Lakecaster Online

The New Breed
By Ed Snyder

June 9, 2001, Lake Toledo Bend, TX.

Fishing the tail-end of a major tropical storm system which had just dumped some 20 plus inches of rain during its pass-over, the two anglers slowly idled their sleek bass-rig through the floatsum and flotsam of the storms aftermath as they searched for a winning bass pattern that could put some "serious" folding-money within their tackle packs. But these two anglers, who were braving the drenching adversities of Tropical Storm Allison, were not of the "rough cut" hardcore olde breed of male gendered anglers, but were two "dedicated" lady anglers from the new breed of bassers who're now fishing the "once" dominated all male circuits.

A high school girls basketball coach for 21 years with 4 years of Sam Houston college ball under the hoop, Cathy Hooks of Jasper TX, had been fishing and running boats all of her life but didn't start tournament fishing until 1989 when she met Ann Thomason Wilson, owner/proprietor of "Ann's Tackle Shop" in Jasper, TX. "Ann Thomason, Cathy informed, "Was, and is my mentor when it comes to gaining knowledge about the competitive blends of bass fishing tournaments. "Ann Thomason probably is the one person that I could pinpoint as being the most important contact for my success at becoming a bass tournament angler. "And the other most important person of credit is my team partner, and gal/pal, Nobie Jo LeBert of Sam Rayburn, TX..

A former supervisor for Gulf State Utilities in Beaumont TX, Nobie Jo LeBert has only been fishing for about 12 years now, but in that short span of time she has racked-up some very "impressive" multiple national wins with the Bass n'Gals circuit as well as "Angler of the Year" Titles from other bass fishing circuits. "Back in 1989, Nobie provided for my notebook, "My "now" husband, Bobby LeBert, called me to see if I could play hooky from work to go bass fishing with him on Lake Livingston, TX. "Then after calling my boss for a vacation day I slipped out of my high heels into my sneakers and changed my life forever. "As from that day on, Nobie advised with a widening grin, "I've been totally involved in the "healthy" outdoors lifestyle of fishing, and competitive bass tournaments.

"Her comments bears witness to this fact as we "rock & rolled" our way through the windy chop and shifting rains of Tropical Storm Allison's aftermath, with Nobie Jo and Cathy remarking of just how wonderful a day it was!........"Uh, Works for Me!?

Now that the bass tournament industry is coming full circle from its previous male dominated environment, with its competitive field now becoming peppered with the "other" gender. More and more female anglers are paying their entry fees to fish and compete against some of the best "male" bass anglers on the circuit. These "New Breed" of tournament anglers arrive from every walk and lifestyle as they discover the sheer joy and excitement of what competitive bass fishing can offer them in both, securing new and lasting friendships, as well as winning some "hefty" monetary rewards for their level of bass fishing expertise.

"After meeting my "bassin-hubby", Mike Wheatley, about a year ago, Cathy informed with a wink, "I've been spending all of my free-time guiding fishing trips on Lakes Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend with some side-trips down the Angelina River, and competing at local and regional bass tournaments. Although Mike & I get along great in, or out of the boat, we each go our separate ways when fishing the team tournaments as he has his chosen partners to fish with, and I have mine. "Here, here, voiced Nobie Jo, chiming in her response to Cathy's last statement. "Although we've known each other for a good while through our fishing interests, we've only been matched up as a bass-team since last March. "My husband, Bobby LeBert, Nobie stated, "who also fishes the bass tournament circuits, already had a team fishing partner, as did Cathy's hubby, Mike, "so Cathy and I decided to get together as a team to fish the same team circuits as our men were. "And our team-up has really been a blessing, smiled Cathy, as she explained about how her and Nobie Jo meshed together like Spring-time bass on June-bug jelly worms.

And for good reason too, as today involved them pre-fishing for the final Sealy Outdoors Toledo Team/Splash event for the 2001 season, which meant that they would "not only" be competing against their "bassin-hubbies" but would also be fishing against 146 all-male teams and one female-male-team, which meant that they would be the only all female team on the water. "This puts a lot of pressure on us fer-sure, Nobie Jo grinned, "But that is what bass tournament fishing is all about.

Nobie Jo LeBert isn't a new comer to the pressures of extreme competition as she has honed her fine tuned skills from years of fishing National, Regional, and local events, managing to claim along the way some "Angler of the Year" titles, "Bass nGal World Bass Classic honors, multiple wins and near-wins, "AND" who holds the National honor of being THE ONLY woman angler to win a National EverStart tournament as a Co-Boater who fished from the back of the boat.

"We have absolutely no problem with the male anglers at these events, Nobie and Cathy informed in unison, "As they have always treated us well. "Heck, they even share their information and interests with us at these tournaments. "And that is what makes these bass tournament events so enjoyable, Cathy expresses with a happy grin, "as it all comes down to "sharing" with your friends and having a good time. "And, Nobie alerts, "With a little luck you might even be able to come away from these tournaments with some real "folding-money" to help sooth your soul. "Besides, Cathy responded, "the men seem to be more apt to share in their fishing experiences, "And the money on the men's circuit is a lot better than what is being offered on the women's circuit, Nobie points out, "Which means a lot when you have those extra expenses of maintaining your bass boat and fishing equipment.

By expenses we are talking about the new, sleek $32,000 Skeeter/Yamaha bass-rig that Nobie Jo LeBert runs as being a member of the National Skeeter Boats Pro/Team, and the sharp, classy $30,000 Ranger/Mercury bass-rig that Cathy Hooks operates as being a member of the Reaction Lure and Cyclone Baits Pro/Team. Both lady anglers have an arsenal of quality rods and reels, which are necessary for their tournament style of fishing. "Tackle Boxes?", well, let me tell ya, if you lay all of there stuff out for view it would most likely resemble "inventory-day" at a major fishing tackle emporium. These bassin' gals are loaded with everything they might need to compete at any tournament event that may require different techniques for fishing different patterns to catch bass with. As Cathy puts it, "When my hubby goes to the tackle shop to buy a "hot" bait that he knows is catching bass, he'll always buy two of them. "And this is a good thing, Nobie advised, "As since we now have life-partners who enjoy doing the same things that we do we "share" a lot of our personal interests with each other, "which also makes for strong relationships, Cathy added.

"An open mind and closed mouth will put you into the learning curve, Cathy advises to those women who wish to try and become a competitive bass angler, "And the Pro/Am tournament events will eventually put you in the drivers seat at becoming a Pro/Angler. The now "happy" high-school coach, lady angler, and recent video star of Keith Warren's popular Fishing & Outdoor Adventures television program, went on to say. "The male gender may be a little stronger and have a little more stamina than us women, she advised with a gleam in her eye, "But when you are out on that water fishing a bass tournament it's just you against the bass and it just plain don't matter what your "plumbing" is!

With that last comment, my writer/photographer partnership with these two lady bass anglers would be postponed until the next day at the weigh-in for the Sealy Outdoors Team/Splash event at Cypress Bend Resort on the Louisiana shore of Lake Toledo Bend.

"Our tournament day started out with top-water's early, informed Nobie Jo LeBert, "with buzz-baits and chug-bugs, but they didn't pay off as we only caught a couple of little bass. We then decided to go to our main plan of fishing the edge of the green grass around the bank areas, mainly points, "Where we then caught our first two keepers by 7:30 am, Cathy Hooks added, further advising that their keeper bass were caught on black and blue Gary Yamamoto Senko's. We caught several short fish and finally caught another keeper around 9:30 am, Nobie Jo stated, "When we then moved out to deeper water and began fishing Carolina rigs out from where we had been catching the keeper bass. "That didn't seem to work so we began fishing mixed peppergrass with hydrilla patches mixed in but only caught short fish here. "These areas were in the mid lake areas not far from the Cypress Bend Resort tournament site.

"We then decided to run over to the Springhill Boat Lane to try another spot there where Cathy had been catching fish the previous week, Nobie Jo advised, "but the wind had picked up and the waves were too big to fish it like we needed to, so we went back to where we started and moved to a point that had a small patch of hydrilla in about 10 feet of water and fished it the rest of the time. "We managed to pick up two more keepers there in the last hour, along with a nice catfish, and several short bass while fishing redbug Senko's and some Texas rigged and Carolina rigged worms.

"Our strategy was to catch a limit and hopefully then get a "kicker", Cathy informed, stating that they figured they needed at least 12 pounds to have a chance at making the Sealy Team Championship but came up short. "Although we caught fish off and on all day long, advised Nobie Jo, "We just couldn't manage to get that "kicker bass" we needed to boost our weight up into the leader-board slots.

Even though these two fishin' gal/pals weren't able to make the Sealy Team/Splash Championship this year, they did however pit their skills up against the 293 men anglers who fished the same event. The girls managed to finish in a respectable 73rd position for their event with their 5 bass/9.44 lb catch and a very respectable 34th place overall. When I asked them if they planned to be back in the tournament line-up for the 2002 Sealy Outdoors Team/Splash circuit, a resounding "YOU BETCHA" was answered in team-unison.

Cathy Hooks and Nobie Jo LeBert are professional fishing guides who ply their trade on Lake Sam Rayburn and Lake Toledo Bend, with Cathy doing side trips on the scenic Angelina River below the Sam Rayburn Dam. Both gals specialize in bass and crappie trips and can be reached by calling Nobie Jo LeBert -(409)-698-9933 or Cathy Hooks at (409)-489-1816-

Nobie Jo & Cathy with a pretty impressive team catch

"The Team Tournament Line-Up" now shows women and men bass-teams working bass structure side by side
< photos by Ed Snyder >

Cathy & Nobie making a tournament run

Launching and recovery of high tech bass boats are "no problem" for these "new breed" of tournament anglers

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