The Bass Pro: Trait Crist Crist is the only woman fishing all three divisions of the 2016 Bassmaster Open tournaments to qualify for the 2017 Elite Series. If she makes it, she will be the first woman angler to do so. • Four years ago I was working in finance and fishing with my dad every weekend. He signed me up for my first competition: the 2011 Texas State Bass Tournament. I came in fourth and began to think, I can do this. I turned pro in 2013. • As women, we need to step up our skills and technique. I understand why some people don’t respect us, which is not to say they shouldn’t. But when we put ourselves out there in bikinis, posing with a fish for a picture on social media, without knowing anything about fishing, it doesn’t send the best message. • I’ve come a long way on the tour, and I think it’s because I put all the focus on ability. I don’t play the woman card. I want to open up doors for other women, but I want to do it through respect. I want to earn it on the water, right next to the guys.—As told to Hilary Ribons
The Fishing Phenom: Ashley Rae
The Fishing Phenom: Ashley Rae Freelance writer and fishing nut, Rae also runs shelovestofish.com, a popular blog -diary of her angling adventures. • In 2009 I entered an online dream fishing vacation contest from the World Fishing Network, which has 24/7 fishing shows. We posted stories, photos, and videos of our catches, and people from around the world voted for the winner. And amazingly, I won. I realized that people cared about my passion for fishing, so I started shelovestofish.com. • I bought a boat and named her Ruby. When I take my dad or boyfriend fishing in it, other men look at them and say, “Nice boat.” The guys point at me and say, “It’s hers!” Once, while I was launching Ruby with a girlfriend, a guy asked, “Is that your daddy’s boat?” It happens. There aren’t a lot of women out launching boats by themselves—but there’s no reason there shouldn’t be. • Fishing is my life; it’s everything to me. It’s my work and my play. • I love to fish new locations, but I don’t focus on destinations. I think fish species first, location second. I think tarpon, then Costa Rica. Peacock bass, then Brazil. Greenback walleye, and Manitoba. • I don’t remember the first time I went fishing, but certain things—like the sound of water sloshing on the side of an aluminum boat, or a tiller motor, or the smell of it—bring me back to those first times. Those same little feelings, of wonder and excitement, are still with me on the water.—B.B.
The Convert: Lecretia Free
The Convert: Lecretia Free Free is the publisher of The Vail Voice news-paper in southeast Arizona, and the founder and publisher of The American Woman Shooter magazine. • I’m embarrassed to say this, but I used to think gun people were crazy. When a friend invited me to go to the range several years ago, I refused. He said, “Come on, you’ll have a good time.” I’m so glad I did. • At the range I saw couples and families having a good time. It was a life lesson. As a publisher, I think it’s important to gather information and get facts, and I realized that I hadn’t had the facts about what it means to be a shooter and a gun owner. I think a lot of people don’t. • When I talked to some of the women there, I was fascinated by their stories. I thought, I want to tell the stories of these women: the American woman shooter. • My ex-husband passed away of a heart attack in 2010, and I was suddenly raising my three children by myself. By learning to shoot, I eventually realized that I could fully protect myself and my family. That was incredibly empowering. • I’m a vegetarian, but I am very interested in learning to hunt, because my children are not all vegetarians. It’s on my to-do list for 2016. I need to get out there and find out about it.—B.B.
These seven women are inspiring other females to take to the outdoors in record numbers. __Be sure to read “The New Game Changers” for more on outdoorswomen who are making waves in hunting and fishing.