Recognizing the Ladies and Youth of Catfishing
Mama mode kicked into action and a new supporter of lady and youth catfish anglers was created.
Fishing is in her blood. Jerri Gilchrist grew up on the water close to Wheeler Lake and the Tennessee River. She has fond memories of her youth and fishing with her family.
“My parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins would camp and fish,” recalled Jerri. “We would either be on Wheeler Lake, Pickwick Lake, or on extended family land. The adults would fish all night and fish with us youngsters for fun during the day.”
In the weeks that followed a fishing/camping event, the family would have a huge fish fry and get together.
“The adults would dance and make sure that we all had a wonderful time,” explained Jerri. “Those memories are some of the bests of my childhood. I never forgot the excitement of catching what I thought at the time, was a huge catfish.”
Her love of fishing would have a huge impact on her and her husband Robert Gilchrist. Their life’s adventure changed one day in 2021 by “happy accident.” Robert and Jerri pulled into Florence Harbor/McFarland Park for a day of fishing.
“Two young men were attempting to fish,” said Jerri. “One with a cane pole and the other with a spinning rod from the 1970s. We talked to them for just a bit and discovered just how excited they were about fishing. They were having such a good time despite the lack of modern gear; Robert gave them his.”
Jerri credits that brief encounter as the beginning of KatMama Industries (KMI) and led Jerri and Robert into a new side of the catfish tournament scene.
“Seeing the eyes and the smiles of those two-youth put the mama mode in motion,” acknowledged Jerri. “We funded KMI out of our pockets for almost all of 2021 until we launched the website to help us keep the product line moving.”
As 2021 progressed Jerri continued to observe lady anglers pulling in big fish and not being recognized except as part of the team. She and Robert started putting out some feelers about sponsoring a Lady Angler Award. The first tournament directors to respond were Cory and Chris Ramsey with Bama Blues.
“Cory and Chris welcomed us to the BAMA Blues Tournament with open arms,” informed Jeri. “The more time I spent at tournaments, the more impressed I became with the work these ladies put in. It’s a passion. It means something. They live to fish just as much as the men. We started giving Pink Packs at all of the BAMA Blues Tournaments and then a Prize Pack at the end of the season.”
KMI’s next delve into supporting tournaments was with the North Alabama Catfish Trail. Lisa Gail Haraway launched her new trail on January 29, 2022, with a mission to conduct a family-friendly tournament. It seemed like a perfect fit for KMI and a second relationship was established.
“Lisa made us feel like part of the family. Her experience as a Lady Angler and having won the Mississippi River Monsters continued to drive my desire to really focus on the Lady Angler Award being given across the catfishing community.”
Just like that first chance donation at McFarland Park, Jerri and Robert prefer to donate to youth in private. That way, they don’t expose anyone’s economic or family situation.
“Secondly, we don’t ever expect recognition for sharing what God has blessed us with,” added Jeri. “It’s all his anyway.”
“The youth anglers are the future of our sport. We need to keep them engaged and fishing. The importance of teaching them about conservation can’t be overstated. It will ensure that our sport continues long after we are gone.”
Although Jerri and Robert do most everything together, some family sickness and Jerri’s job prevent her from tournament fishing much. Robert fishes all North Alabama Catfish Trail tournaments and he fishes others as obligations allow. The couple fishes together for fun and they baitfish together before a tournament. She does however always try to make it to weigh-in where she supports the anglers and gives out the KMI awards.
“I don’t fish a tournament that we sponsor,” offered Jerri. “I don’t think it’s appropriate. When we fish together, it’s our date night or our weekend escape to get out on the water and see who can catch the biggest catfish.”
From that random act of kindness in McFarland Park, KMI has sponsored the Lady Angler for BAMA Blues and is now supporting North Alabama Catfish Trail. They have mailed door prize items to many other tournaments and charity events. More is yet to come.
“We have some big plans for our youth in 2023,” informed Jerri. “Next year is going to be huge for Lady Anglers and KatMama Industries plans to make it one they won’t forget. As our support continues to grow so will the cash payouts as we continue to push for recognition of the lady angler across the country.”
KatMama Industries returns all of the proceeds from their operations to lady and youth angler causes. Their mission is twofold.
1-PROMOTING lady anglers and helping them achieve their personal goals. Those personal goals may be as simple as learning to fish or maybe being the vessel captain and heading up their own tournament teams.
2-INVESTING in the future of the sport and the community. Helping children from all walks of life learn the world of catfishing. Helping them build relationships within the catfishing community. Equipping them, investing in their growth, and teaching them about safety, conservation, and the ethical use of our natural resources.
“KatMama Industries is a tool that helps us do on a larger scale what we couldn’t do from our salaries,” concluded Jerri. “We hope that we can give back as much as we have been given. We can’t do any of this without the anglers that continue to support our vision by purchasing from our website and at tournaments. We are deeply humbled to be part of such an amazing group of humans.”