CHERYL BOWDEN TALKS LADY BASS ANGLING- PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE
Editor: iBass360 is a supporter of the Lady Bass Angler Association and its anglers. We had the good fortune to catch up with one of its founders, Cheryl Bowden, to learn more about the origins and future plans of this leading tournament series for women bass anglers. Cheryl, a Texas native, is a teacher, coach, and high school sport advocate by profession, and she has been a part of the women’s bass tournament fishing scene for a long time. We deeply appreciate her taking
time to talk to us about her passion.
iBass360: Let’s start with your fishing background. How did bass fishing become your passion?
Cheryl: I have fished all my life, but after a friend asked me to go on a guided trip, a serious bass catching trip, I wanted more. That led to me buying my first boat and soon after trading up to my first bass boat. At that point, I was all in.
iBass360: How and when did you make the transition from fun fisherman to tournament angler? Who influenced you?
Cheryl: I have always been a competitive person, having played a lot of sports. So, after joining a local club and talking to a guide about his fishing- I had coached his daughters many years earlier- I decided to try fishing tournaments as a co-angler. I thought this was a good way to learn given that I was limited as to how much time I had to practice because I was a classroom teacher. But it did not take long to realize that the bug to do more was there and would not be silent.
iBass360: When did the seed get planted to take you from someone else’s tournament series to organizing your own?
Cheryl: It wasn't something we planned. The WBT was the women’s arm of B.A.S.S. and a lot of serious women anglers had found a home in that series. Then, out of the blue, it was canceled without any real explanation. At the time, a lot of folks I knew were talking about starting another
series. Some were serious, some just talk. But Secret York and I talked seriously and decided to set up a sort of “farewell tournament” for those of us who had been fishing together for a while in series like the National Bass N gals, the Women’s Bass Fishing Association and of course the Women’s Bassmaster Tour. We decided on Kentucky Lake as a site, and then collected information from various parties who had interest in starting a tour. We shared it with the ladies who came to fish the Kentucky event. We paused and gave the ladies time to talk in groups, ask their questions, and share their opinions. We spent a lot of time listening. They generally liked what we planned, and their most interesting question was, why don’t Secret and I just run a series. We pulled off the Kentucky event, and with that, we realized we could do more. We looked at one another, Secret said I am game if you are and I said sure why not.
iBass360: What was your original vision for the LBAA? How have you been able to stay true to that vision and where have you modified the vision?
Cheryl: The original vision was and still is to provide ladies with a tournament trail that allows them to share their passion with likeminded women and to provide a place to inspire and grow the lady anglers of future generations.
iBass360: What were the primary challenges you faced in starting the LBAA?
Cheryl: We were experienced tournament trail coordinators, so, everything we did was a learning experience. Sometimes big learning experiences. We made some mistakes and needed a lot of luck, but we just kept moving forward.
iBass360: The trail of Women’s tournament angling at the pro level has been very bumpy to say the least. Why do you think that, despite the success of Penny Berryman and Chris Houston, it has been such a struggle to catch on?
Cheryl: These are great questions! Those ladies were amazing anglers. Back in the day, the economics of the home were often based upon one breadwinner. Back then boats were not so incredibly expensive as they are today. Many women had husbands who wanted to be supportive of their wives having an opportunity and many women were not the kind to sit on the shore while the husbands had all the fun. But there were certain realities in the need to raise kids, and before too long, the need for both spouses to work. This made it difficult for the younger women to be away from home for all the practices, tournaments, and sponsor requirements. Sponsors also understood that and their here today gone tomorrow commitment reflected that. So, there were a lot of ups and downs. Notice today the women who fish generally don’t have small children, and often they have gotten to a point in their life where their home
economics are more stable. It can be said that many lady anglers are beginning their tournament careers at an age when many men are ending theirs.
iBass360: How did you go about recruiting women to join the tour?
Cheryl: In the early days, it was word of mouth supplemented by email and the occasional print media article. We hit the trade shows and handed out a lot of pamphlets. Today that has been supplemented by social media as many anglers use Facebook, Instagram etc. to spread the news about our tour.
iBass360: Why do you think growth for the LBAA has come slowly and why do you think more women have not embraced tournament angling?
Cheryl: Many don’t realize it, but this is an expensive sport. To have a boat and a good tow vehicle, you are pushing $100,000 or more. Young anglers don't have that kind of money, especially those that are raising kids. Younger women also don't have the vacation time to be off a week leading up to each tournament as well as the time needed for other sponsor obligations. Older women anglers often end up taking care of elderly parents. Look around, you don't often see husbands being the primary for taking care of the kids or the ones caring for aging parents.
For women, their significant others often fish, so when it comes to competition, team and couple tournaments are generally an easier and less expensive way of scratching the competitive itch.
iBass360: What are your plans to expand in terms of participation and in terms of visibility in the fishing community?
Cheryl: We would love to do more YouTube videos. We seem to get more exposure from those than other medium. We have folks requesting to watch the weigh-ins live so if we can find ways to do Facebook Live and YouTube Live it would be a benefit. We have started publishing a digital magazine and that has been well received.
iBass360: Who are the people you thank every day for their dedication to the LBAA and its growth? What do you think they see that others haven’t?
Cheryl: Our anglers are very supportive and dedicated. Sponsors are also in the mix on this. Our
biggest hurdle is that people just don't know that we exist. That’s the number one thing we work on.
iBass360: I have lived in the north most of my life, how does the LBAA view their potential in the north and what plans do you have to grow In the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast?
Cheryl: We would love to expand to other areas. That is why we started the option of Federations in regions. Anglers can connect with the LBAA and run a series in their region to keep travel and expenses down. Our Federation tours, like the WBT in Texas/Louisiana/ Mississippi, are like the B.A.S.S. Opens offering anglers the opportunity to qualify to fish the Lady Bass Classic. We are contacted frequently about fishing in other areas, mostly from Co-anglers. In developing our schedule, we need to be considerate of our regular boaters and where they live. We try to balance the travel so that members from one part of the country are not always driving the longest distances. We also pick family friendly sites because many anglers bring an “entourage”. Our schedules will usually have at least one event in the East and one in the deep
south/southwest with the others in between.
iBass360: Looking at the immediate future, what are your goals for the 2021 season?
Cheryl: In addition to the other things we discussed, we hope to average at least 30 boats per event each also with a co-angler. This kicks in more availability of contingency money for our anglers.
iBass360: What new developments will meet the lady anglers fishing the 2021 LBAA tour?
Cheryl: We are wrapping our weigh-in trailer differently this year and we are hoping to add the
Facebook Live and You Tube Live options for as many events as possible. We also have an exciting schedule- Pro Gator Boats is back as named sponsor, and we recently joined forces with Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits second level- presenting sponsor. We kick off the season at Lake Ray Hubbard on March 25-26, 2021. The second event will take place on North Carolina's Hickory Lake May 6-7, 2021. The third event will be the Wildcard on Cane River in Natchitoches, LA June 17-18, 2021. The season will round out with the Lady Bass Classic on Lake Logan Martin in Lincoln, Alabama, September 16-18, 2021.