Its official program name is “Ladies, Let's Go Fishing!” Founded and directed by Betty Bauman, it is the oldest and most successful continuous program of its kind, encouraging and educating new women anglers.
“Ladies, Let's Go Fishing!” recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, counting more than 9,000 graduates. It also reaches hundreds more women through virtual sessions and social networking. Moreover, there’s an important indirect impact of Bauman’s efforts. Surveys indicate each graduate will bring as many as three more people, or reactivate lapsed anglers, back to the sport.
“Years ago, I asked why weren’t more women fishing. The answers were eye-opening,” Bauman says. “Many women admitted they didn’t feel competent, were not properly coached on the use of equipment, or understood the teamwork requirements to react confidently and quickly. Above all, successful fishing takes teamwork.”
Bauman also recognizes that while women might attend a fishing seminar at a boat show or dealership, some might not feel comfortable asking questions. “Women aren’t about to stand up in an audience and ask a question or admit they’re not sure about this or that,” she says. “And there’s the often-encountered yelling aboard that can be a complete turnoff. There is a clear need to learn and understand what’s happening. That’s why we’re coined the ‘No Yelling School of Fishing,’ and we stress there are no stupid questions.”
A major attraction to "Ladies, Let's Go Fishing!” events is Bauman herself, though she always has a great supporting cast of professional captains/instructors. At the most recent session, dubbed Keys University and held in Tavernier, Fla., more than 40 aspiring women anglers came from as far away as Illinois and Maryland to learn best practices, get hands-on experience and improve their skills on the water.
Saturday's morning events began with classroom presentations on fishing basics by Capt. Lee Lavery, offshore fishing with Capt. Jeanne Towne, and inshore fishing discussions. Following lunch, the afternoon is all about hands-on fishing skills, including bait rigging, net casting, knot tying, spin casting and release techniques.
On Friday and Sunday, participants embark on offshore and inshore adventures. Each outing is followed by lessons, such as as filleting techniques. Fish caught included mahi, wahoo, sailfish, blackfin tuna, yellowtail snapper, mangrove snapper and sharks.
To heighten the excitement, the ladies also participate in their own Fishing Fever Tournament. Bauman says it’s designed for beginners who can win a prize in the tournament, even if it’s their first fish ever caught or released. The Offshore winner was Diane Odell of Cocoa Beach, Fla., with a 25-pound wahoo aboard Sea Horse with Capt. Rick Rodriguez. Second Place Offshore went to Robin Hinote of Avon Park, Fla., with a 14.5-pound mahi on Doghouse with Capt. Jesse Cromer.
The Inshore winner was Dawn Miller of Punta Gorda, Fla., with a 32-inch snook on Capt. Chris Hanson’s Scales 2 Tales. Second place Inshore was a tie between Julie Mayer of Taneytown, Md., with a 30-inch redfish and Dawn Miller of Punta Gorda, with 30-inch snook. The Top Junior Angler was Anabelle Goulart of Belle Isle, Fla., with a blackfin tuna.
When it comes to increasing women’s participation in fishing, Bauman has been a pioneer. While there are now packaged fishing programs boat dealers can use with their customers, the “Ladies, Let's Go Fishing!” is the industry leader.
The sessions have been featured on network television and are supported by such partners as Freedom Boat Club, ICOM, CCA Florida STAR, Bob’s Machine Shop, AFTCO, Costa, Smith Optics, Frogg Toggs, Hubbards Marina, Star Brite and the Future Angler Foundation.
Other sponsors include the Recreational Fishing and Boating Foundation, Take Me Fishing, Vamos a Pescar, Mercury Marine, Magic Tilt Trailers, Shearwater Boats, Power-Pole, Penn, TACO Metals, Lowrance and Fish Florida. Local sponsors include Breezy Palms Resort, Seaside Glass Works and the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.
For more information or to become a sponsor, email firstname.lastname@example.org.