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Women learn to fish on their own

By TERRY TOMALIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 27, 2000


Betty Bauman was sitting in the audience at a marine industry trade show when the speaker made what she thought was a startling statement.

"He said women make up half of the general population, but less than one-third of the fishermen in this country," she recalled. "So I thought to myself, "Wow ... what an untapped market.' "

Bauman, a marketer by trade, did some research and discovered it wasn't that women did not like to fish, but most simply did not know how.

"I went to a couple of seminars and didn't understand anything they were saying," Bauman said. "They were using a language that was foreign to me -- swivels, planers, downriggers -- and I was too embarrassed to raise my hand and ask a question."

So Bauman decided there had to be an easier way.

"I'm just your everyday angler who likes to catch fish," she said. "But I always had a guy adjusting the drag and handing me the rod. I would just reel. I wanted to do it all myself."

The answer was to learn the sport from A to Z. And that meant everything from castnetting bait to backing the trailer at the boat ramp.

"You have to do it all," Bauman said. "But you don't need somebody yelling in your ear while you are trying to learn how to do it."

And thus was born "Ladies, Let's Go Fishing!" also known as the "No-Yelling School of Fishing."

The traveling seminar series, which stops Nov. 4-5 in St. Petersburg, features two days of hands-on instruction. Students cover everything from spin-casting to marine conservation.

"When we held our first seminar five years ago, we expected maybe 40 people," Bauman said. "More than 80 showed up, and we didn't know what to do."

Bauman didn't want a repeat of her first seminar, where she was one of 400 people standing in front of one instructor.

"If you want to learn, you need personalized attention," she said. "That is why we keep our classes small, so the students can work with the instructors one on one."

The school, with support from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Sportfish Restoration Program, has grown steadily. Bauman and her students recently were featured on CBS' The Early Show with Bryant Gumble and in USA Today.

"The response has just been phenomenal," she said. "There are a lot of women out there who want to fish. They just don't know how to get started."

On the first day, the students learn the basics -- knot tying, tackle, etc. -- but they also get some practical instruction on how to land fish by gaffing grapefruit and reeling against a swimmer to learn how to apply pressure to a big fish.

On the second day, students hit the water for a half-day trip with local guides, followed by instruction on how to fillet and cook their catch.

"Our students love the fishing adventure," Bauman said. "They can apply the skills they have learned without the scrutiny of a husband or boyfriend."

With the fishing industry experiencing a downward trend in participation, Bauman said manufacturers are lining up to support the "Ladies Let's Go Fishing!" concept.

"This is a whole new market for them," she said. "Women could just be the force to help turn the sport around."

* * *

"Ladies, Let's Go Fishing!" two-day saltwater fishing seminar for women, Nov. 4-5, Tierra Verde Resort, $95 registration plus fishing adventure fees from $12 to $95. Call (888) 321-5543, or see http://www.ladiesletsgofishing.com.

Top 10 reasons why women say they don't fish:

1. Husband doesn't have patience to teach fishing skills.

2. Tackle shops don't respect female customers.

3. Don't have knowledgeable fishing buddies.

4. Guys won't take them fishing.

5. They get stuck driving the boats while everyone else fishes.

6. Too early in the morning.

7. Don't have a boat.

8. Seasickness.

9. Nobody to learn from.

10. No babysitter for the kids.

Source: Ladies, Let's Go Fishing

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