Last weekend, Bain-Moore, a 28-year old angler from Australia, became the first woman to compete in the 39-year history of the Bassmaster Classic, the Super Bowl of pro bass fishing. The three-day tournament, which took place on Louisiana’s Red River, featured the top 37 anglers from the Bassmaster Elite Series, an 11-tournament circuit, plus qualifiers from other events.
Bain-Moore, who currently lives in Alabama, qualified as the 2008 angler of the year from the five-tournament Women’s Bassmaster Tour. A rookie on the WBT last year, she won the first tournament, finished no lower than sixth in the next three and won the season-ending WBT Championship to secure the year-end title and a place in history.
Women who have been fishing for 40-odd years and dreaming of the day when a sister could compete in the Bassmaster Classic celebrated Bain-Moore’s accomplishment. But many of the 50 male anglers she fished against in the Classic weren’t happy about her participation. They insist they have nothing personal against Bain-Moore; they just don’t think she deserved a shot at the $500,000 first prize. With the biggest names in pro fishing competing for a crown known to lead to lucrative endorsement deals and instant fame, it’s little wonder they didn’t want Bain-Moore crashing their party.
But bass fishing is an equal opportunity sport. The bass don’t know or care if it is Y or X at the end of the rod. Other than the toilet challenges women face, there’s no reason why one gender or another has an advantage.
Having infiltrated what has always been a good-old-boy network, Bain-Moore’s qualification for the Classic last October caused an instant media frenzy. Katie Couric with CBS Evening News, USA Today, Time Magazine, dozens of morning drive radio shows, major newspapers and about every outdoors magazine have begged for her time. At times she even had to have a security escort. Bodyguards for a bass angler?
Even though Bain-Moore went into the Classic a long-shot, the attention never waned. She had a tough first day, landing two bass weighing three pounds, six ounces. Unable to make the cut and move on, Bain-Moore watched Californian Skeet Reese, one of the few guys on the tour who supported her, win the contest. But just fishing the Classic makes each angler a winner and the career boost for Bain-Moore, and women’s fishing, is incalcuable.
The 39th Bassmaster Classic will forever be the defining moment when the world that will drive the next era of sportfishing became aware that there is serious interest in women’s angling. And Bain-Moore served as a more than able ambassador. She got to wave the flag for the ladies and after embracing the experience and the challenge we have no doubt, she’ll be back.
For a behind-the-scenes look at Bain-Moore’s Classic journey, check out her ESPN blog.