The caramel colored water of Caddo Lake near Shreveport smells sweet and earthy, turning clear as it slides through your fingers. Cypress trees shadow some of the banks as the boat navigates through hydrillia grass, logs and tree knobs peaking up from underwater. Briars and bushes line the banks while eagles and herons search for dinner. There is no place better for social distancing.
Wendy Kendrick, of Livingston Parish, doesn’t notice most of this unless it’s blocking her way as her boat cuts through the water. She appreciates the beauty, but right now she’s got one thing on her mind: bass. There was not a cloud floating in the sky, a “Bluebird Day” with a high pressure system, driving fish to hide in the weeds and grass. Not great for fishing.
A professional, Kendrick flicks her baited line between the brush, only getting snared a few times. She knows the fish are hiding, but they are hungry, too. And she’s determined. She’s patient. Concentrating. It’s a game of cat and mouse, then her line tightens and arcs her pole. “There he is,” she yells a few times, then reels a bass into the boat, holding him by his fat bottom lip.
Kendrick, the founder of the Women’s Bass Tri-State Federation, wants to share that excitement with other women who fish bass already or want to learn. It’s a big audience. Facebook messages on the Girls Who Can Fish site include “This is my coronavirus quarantine” with a photo of a girl holding a bass. What a perfect time to join this fairly new Federation, covering Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, and enter the tournaments.
“We have such a good time together,” Kendrick said as she dipped a bait (like a rubber worm) into a garlic sauce to lure the fish. “I’d like to share this experience with other women. It’s about making friends, helping each other and celebrating at night with a good barbecue. We become more than friends. We become family.”
Joining the group is nominal: $50 per person, owning/not owning a boat. Non boaters are partnered with boaters randomly at the tournaments, held once or twice every month in the spring and summer. Boat owners are charged $125 for the tournament entry, $25 for the Big Bass Winner’s pot; co-anglers (non-boat owners) $100 and $25.
Members also must pay for gas, food and overnight stays; boat owners also have boat, motor and trailer expenses. But along the way there are trophies, plaques and cash.
And anyone can recruit advertising sponsors; logos emblazoned on bright jerseys. They support fisherwomen with equipment or cash. Kendrick’ sponsors, for instance, include Fancy Girls Custom Baits, River Valley Crank Baits, Wicked Weights and TRC Rod Covers.
All members compete with professional status, and they learn fishing skills and techniques from seasoned professionals. Kendrick has earned her “fins” with awards including: first place and Big Bass, Lake Larto Seliene; first place Big Bass, Toledo Bend Lake; second place, Big Bass at Sam Rayburn Lake and others.
“You have to be patient when fishing, staying out all day for as long as you can fish no matter the weather. It’s worth it. It’s such a wonderful way to quarantine, get back to nature and feel the and a some fun in the sun with social distancing.”
The boat is filled with 10s of fishing poles, plastic boxes and baits. The crank bait (like a platypus) and “worms” are a rainbow of rubber, glitter and metallic colors — with some nicknamed for their tint (“peanut butter and “watermelon”).
Kendrick completed June 13 in an all-member tournament at Lake Somerville in Texas. Then there are two tournaments before the championship: Red Oak Lake/Red River in Louisiana and Lake Sam Rayburn in Texas, also the site for the championship.
At any event, the bass caught are returned to the lake. Watching them swim off, Kendrick said sometimes they get away, but there’s always another day. Another fish. And her black-and-orange-striped Champion boat, Orange Crush, is always ready to slice through some water.
The Women’s Bass Tour was created for groups of states to organize their own federations. To join this local Women’s Federation or organize one in other states, contact Kendrick by phone at (225) 445-6217 or email at WendyL102@aol.com; or call Federation President Kay Clifton at (936} 933-7233.