It quickly becomes evident that the Founders’ focus when forming the American Lady Anglers (ALA) is doing on planning before execution. They know they’re not going to be able to anticipate every scenario, but they want to have contingency plans available. The website will carry the information as it becomes available. The Rules and Regulations of the ALA was first vetted and then posted on the website ahead of anything else. Their purpose was clear – to allow anyone to read them and decide whether or not to participate in an ALA event, and to clarify the expectations of the Tournament Directors when dealing with the registered contestants.
Perhaps the most amazing thing that has emerged during the build-up phase of these tournament trails is the spirit of cooperation that is clearly seen between all three entities. Everyone is working together to try to secure the future of fishing for the lady anglers, and in doing so; expand the options that the ladies have while enabling them all to fish together. No one wants to do anything that will impede the success of any of the tournament trails. That is a difficult job this first year, taking into account all of the differing schedules. As much as is humanly possible, Baker is trying to negotiate with the potential Host Cities for a date that does not infringe on any of the other ladies’ tournaments this year. In talking to the many potential host cities and juggling the possibilities, he has yet to settle on a date for the Inaugural Event of the American Lady Anglers, which he wants to be so successful that it will ensure the future of the ALA in the fishing world.
The first tournament for the ALA will be scheduled and put on the website as soon as the final contracts are signed with the host cities and the sponsors. Since Baker’s goal is to get the highest payouts possible with the lowest entry fees, it will be up to sponsors and host cities to provide prize money to fill in the gap between the money generated by entry fees and the prizes being offered. He would like to have higher cash payouts than seen historically by the ladies, and also more places being paid. In addition, Baker plans to have a lot more “fun” prizes available for any contestant. These include cash for first fish, biggest fish, most fish under limit, and smallest fish weighed in, etc. He is also negotiating for each host city to offer a prize package as a “Host City Gift”, to be available to any registered contestant. The final category being explored is the Sponsor prizes, which include everything from boosting the payouts across the board to individual prizes available to all entrants. Without divulging the contents of the negotiations, these prizes will be varying cash values, but in keeping with the Sponsor-oriented theme. With ALA tournaments enabling more ladies chances to defray their expenses, Baker hopes to attract more entrants to fish in all of his tournaments.
His true goal is to enable all ALA members the chance to defray the high cost of tournament fishing. In saying that, he is not exaggerating. He has been negotiating with host cities to give a much more substantial discount on lodging, food, and any and all expenses paid by the ladies fishing the ALA tour. Instead of taking the usual free hotel rooms offered only for tournament staff during the tour, Baker is trying to get a more substantial discount for all of the ladies. This includes those camping along with those staying in hotels, and doesn’t involve just one “host hotel”, since a single hotel cannot accommodate every angler’s needs. While one might like to be in the action, another might like to be off by herself. Some may have families that want to camp in a family-style park, while singles may want to stay where there is more action and activities off the water.
The final focus of the ALA planners involves increased media exposure for the ALA members. Beginning with ALA flyers advertising the website, the first goal is to let everyone know that the ALA exists. Then, the lady anglers should start choosing partners and discussing their teamwork plans. ALA Founders are hoping to encourage more local ladies where ALA events are scheduled to come out and fish the event. Making that a reality will involve much more publicity than ever associated with WBT events. Pre-tournament publicity will start 1-2 months prior to an event, with flyers. Internet, newspaper, radio, and television articles will follow, attempting to reach the widest audience possible. ALA staff and members will be giving interviews and appearing at media events at local schools, malls, grocery stores, and other venues, depending on sponsor desires and participation.
In addition to having a platform through which all ladies are welcome to fish, the ALA stress conservation and the future of female fishing. All ALA events are catch-and-release, in which the goal is to return 100% of the fish caught back healthy into native waters. In keeping with that goal, the ALA is partnering with the premier maker of Bio-chemical fish-care products, Sure-Life, to insure that all fish that are brought to the weigh-in alive will be returned back into their native waters alive and healthy. Sure-Life is the developer and supplier of the livewell additive Catch-and-Release, which the ALA recommends that all of its anglers use to help assure the health of their fish. Catch-and-release is the only livewell formula that prevents the spread of disease, combats stress, stimulates the immune response, and addresses water quality issues in a single formulation. In returning fish back into native waters using this formula in their live-release tanks, the ALA is helping local Parks and Wildlife efforts to improve their water quality and combat LMBV (Largemouth Bass Virus) and other diseases. The ALA is proud to announce that Sure-Life is the first sponsor company to commit to the ALA, and has contracted to supply all of the Bio-Chemical additives for the Live-Release and Holding Tanks used during the Weigh-Ins.
Plans are also being made to utilize the tournament’s pre-event publicity to educate future anglers and to help assure the future of ladies fishing together. The ALA is working together with potential Host Cities, along with local bass clubs and Bass Federation members, to pull together a media extravaganza in which the entire local school system is brought into the area’s Convention Center or Stadium, for a large seminar on female professional fishing. Boat parades, autograph signings, fishing and casting demonstrations, sponsor product giveaways, and audience participation are all part of the plan to get young anglers interested in and excited by the idea of fishing professionally themselves some day. Older teens will have a chance (with their parents’ permission), to participate not only in some of the live-action demonstrations, but to enter into a random drawing in which they will be able to be outfitted as a pro and fish as a team member in the ALA event.
ALA staff feels that implementation of all of these plans will help not only the current generation of lady anglers, but will help lady anglers of the future become interested in participating in the sport. He gets many calls wondering when the first tournament is going to be scheduled, and hopes to post that soon. Before that happens, however, he has a list of things that he feels necessary to the successful launch and continuation of a ladies team tournament trail. “If I had had about a year or two to put together an organization, recruit sponsors, and then negotiate contracts with potential host cities, I might have been able to pull it off a lot more quickly and efficiently. As it is, I began seriously thinking about it the second week in January, and by the third week, I had a website up. I consider that to be a step in the right direction.”
All three entities share the common love of the sport of bass fishing feel the need for a place where ladies can compete together on a level playing field. Although their approaches have been different fundamentally, they all show a willingness to work together, share information, and root for the success of the other team. Actually, that’s where the difference really is. There is no “other” team. There’s room for everybody in the world of women’s fishing to accommodate all three entities. All three are pulling for their own success and the success of the other two. It just goes to show that, when it comes to fishing, whether you call them the WBT, the WBD, or the WXYZ, when it comes to the ladies, they’re serious about their fishing. They want to fish together, and a successful ladies tournament trail means that everybody wins, no matter what the letters end up being.
By Terri Elkins, M.D.