Since Betty Bauman founded "Ladies, Let's Go Fishing!," the program has taught 8,000 women the joy of angling.
Florida angler Betty Bauman has made it her profession to teach women how to enjoy fishing. The only rule: No yelling. "We try to explain to the ladies that when there's a fish on, things have to happen fast, people get excited and voices may raise," Bauman says. And it was one such experience that led her to found "Ladies, Let's Go Fishing!" (LLGF).
"My husband is a tournament angler and he'd take me fishing. He'd yell at me to do things, but I didn't understand what he was talking about," she says. "I thought if I had a chance to practice away from him in a situation where I could hold the equipment and learn how to use it instead of being a robot taking orders, I'd feel more competent fishing with someone with his ability."
Bauman quickly realized that she wasn't alone. It was the mid-1990s and she was running a public relations firm, working with a number of fishing tournaments in Florida. She attended ICAST, an annual fishing tackle trade show, and the director of the American Sportfishing Association asked in his keynote speech why there weren't more women fishing. She took it upon herself to find an answer.
Bauman came up with a weekend-long event that fully immersed participants in every aspect of fishing, from the very basics, like how to hold and use a fishing rod and reel, to more advanced techniques including backing up a trailer or throwing a cast net. She dubbed her program the "No-Yelling School of Fishing," and brought on sponsors including the state of Florida and a number of tackle manufacturers.
The first event was held in Fort Lauderdale in 1997, and 120 women between ages 21 and 78 signed up. Bauman has been going full steam ever since, hosting events around Florida as well as the Virgin Islands, Colorado, and soon Cuba.
Each event varies depending on the venue, but offers talks, skill stations, and the chance to go fishing. Bauman brings together experienced anglers to teach a range of skills. Students learn essentials like knot tying, how to hold and use the equipment, and more. Speakers give talks covering a wide range of fishing topics such as inshore fishing versus offshore, description of the various hook styles, and conservation issues. On the final day of the event, the women get out on the water and put their new skills to work. "By the end of the weekend we've given them the confidence to walk into a tackle shop and ask questions, which can be intimidating."
Each LLGF event has plenty of demo equipment for the students to use as well as door prizes, raffles, and auctions, so participants can get gear at a deal. "They see things they're going to need like fishing pliers or dehookers," Bauman says. "They learn what the equipment costs. Some ladies think lures are $1, but a lot of them are $10 and up. They may lose a lure and not realize the value. By showing them the reality of what fishing costs and teaching them what they need, we are also helping the industry."
Many of the women strike up new friendships and sign up for more events. "The first LLGF seminar I attended was the first one offered in St. Petersburg, Florida, some 20 years ago," says Pat Kucera, a 69-year-old angler from Tarpon Springs who grew up fishing with her dad in North Dakota. "I was so impressed with the presentations, skill stations, captains, and speakers. One speaker was [actress] Mariel Hemingway, who was outstanding, and she spoke about her grandfather. I'll always remember that encounter." Kucera has since attended several LLGF seminars around Florida.
Husbands and boyfriends are always welcomed, and the ladies are encouraged to bring their daughters, nieces, and other young women. "A lot of mothers come to learn how to teach their kids how to fish," Bauman says. "These women put a lot of effort into it, and they get to spend quality time with their kids away from electronics."
Bauman wants more young people to fish, so she gives women who bring teens a discount.
"My daughter, her best friend, and I attended a LLGF event in March 2018," says Robin Krueger. "I chose LLGF because the girls and I could spend an entire weekend meeting new people, gaining knowledge, learning new skills, and applying them on a beautiful Florida inshore saltwater fishing adventure."
Krueger says fishing provides a great way for her family to unwind while spending quality time together outdoors. "We loved the challenge of applying our newly acquired skills and reeling in the fish. There certainly was a lot of laughing!" she says.
Twig Tolle, an avid angler from North Lauderdale, Florida, has volunteered at a number of LLGF events, and says he is always impressed by how excited the participants are. "You get a bunch of women from their teens to well into their 70s and most of them are fascinated by fishing," he says. "They're so upbeat. They don't have their barriers up like men do at a captain's meeting. There's no chest beating."
Those barriers continue to fall. According to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, 45 percent of new fishing participants are female. And more kids are learning how to fish from their mothers than ever before.