Jaime Young/Female Anglers by J. Martino

Jami Young serves as role model for female anglers By: John Martino Back in the 1970’s when the door opened for competitive bass fishing you’d be hard pressed to see many women. If you did it was only at weigh in where a few would gather to dutifully cheer on their boyfriends or husbands. For the most part, it was considered a man’s game, even though anyone could take part. However, as time moved on women began to slowly make their mark in the professional bass fishing arena. After all, as far as bass are concerned, they don’t care who is on the other end of the line as long as they’re throwing the right bait, at the right time, in the right areas. One local female who is making a name for herself in competitive bass fishing circuits is Greentown resident Jami Young. And she has her father to thank for that. “When I was just a little girl, growing up near Bristol, Indiana my dad would take me fishing with him all the time,” she explained. The father and daughter fished for everything on many of the glacial lakes that dot the northeast quarter of Indiana. “One of my favorites was fishing at night for bass from dad’s canoe,” she continued. “We would throw Jitterbugs on a Zebco 33 and caught tons of fish.” For her, those moments catching bass, or anything that would bite, were some of the best times of her life, ones that left a lasting impression. Unfortunately, as she grew in age so did responsibilities of life. Things like school, marriage and a career made her free time a limited proposition and the days she could spend on the water suffered. After obtaining her degree from Ball State, Young entered the teaching profession which she enjoyed for 30 years. After retiring and her marriage ending in divorce she returned to what she loved and could rely on. But this time her fishing exploits led her to taking part in organized bass tournaments. “I dated a guy for a while who fished competitively and he is the one who actually got me started,” she said. “We won several large tourneys and that’s what really fueled my competitive spirit,” she added. Young followed up by taking part in the Indy Fishing League and Anglers Choice contests where she was a strong contender. One of her first events took place on Dewart Lake. “I was just hoping to catch a fish to help reassure myself,” she said with a laugh. “I ended up putting eight fish in the boat and was ecstatic.” But as the months passed there was one thing missing – a boat of her own. She soon purchased a loaded Bass Cat Pantera pushed by 200 horses. Now she could fish any tournament she wanted any time she wanted. As you would imagine, it was not uncommon for her to receive double-takes as she pulled into launch sites with her boat in tow. “Some guys kept waiting to see if a man would show up to help me,” she said with a laugh. “But when many realized I was by myself they would ask if they could help.” It’s now commonplace to find her maneuvering her boat to her favorite fishing holes waiting for the next bite. Young’s entry into the professional bass fishing circuit hopefully encourages other women to get involved. She spent two seasons fishing with Amy King. “She was a great fisherman,” said Young appreciatively. Recently she has also partnered with Brittany Hall. In addition to fishing competitively, one of Young’s goals is to show other females they can compete as well, if they have an interest. “Fishing is more than just catching fish and to understand it all you have to experience it,” she added. Young wants other females to realize it only takes one thing and that’s desire. “There are so many wonderful people willing to share knowledge.” Maybe in the earliest years some men may have felt uncomfortable sharing a boat with a person of the opposite sex. But those days are gone. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife agency there are 34.5 million anglers in the nation with approximately 26 percent being female. That number continues to expand each year. “It’s not about being a woman any longer,” said Young, “it’s about being a fisherman and one of the crew, so gender labels don’t matter anymore.” So what about when you’re fishing an eight hour tournament and have to pee? I couldn’t resist asking. “Well, they do make several things especially for women but most of the time I just find a secluded place on shore.” Taking part in these contests has done more than put a few dollars in her pocket. In addition to meeting some of the greatest people it has also helped galvanize her own self-reliance, which says a lot after spending 30 years as a teacher. “If I could pass on advice to other women it would be to get involved and not be afraid, it’s easier than you may think.” If you’d like to visit Young and learn more about tournament fishing as a female, she can usually be found working in SoreMouth Tackle, located at the Kokomo Event and Conference Center, Kokomo’s only full line fishing and bait shop.