B.A.S.S. Reporter's Notebook: Parker Poised to be First Female Elite Pro
Texas B.A.S.S. Club's idea leads to Berkley Conservation Institute award; B.A.S.S. supports important House bill; Another six headed to Federation Nation Championship
Parker poised to be first female Elite Series pro: Janet Parker has a clear shot at becoming the first woman to compete in the Bassmaster Elite Series.
From Little Elm, Texas, Parker said if she qualifies she won’t hesitate to commit for the 2012 Elite Series season.
“I am on top of the world,” she said. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to have this chance.”
Parker took a big step toward the Elite Series on Sept. 10 with a 10th-place finish on the Arkansas River in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open division. The high finish jumped her from sixth to second place in the points standings. If she can stay in the Top 5 through the end of the season, she’ll be among the Open invitees for the 2012 Elite Series.
To be Elite, she figures she needs a 50th-place or better finish in the one remaining tournament on the 2011 Central Open schedule, the Oct. 20-22 event on Table Rock Lake out of Branson, Mo.
“If I can get that eligibility, I want to fish the Elites. I want to make history as the first female,” she said.
Parker has 536 points to the Central Open leader’s 567 points. (The No. 1 position is held by another Elite Series hopeful, Chris Zaldain, a pro who makes a long drive from California to compete in the Central Opens.) Parker is 33 points ahead of the No. 5 angler.
A former Bassmaster Women’s Tour (WBT) pro, Parker joined the 2010 Opens when the women’s tour disbanded after the 2009 season. She had competed in all four seasons of the women’s tour’s existence, garnering a win on the Ouachita River in 2009 and qualifying for the championship.
“After the WBT, I decided that the Opens would tell me if I am ready to fish at the Elite level. With the last three tournaments in the Opens, I’ve had strong finishes, and I’ve been competing against Elite guys who have opted to fish the Opens too. I’ve got a lot to learn … but I’m never going to improve if I don’t continue to challenge myself.”
“If I don’t make it, I’ll look on it as a sign that I wasn’t ready, and I’ll be happy with that too — but I’m really hoping that I’m ready.”
Parker said that between her fishing career, sponsor and charity appearances, and a job with a company that organizes corporate fishing events, she’s on the road 42 to 48 weeks a year, so a hectic Elite Series schedule would not be a lifestyle change. She has been running a wrapped rig for years sponsored by Aaron’s, the rent-to-own retailer, so a wrap isn’t an obstacle. She said she realizes that being under a microscope as the first Elite Series woman pro could be a heavy demand on her time.
“I’ll just have to learn how to say ‘no,’” she said. “I realize none of it will be easy — it’s going to be grueling and exhausting — but it’s something I want to do.”
Parker isn’t the only woman faring well in the 2011 Central Open season. Lisa Sternard of Clarksville, Tenn., was in 19th place in points after the Arkansas River event. Sternard, also a successful women’s tour competitor, would have to make up some ground at Table Rock to get an Elite Series invitation; her standing at 434 points is 69 ticks away from the current fifth-place holder’s 503 points.
Texas B.A.S.S. Club’s good idea leads to Berkley Conservation Institute award: The Magnolia-Tomball Bass Club, a B.A.S.S. Federation Nation affiliate in southeastern Texas, has been tapped to receive the 2010 Berkley Angler Recruitment and Retention Award from the Berkley Conservation Institute.
The award comes with $1,500 in Berkley products. The club will receive the award during the 2012 Bassmaster Classic in Shreveport-Bossier City, La., in February.
The Magnolia-Tomball Bass Club was recognized for its part in founding the Ignition Bass Youth Fishing League. Several club members approached Ignition Bass in 2009 with the idea for a youth program that involved competition. Ignition Bass agreed to take on the project with the oversight of a board of directors for the nonprofit youth circuit.
The Ignition Bass Youth Fishing League now has four age divisions and six regular-season tournament events with an average of 27 anglers competing in each event. To date, a total of $8,400 has been awarded as $1,000 and $500 savings bonds and Academy Sports + Outdoors gift cards. Kids in the league are taught catch-and-release and how to keep bass alive; in three years of tournament fishing, only two dead fish have been brought in by the kids.
Jim Brockman, tournament director for Ignition Bass, runs the Youth Fishing League on a volunteer basis. He was a member of the Magnolia-Tomball Bass Club when it hit on the idea to ask an established organization to “do something for the kids,” Brockman said.
“And that’s how it got started. Members of the Magnolia-Tomball Bass Club volunteer their time and their boats if needed for the kids who don’t have a boat,” he said.
Most of the kids who participate are Texans, although two travel from Louisiana. The program reaches about 55 kids over a season, although many of the kids take part in every event of the season.
The effort to bring kids into the sport is paying off. Two are actively involved in starting a high school fishing team. Several kids now fish local team tournaments with their dad.
“We’ve got some real gung-ho kids,” Brockman said.
Winning the award was a pleasant surprise to Brockman, who proposed to parents and the board that he submit an entry in the annual Berkley Conservation Institute competition.
“We didn’t know if we could win, but we decided it wouldn’t hurt to try,” he said. “We are proud of the fact that the program was recognized by Berkley.”
B.A.S.S. supports important House bill: B.A.S.S. joined key conservation organizations in signing a Sept. 7 letter in support of a bill that would protect hunting, fishing and recreational shooting rights in national forests and on public lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
“Unfortunately, existing law does not expressly recognize or provide for the continuation of these activities which make material contributions to fish and wildlife conservation,” the letter reads.
The letter was addressed to the chairman and ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources as it considered H.R. 2834, the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage Opportunities Act. On Sept. 12, testimony by Bill Horn of the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance underlined the concerns of the sporting community.
"Continued silence in the law regarding the legitimacy and contributory role of fishing and hunting on Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands will ultimately cause the loss of these activities on over 400 million acres of our public lands," Horn testified. "This silence must be corrected, and H.R. 2834 does precisely that.”
The bill seeks to mirror the sportsmen’s rights granted by passage of the 1997 Refuge Improvement Act. That law recognizes the legitimacy of hunting, fishing and recreational shooting on National Wildlife Refuge System lands, and designates fishing and hunting as priority public uses of the Refuge System.
Another six are on their way to Federation Nation Championship: Six more qualifiers were determined Sept. 9 for the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship presented by Yamaha and Skeeter Boats, set for Nov. 3-5 on the Ouachita River out of Monroe, La.
Chris Price of Church Hill, Md., will represent Delaware; Paul Gietka of Abingdon, Md., will be at the championship for Maryland; Richard McCrone Jr. of Cream Ridge, N.J., for New Jersey; Scott Sirakos of Houston, Md., for Pennsylvania; Mike Cumberledge of Virginia Beach, Va., for Virginia; and Chris Morrison of St. Mary's, W.Va., for West Virginia.
The anglers were top finishers last week in the Mid-Atlantic Divisional, a three-day championship qualifier on the Delaware River out of Burlington, N.J. The six join earlier qualifiers from different divisions.
This week, one last 2011 tournament will finalize the Federation Nation Championship roster. The Eastern Divisional on Lake Champlain will begin out of Colchester, Vt., on Sept. 14 and conclude Sept. 16.
Bassmaster.com will cover the event.
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