Lakecaster Online

Of Bass & Gals
By: Sue Crochet

Wow! It's so hard to believe that half this year is gone already! At our house, we're already practicing our bow shooting for deer season and making early preparations at the lease (clearing lanes, getting the camp cleaned up, repairing stands, etc.). Although summer hasn't been nearly as blistering as last year (so far), I find myself looking forward to the cooler weather months more and more each year. Never thought it would happen, but hunting is getting into my blood!

Anyway, it's not hunting season yet, so let's talk about fishing. In May, our Lake Area Lady Anglers put up their best fight ever in the annual Louisiana Top Six event by weighing in a two-day total of over 30#. Although this weight didn't make the money, this was their best showing over the past three years that they've fished in this event, so I think they deserve a round of applause for hanging tough. This year's team members included yours truly, Sue Crochet, Colleen Mitchell, Margaret West, Laura Moore, Debbie Doyal, Mary Jane Granger and Alternate, Linda Dowden and Barbara Williams.

May was a busy month for our lady anglers. The Women's Bass Fishing Assoc. (WBFA) held their "Beauty & The Bass" Pro-Am event on Toledo Bend during the week of May 14th. Out of the 47 Pros and 26 Amateurs, there were six (6) of our Lake Area Lady Anglers competing in this prestigious event. These included yours truly again, Sue Crochet, Debbie Doyal, Sharron Stone, Liz Lewis, Margaret West and Jennifer Lesperance.

These 73 anglers converged on the vast timber-strewn waters of T-Bend for five extremely windy days of fishing. From the first day of practice, which was immediately preceded by a late spring cool front, until the final tournament day, temperatures and wind directions went full circle. However, nearly everyone you spoke with was catching fish, as was evidenced at weigh-in on each tournament day.

Winner of this event was Janice Cheek of LeCompte, Louisiana, a seasoned Pro who has made the professional women's tour stand up and take notice by winning her second national event in as many months. In April, she also won the WBFA's South Carolina Pro-Am event on Santee-Cooper. Cheek, who started her professional bass angling career on the Bass 'N Gal tour in 1977 has had a long dry spell since joining the WBFA Tour in 1997, but it looks like her hard work and patience are finally paying off ... again.

During her long career with Bass 'N Gal, she was never able to capture a national title. Then the Lady Bass national women's tour was formed several years after Bass 'N Gal and Janice was able to create quite a name for herself in the professional angling world. In 1986, she won the Lady Bass Classic on Lake Chicamauga, TN and in 1988, she won the Lady Bass Sam Rayburn, TX invitational. During the 1991 season, she "sacked" three tournaments in a row, which earned her the title of "Angler of the Year" that year, and again in 1992.

Five long days on a trolling motor, fighting strong winds and 4-5 foot rollers, are harder on the body than most people who don't fish can imagine. However, most of the anglers who caught fish in the May, 2001 Toledo Bend event agreed that if you weren't in the wind, you weren't likely to catch many fish. Although I didn't get a chance to actually interview many of the anglers, I learned just from speaking to our club members and other friends that main lake grass beds, points, and drops were where most of the better fish were holding ... as long as they were in the wind.

Similarly, they spoke of catching the majority of their fish in five foot depths or less and, although many fish were caught on a variety of lures, the predominant method used for bringing in the winning stringers was either Texas-rigged or Carolina-rigged plastics (lizards, soft jerk baits and tubes). Just a couple of weeks before, in the Louisiana Top Six, I caught a lot of fish on a light Carolina-rigged watermelonseed Fluke, fished slowly in sparse grass. For me, this proved to be my most successful method of catching fish in this event, as well.

Toledo Bend was the second-to-last qualifying event for the 2001 Championship, which is to be held on the Red River out of the Alexandria and Pineville, LA areas in August. The next and final stop on this year's tour is Lake Eufala, AL during the week of June 24th. Willie Cook, founder and Director of the WBFA, states, "This is the only women's tournament trail of its type in the country today. We are a very family oriented organization and are very proud and grateful for the ladies and sponsors who support us."

I can tell you from personal experience that you'll never meet anyone more willing to go that extra mile (and already has) for lady anglers and the WBFA tour. Despite bad publicity, malicious rumors and seemingly insurmountable odds, as well as deep personal loss, Willie and Carole Cook have maintained a firm stance. If you have never had the opportunity to fish in one of their events, either as a Pro or Amateur, I suggest that you give it a try ... just once. Just visit their web site at www.wbfatour.com for any information you might need regarding the entire year's tournament schedule, updates from previous events, tournament rules, affiliate club information, etc. I promise you won't regret it.

As for Janice Cheek, she tells me that she's ready to win that third tournament in a row if Eufala will cooperate. One thing's for sure, I know she'll have the support of her entire family. Billy, Janice's husband, travels with her to the tournaments, which she says is a great help. Her youngest daughter, Nikki, is now fishing as an Amateur on the WBFA tour and traveling with them. As a matter of fact, Janice says, "The only reason we can continue to do this (travel to tournaments) is because our son, Shane, takes care of our catfish farm and monogramming businesses when we're gone. We probably don't say it often enough, but we couldn't do it without him."

I ended my interview with Janice by asking her if there was anything else she'd like to share with our lady angler readers and this is what she had to say. "Learning to bass fish, how to handle my own equipment, how to prepare for a tournament and many other things that go along with fishing on the national tour, have given me more self-confidence and made me more competitive than I had ever hoped or expected. This has helped me in so many other areas of my life. I will be eternally grateful for the opportunity to be involved in this sport. Special thanks to Bass 'N Gal (Bob & Sugar Ferris) for getting the whole thing started."

What a champion! Congratulations, Janice!

Back to Lakecaster Online contents