising their families and they are often not as secure in their careers and they can’t take a lot of time off to devote to competitive fishing. You don’t get a lot of vacation and you might be trying to use that to spend time with your family. Then, we’re also seeing many women starting to reach retirement age and their parents are becoming elderly. In those cases, it’s the woman who usually assumes the role of caretaker. Either way, it’s hard to carve out time to fish.
SDM: Something we’ve seen is more people discovering, or rediscovering, fishing in the pandemic. Do you think women are part of that or do you think they’ve been struggling to take care of kids who are learning from home?
Bowden: It’s a difficult question. I think more people are fishing; we know families are getting outside more, and we know they can’t manufacture boats fast enough to keep up with the demand. At the same time, I’ve also seen statistics that many of the jobs lost in the pandemic have been women’s jobs so a lot of women are out actively looking for jobs.
SDM: Do you see LBAA starting a kayak tournament or expanding to tournaments for other species of fish?
Bowden: We’d love to expand and have more opportunities for people to fish but we have a small staff so we’re limited in what we can do right now. We’re always talking about what we’d love to do if we had the money.
SDM: Obviously, your demographic is female but are you seeing other trends?
Bowden: Our membership represents 25 states. The majority of those anglers are from Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Alabama, North and South Carolina. Most of our competing ladies are 40 years and up through retirement. We do have some younger anglers who fish as co-anglers. We have several African American and Hispanic anglers, but the majority are Caucasian.
SDM: Are you making changes to events?
Bowden: We would like to try to do weigh-ins on Facebook Live or YouTube Live. I think of the two, Facebook Live is easier; it takes less bandwidth and people are familiar with how it works.
SDM: What is the economic impact of an LBAA event?
Bowden: When we speak to cities, we are honest about what we bring to the table. One of our recent locations reported an economic impact of just under $80,000. This was reported to the city by the local businesses.
SDM: How do you go about choosing locations for tournaments?
Bowden: Locations for our events depend on several things. Every effort is made to balance out the travel for the anglers who are located in Texas and Louisiana and our East and Northeastern states. So typically, at least one tournament will be East and one West with other events in between in states such as Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama.
It also depends on the cities. Our anglers play a huge role in where we fish. Having an angler that is local or in the general vicinity helps with working through things that a phone call or e-mail simply will not handle. We also regularly have cities, counties, or city representatives invite us to come to their locations. So location and local funding play very important roles. We also want to fish quality lakes during the most optimum fishing conditions if at all possible.
SDM: How should cities submit a bid or express interest in hosting an event on the tournament trail?
Bowden: Secret York is the primary contact for cities; she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org