by Ron Presley
Random memories from the first all-women catfishing tournament.
Forty-Five teams of all women anglers traveled from 18 states to compete on Lake Wheeler at Joe Wheeler State Park, Rogersville, AL. The April 6, 2019 Chick Fight event launched out of First Creek Boat Ramp as the first of its kind, all women catfish tournament.
Spirits were high and a good time was had by all as the ladies took to the water. The rules did allow a male on the boat, but only for driving the boat and handling the trolling motor. The female anglers did all the fishing. The tournament produced a lot of first-time achievements for many of the anglers as they admitted to learning many new skills.
“Chick Fight was great,” reported Julie Lovelace. “I took a few days off work to team up with Erin Dobbs and do a little catfishing. Everyone has their own fishing style, but I learned so much from the past few days.”
“The bite was rough,” continued Julie. We suspended, dragged forwards, dragged backwards, dragged sideways, used planer boards, spot-locked, and changed bait every hour. I know we were in the right place to catch fish because we marked fish and I had to re-do my lines 7 times from getting hung up in structure!”
“Erin and I came in 20th out of 45 boats,” concluded Julie. “We had a blast! Congratulations to all the winners and kudos to all of the women that were a part of this inaugural Chick Fight tournament.”
Joanna Reene and Amy Starnes partnered up for the Chick Fight having never known each other before. They fished similar styles back home so they planned their strategy together and carried it out.
Chick Fight was the first time I captained the boat during a tournament,” revealed Joanna. “And it was the first time my partner fished without her boyfriend. We spent the whole day laughing and telling stories.”
“The experience was less stressful with no man on the boat,” continued Joanna. “Because the man is typically the captain and most have a hard time stepping aside and letting us women make decisions or figure things out on our own. After it was just her and I on the boat it was like a giant weight was lifted and we were more relaxed and had a blast.”
“I love that Chick Fight is bringing women together and showing men that we can do more than they think,” concluded Joanna. “They just need to trust us a little. I hope next year more women will take the reins and try catfishing on their own.”
“I had the best time fishing the inaugural Chick Fight Tournament,” commented Lisa Hill. “There were several “firsts” for me on this trip to Wheeler Lake in Alabama. It was my first time as the team captain in a large tournament; it was the first time to race out as the driver at the start of the tournament with 45 other boats; and, it was the first time to run my boat at top speed.”
Shannelle Kline from Indiana also claimed many first-time achievements at the Chick Fight tournament. She was one of several mother/daughter teams. She fished with her daughter Kaitlyn and had nothing but praise for the tournament.
“This weekend was an absolutely amazing experience for Kaitlyn and myself,” reported Shannelle. “We accomplished so many things for the first time.”
Those firsts for Shannelle and Kaitlyn were firsts for other lady anglers too and one of the reasons that Chick Fight was good for the sport of catfishing. They included backing a trailer down with others coming in and out the ramp; grabbing the bait right out of the cooler; cutting up bait; baiting hooks; casting (and fixing bird nests after casts did not go so well); fixing lines that got snagged; and more.
“It was so much fun reeling, netting, and holding a beautiful blue cat with NO gloves needed,” continued Shannelle. “Chick Fight was a weekend that we are both so glad we decided to go out on a limb and give it a shot. We went into this tournament with the determination to at least catch one fish. We didn’t care about the size or weight, we just wanted to get our name on the board and that we did! And Kaitlyn reeled in her new PB 34.65-pound blue cat which landed us a 10th place finish out of 45 boats.”
“Kaitlyn and I would like to give a shout out to everyone that worked to put this tournament together,” concluded Shannelle. “And to all those others that supported and/or volunteered to help make this happen for all of us lady catfishers!”
Stories similar to Lisa’s and Shannelle’s were told by many of the participants regardless of the tough bite they experienced. Fishing conditions were not the best but that did not prevent the lady anglers from giving it their all and having a good time.
“It was one of the worst days in the history of Wheeler,” joked co-director Ann White. “There was no current and a 10-degree temperature rise overnight! But we had teams who knew how to catch fish and we are thrilled for them.”
Tyra Eger-Williams and her stepdaughter, Kate Walton was one of those teams that scored big. Fishing under the name of Team OUTTA LINE, Tyra and Kate made the long drive from Tiffin, Ohio to help make history. Their reward was catching the biggest fish of the tournament at 56.49 pounds.
Tyra and Kate also claimed the fifth spot in the tournament with a total weight of 63.68 pounds. That prize was their own sponsor’s rod rack which they donated to the second big fish winners, Tammy Strouth and Nina Johnson.
“I still can’t believe it!” said Tyra the week after Chick Fight. “It’s been over a week since Kate and I brought in the big fish at Chick Fight. That was only Kate’s third time catfishing. I prayed to just make it to weigh-in. And to bring in the biggest fish—well, I’m still in shock!”
“It was nail-biting,” concluded Tyra. “We were the first boat to weigh in and had to wait and see where we ended up. We’ll plan on making the drive from Ohio next year to wherever Melinda and Ann decide Chick Fight 2020 is going to be held.”
At the 2019 Catfish Conference Tim “Doc” Lange donated an entry to Chick Fight in honor of his wife Lynn Lange, a pioneer lady catfish angler. Nikki Ishcomer Pearson won the entry. That entry became the basis for the Catfish Weekly Team RigRap composed of Nikki and Hannah Ishcomer and Cindy Stokes who went on to win the event.
“We stuck it out till quitting time and it paid off,” concluded Nikki. “I really enjoyed myself, I will return next year if it doesn’t interfere with Cabela’s trail. As always, the Catfishing Christians give GOD the glory for the fish that was put in the boat.”
Cye Duley Pierce teamed up with Rose Thompson to fish the Chick Fight. Their skills and dedication landed them a second-place finish. Cye was recovering from a recent illness and hospital stay and the tournament served as healing therapy for her.
“Fishing the Chick Fight gave me the motivation I needed to keep going and working towards a goal after my hospitalization,” revealed Cye. “I couldn’t have done it without several people. But I want to specifically thank my husband, Rose Thompson, Hugh Thompson, and our sponsor, B’n’M Poles.”
These are just a few of the many memories made at Chick Fight. The skill levels ranged from “never fished before” to “qualified tournament anglers.” Now they are all tournament anglers with a vision for the future that will likely include more catfishing. The most relevant recollections relate to skills they were able to learn and practice. The most satisfying recollection was the independence of doing it on their own.