Gone Fishin' - Oct. 13, 1987

October 13, 1987                                                                  By Charlie Taylor


This past week was one of the highlights of my fishing career, as I had the opportunity to observe and participate in one of the classiest acts to have taken place in this area. The event was the 1987 Lady Bass Classic Showcase. This event can easily be called the women's Super Bowl of Bass Fishing.

During the course of 1987, the women members of Lady Bass, Inc. fish a number of tournaments held on lakes all across the country. Their standing in the final tournament results for each tournament nets each of them points. These points are used to determine the 33 contestants to be invited to the Classic Showcase.

In order to keep the competition totally fair to all parties, Priscilla Bailey, president of Lady Bass, Inc. set forth a number of rules. These rules included the prohibition of talking to anyone about the Potomac River, tidal waters or the upcoming Classic tournament. The only information that the ladies could obtain were published articles and the information provided by the Classic Showcase staff. Thirty three identical 18 foot Ranger Bass Boats were provided by the manufacturer for use by the ladies during the tournament. The boats were equipped with identical 150 horsepower Evinrude outboard motors, Minn Kota trolling motors and Humminbird electronics. Each of the suppliers had their factory teams on hand to handle any service problems that may have arisen. Fortunately, most of the factory team employees got to play cards and take in the sights of Washington during the tournament, as problems were almost non-existent with the furnished equipment.

One of the highlights of the tournament for this reporter, was the opportunity to accompany a different contender each day. This presented an ideal opportunity to get to know a lady professional bass angler a little better. It was also work, as I had to net the fish for my partner and this involved getting up and down more times than you can imagine. These girls catch fish and lots of them.

Wednesday was a practice day and I was allowed to accompany Shirley Prater of Glencoe, Alabama. She had picked an area in Washington Channel to fish and when blastoff occurred, she quickly put to rest any fears I might have had about her boat-handling ability, as she put the boat on plane and headed upriver at full speed.

Once we arrived in Washington Channel, she immediately took her life jacket off, dropped the trolling motor and showed that she could handle a rod and reel as well as she handled the boat. We started fishing with plastic worms and she asked me to shake off fish rather than setting the hook in them. This would help to keep them biting for the next three days, rather than having them develop lockjaw from have been stuck with a hook. We fished the dropoff adjacent to the eelgrass beds along the War College Wall and shook off fish after fish.

Shirley asked me what kind of fish was tugging on the tail of her worms, and I told her about the sea-run white perch that proliferate in the river. I then put on a small beetle-spin with which I normally take dozens of white perch per day. After casting the lure a dozen or more times, a small bass with sucicide on his mind latched onto the lure and headed for the grass. I had to land the fish in order to get the hook out of his mouth. This bass was only ten inches long, so I didn't hurt my partner's chances of catching keeper fish. I did, however, stop fishing that lure in case other bass had similar ideas for their demise.

In fishing with Shirley, I learned that she is a housewife with three children, has been fishing for 18 years and her largest bass was 10 pounds. She normally runs a Kingfisher boat, Evinrude motor and uses Micronar electronics. Her favorite lake is Lake Weiss and she has attracted quite a few sponsors. She finished third in the point standings for the year and I can easily understand why. This lady can teach a bunch of men a lot about fishing.

Thursday was the first day of competition and when it was announced that I would be paired with Linda Taylor, my immediate reaction was to wonder when my wife took up fishing. This Linda Taylor, however, hails from Tampa, Florida and had finished seventh overall on the tournament trail this year. She is a licensed practical nurse and fishes two weekends per month. She normally fishes the Winter Haven chain of lakes in her home state and was the top money-winner on the circuit in 1986. She has been fishing for nine years and her largest bass was 9.05 pounds, caught on Little Lake Henderson. She fishes from a Bass Nautique boat with a Mercury motor and uses Humminbird electronics.

This little girl also knew how to handle a boat, as the river was rolling with a three foot chop on it early in the morning. We headed downriver to the mouth of Piscataway Creek and stopped adjacent to a small hydrilla bed inside the downriver point. As she took the boat off plane, I started retrieving the plastic worm which had streamed out behind the boat on 100 or so yards of line when we hit a nice wave.

Linda started fishing a spinnerbait and alternated with a plastic worm, in and around the isolated clumps of hydrilla, off the edge of the main grass bed. She is one of the most patient anglers I have ever seen. We fished the beds for over six hours, during which time she landed 8 or 10 bass. Some of these did not measure the legal minimum limit of 12 inches and were thrown back. This did not deter her however, as she knew that the fish were there and we just had to wait for them to turn on.

She was not wrong as she weighed in 5.62 pounds of bass for the first day. Although this was not the largest stringer of the day, it was not bad for someone who had never fished the Potomac River or tidal water.

Genie (short for Virginia) Howard was my partner for the Friday competition and this was where I definitely got a workout. This gal is a professional angler who fishes 10 times a month in addition to taking care of a husband, two children and a house. Her favorite lake is Millwood in Arkansas. She has been fishing for 11 years and runs a Bass Cat boat with an Evinrude motor and Humminbird electronics. She finished 18th overall in the point standings for 1987.

She put the boat on plane and headed upriver. As we were running, she carried on a running conversation about the river and how many fish were in it. She also allowed as how many of the girls were not very pleased with the selection of the river when it was first announced, as they figured that there were not many fish to be caught. Their minds changed in a hurry when they had fished the river only one day.

Genie stopped the boat at the mouth of Little Hunting Creek just above Mount Vernon and pulled out a rod with a buzzbait tied on. She started casting toward the hydrilla beds along the shore, concentrating on the submerged vegetation 10 feet or more outside the edge of the visible beds. Within the first hour, she had a limit of fish in the livewell and I was already tired of netting fish. She did not give me any rest, however, as she continued to catch fish after fish. At one point, I got the net and put it in the water to land a keeper fish for her, when we both noticed a wake behind the fish. As we looked into the water, we saw two 5-7 pound striped bass hot on the tail of the two pound bass, trying their best to eat him. I netted the bass and put him in the livewell, releasing a smaller bass. As I turned around, I was immediately chastised (good-naturedly) by Genie for not netting the other two fish as well.

After a good while of catching fish of approximately the same size, Genie decided to move upriver to another spot where she had found larger fish in practice. We moved to the mouth of Broad Creek where she started casting the isolated clumps of milfoil and heteranthera with a buzz bait. The vegetation looked good enough to hold lots of fish, but the tide was not moving enough for them to be very aggressive.

I put on a Johnson Silver Minnow in gold and started casting to the thick hydrilla beds in the mouth of the creek. I immediately hung a two pound bass and brought it in the boat. My next cast resulted in another hookup. This fish, however, decided that he didn't want anything to do with the boat and jumped, landing in the middle of a clump of heteranthera. In trying to pull him out of the weeds, the fish got the hook out of his mouth and I quit fishing for the day.

Genie did not slow down however, and continued to catch fish until it was time to leave for the ramp and weigh-in.

Her limit of fish for that day weighed in at 7.62 pounds, putting her in ninth place for the day and 14th for the tournament.

Day three dawned overcast and chilly as the ladies prepared to launch their boats for their final chance. My partner for the day was Lynda Hawkins, a fellow Cajun Boats-sponsored angler. Lynda hails from Tavares, Florida and finished eleventh overall in the 1987 competition, after her 5th place finish on Sam Rayburn and her 8th place finish the Harris Chain competition. She has been fishing only three years and has come a long way. Her favorite waters are the Harris Chain of lakes in Florida and she fishes 180 days per year. She also works full-time selling advertising for Fish Finder Magazine, to support her habit. Three children take up a good amount of her time as well, but husband John is very understanding. Lynda runs a Cajun boat with Evinrude motor and Humminbird electronics.

This lady is a good representative of Lady Bass members all over the country. She is one of the most enthusiastic fishermen I have ever met. Casting at a rate of 100-120 casts per minute, she kept it up all day long. A lot of men would be very envious. She did not do as well as some of the others on the circuit on Saturday but she did weigh in three fish after culling a number of non-keepers.

The weigh-in on Saturday was one of the best organized event this writer has ever attended. Everything was on schedule and went off with only one hitch. The electronic scales decided to go on the blink at one point and Priscilla Bailey, President of Lady Bass, Inc., had to say a few words to them to get them to start up again. She didn't tell the spectators that she also wiggled the power cord a little, but the scales started working and the weigh-in continued.

Quite a few spectators showed up to watch the weigh-in and register for the 1988 Ranger Rawhide 15 foot bass that was given away. They watched and showed their respect for the catches registered by the contenders as the boats were brought to the scales on trailers and the participants took their fish out of the aerated livewells and placed them in plastic bags. The plastic bags of fish were taken to the weighmaster for measuring, weighing and determination of whether or not they would live after being turned loose in the river. When it is determined that a fish will not live after being returned to the river or that the fish is dead, the contestant is penalized two ounces for each such fish. This weight is subtracted from the total weighed-in for the day.

Each contestant watched the scales as her fish were weighed in and verified the weight by signing a weigh-in sheet. Her press observer was required to sign the same sheet, verifying that the rules were obeyed and he or she observed all fish being caught. After being weighed, all the fish were released into a large tank of river water, laced with chemicals designed to help the fish overcome the stress and shock of being caught, handled, jostled around in a livewell, etc. The fish were then netted by Maryland Department of Natural Resources employees and returned to the waters of Mattawoman Creek.

The suspense mounted as the contenders weighed-in, one after another. The crowd was waiting for Betty Haire, Fran Miller and Rachel Chesky as these were the leaders after the second day. As each of them weighed in, the standings changed. At last it became evident that the only two ladies who had a chance to beat Betty Haire of Charlotte, N.C. were Fran Miller and Mary Satterfield, of Windsor, Illinois. As Fran Miller came to the scales with her catch, we were told that she would have to have a total catch of 9.17 pounds to beat Betty. She did not have a great day, however, as her fish only tipped the scales at 4.48 pounds. This left the suspense so thick that you could cut it with a knife.

Everyone at the dock had seen Mary Satterfield catch two fish within sight of the boat ramp. The only question would be how heavy were the fish. Mary would have to have at least 9.65 pounds of fish to win this event.

As her boat was towed to the scales, the anticipation was thrilling. Mary reached into her livewell and brought forth a nice pound and a half bass. As she held it up, a cheer went up from the crowd. A second fish was removed and held up. This fish was a little smaller and a groan went through the crowd. The next dip in the livewell produced a two pound fish and the cheers started again. Mary then stuck both hands into the livewell and pulled up two plump tidal river bass of 2 1/2-3 pounds. The noise was deafening as the crowd applauded her catch.

The applause of the crowd however, does not determine the winner. The fish were turned over to the weighmaster who measured and weighed the fish. As the crowd held their breath, the weighmaster announced the weight as 9.72 pounds. The roar of the crowd was eclipsed by the sobs of Mary and her sister, who joined her on the stage for a good cry in front of the assembled crowd.

Mary Satterfield, of Windsor, Illinois, had become the 1987 Lady Bass Classic Champion by .12 pounds, in one of the closest finishes in bass fishing history. Mary is a professional fisherman and is supported wholeheartedly by her husband, Don. She has been fishing for 15 years and fishes 250-275 days per year. Her favorite lake is Lake Shelbyville and her largest fish was a seven pound bass taken from Lake Seminole. She runs a Ranger bass boat equipped with a Mercury motor and Humminbird electronics. Mary will be a great spokesman for the Lady Bass organization and is truly a champion.

After taking part in this event for the entire past week, I must at this point inform all readers of this paper that women are just as good fishermen as the men, maybe better. Each of these ladies were competent at boat handling, casting, playing the fish, exhibiting courtesy toward fellow competitors and other users of the river and obeying all the rules of the tournament trail. One of the more important lessons that I learned from these ladies was the fact that unlike most of their male counterparts, there was a spirit of comraderie among all of the women. Each of them had a couple of other ladies that were friends and they shared information with them. There was none of the standoffish attitude normally displayed by most tournament fishermen. Each of the ladies were truly gracious not only to outsiders, but among themselves. It was quite evident that they liked and respected each other a lot. They also only had the highest of opinions of Priscilla Bailey who runs the Lady Bass organization. The writer shares that opinion after a week of working with the organization. Everything that we, as working press members asked, was immediately forthcoming.

Look for Lady Bass to hold another national tournament on the Potomac River next year and look for this writer to be the first in line to observe the ladies in action.

Good Fishin.....