Scorecard Snapshot — Two X Chromosomes

Photo from Bassmaster.com

The 1991 Missouri Invitational was the 10th of Rick Clunn’s 11 B.A.S.S. wins and his first after winning his fourth Bassmaster Classic title. He’s won four more events since then, but not another Classic. Historically, I suppose that makes it somewhat significant, but it was even more notable for another reason. Can you guess what it was?

Here’s the first stop on your scavenger hunt: Check out the 37th place finisher, 1986 Classic champion Charlie Reed.

Does that help at all?

Move your eyes 21 more places down the standings sheet. There it is….rather, there she is — Vojai Reed, the first woman to participate in a B.A.S.S. tournament.

The fairer sex had a somewhat tormented relationship with Ray Scott’s organization. Indeed, in his book “Bass Madness,” Ken Schultz reported that Mary Ann Martin was not allowed to accompany Roland Martin to the first Classic because they were engaged, not married.

When the Martins eventually got married, Schultz added, Mary Ann tried to enter a B.A.S.S. tournament, but Scott tore up the check, proclaiming that “It’ll be a cold day in hell before a woman ever fishes one of my tournaments.”

Scott justified this on the rationale that male/female partner pairings wouldn’t be able to modestly go to the bathroom during the day since they’d have to stay “in sight of each other” and “in sight of the livewells.” Others speculated that it was the anglers’ wives who pushed for it, not wanting to create an environment that would allow for hanky panky. In time, the Bass’n Gal circuit arose to provide a tour for women to fish

Nevertheless, three days before practice was to start at Truman Reservoir in 1991, the Corps of Engineers stated that they wouldn’t provide a permit for the tournament if women were not allowed to participate, so B.A.S.S. recruited Reed. As her husband told the Orlando Sentinel, “She got in as a favor to BASS.”

According to the late Tim Tucker, “she had the right temperament and was not intimidated by anybody.”

As Sports Illustrated reported in its May 13, 1991, issue, Mrs. Reed herself “had joined other fishermen’s wives in asking B.A.S.S. to continue banning women from its tournaments. However, she changed her mind when she found out there wouldn’t be a mandatory pairing of partners.”

Her first day partner, Homer Humphreys, told the Orlando Sentinel that ”[s]he was a fantastic partner. She was the most aggressive lady I’ve ever fished with – more aggressive than most men are – when it came to keeping her lure in the water. But, on the other hand, she wasn’t aggressive to the point of taking over your water, like most men would be.”

The 58th place finish was her best in seven B.A.S.S. events spread out over the 1991 and 1992 seasons. Other than the 1992 Texas Invitational at Sam Rayburn, where she finished 93rd, she never again finished better than triple digits. Other than breaking the gender barrier, she is most known for winning the Bass’n Gal Classic in 1984.

  • Harold Sharp

    The first set of B.A.S.S. rules had a rule stating ” Both paired contestants must stay in sight of each other and their catch until they weigh-in” This rule was not there to keep women from fishing BASS Tournaments, it was there to insure a fair event for all contestants. From the start BASS rules placed the responsibility for a fair event on the contestants, they were to ensure that each obeyed the rules. Because the rule required you to stay in sight of your partner there was no provisions for leaving the boat for a potty break, so we never allowed women to fish these events.

    In the mid 70’s we scheduled some events in New York, one day I received a call from a Federation member stating that we had a women entered in our New York tournament, he gave me her name and said she was in his Bass Club. I checked the entries and located her entry form that was not checked male or female, we returned the entry form with instruction to fill it out and return it, it arrived back checked female, so we returned her entry form and entry fee and explained the rule that allowed us to reject any entry . Soon she filed a lawsuit claiming we violated her civil rights, so we had to go to court in New York. We hired a New York lawyer and sent him a set of official BASS rules plus instructions that he should fight the case on behalf of the man that she would be paired with. He gave the Judge our official rules and claimed that we would violate the civil rights of the man she would be paired with by forcing him to relieve himself in front of a strange women or DQ himself by leaving the boat. The judge read the rules and dismissed the case.

    BASS rules were never intended to exclude women, they were written to prevent cheating and resulted in our not allowing women . A few years later Sugar and Bob Ferris organized BassN’ Gals and women had a great place to enjoy Bass tournament fishing for many years. Bass N’ Gal and later Women’s BASS rules prohibited men from entering their events for the same reasons.

    The first BASS Classic was a secret location, as were the next 6 Classics. Because of that, BASS made all hotel and travel arrangement for those that attended as no one knew where we were going, except a few staff, until the chartered plane was in the air. So we paired unmarried anglers in rooms and married anglers with wives attending in rooms. It was stated that BASS kept Mary Ann Martin from the first Classic because her and Roland were not married, this is not exactly a true statement, we had no control over Mary Ann attending the Classic, once she found out where it was when it was announced to the world.

    Another statement that the Corp Of Engrs were responsible for women entering BASS Tournaments, we conducted events on Corp Lakes from 1968 to 1987 and I never remember one time that the Corp questioned who we allowed in our events when we applied for a permit. In fact the Truman Lake event was May 1-3 1991 and it was stated that the Corp refused BASS a permit 3 days before it started unless they allowed women to fish. The 1991 Official BASS rules were printed and released in January 1991, so unless BASS changed rules 3 days before the event the same rules were there that were there in 1968.

    can anyone explain this, how could or would the Corp Of Engr stop a scheduled event on Truman Lake 3 days before it started. 1991 BASS rules were released in January 1991, the Truman Lake tournament started on May 1,1991 with Mrs. Reed as the first women BASS contestant.

  • Harold,

    Thanks for the insights. A few questions/comments:

    1) You state: “We hired a New York lawyer and sent him a set of official BASS rules plus instructions that he should fight the case on behalf of the man that she would be paired with.” That seems to me to be an odd instruction. How can you litigate on behalf of someone who doesn’t yet exist? What if that man in question wouldn’t mind fishing with a woman?

    2) “The judge read the rules and dismissed the case.” Again, I’m not a civil rights lawyer, but just because the rules say something doesn’t make it legal. The rules could ban black anglers or Asian anglers or some other protected class of persons and that doesn’t make it right in the eyes of the law. Certainly there was more to the case than that. What was the grounds for dismissal?

    3) “I never remember one time that the Corp questioned who we allowed in our events when we applied for a permit.” It appears from news accounts of the time that the Corps threatened future permits when it was brought to their attention that the rules were discriminatory, at which point they threatened to yank it. The following is from Bassmaster.com: “Women just didn’t compete. The sport stayed that way until 1991 when the Corp of Engineers forced B.A.S.S. into having a woman compete on Missouri’s Truman Lake.”

    4) Indeed, Sports Illustrated reported on May 13, 1991, that “(t)he U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the host venue, Truman Lake, had threatened to cancel future events if women were not permitted to participate.”

    5) Here’s what the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on May 10, 1991: “Then, on April 25, the Army Corps of Engineers, prompted by a letter in a local paper from an irate feminist who doesn’t even fish, ruled that B.A.S.S must allow women to compete. Most big B.A.S.S. tournaments are held at places like Bull Shoals Lake, built on federally controlled property and operated by the Corps of Engineers as flood-control projects. Federal law forbids discrimination – potty problems or not. When the ruling came down, Sevier had to scramble to find female entrants. (Most competitors sign up a year in advance.) For a tournament last week at Truman Lake in Missouri, she recruited Vojai Reed, a 55-year-old professional angler from Broken Bow, Okla.”

    6) On May 2, 1991, the Hampton Roads Daily News stated: “A letter from the Corps of Engineers solved a dilemma the BASSMASTER Tournament Trail wrestled with for nearly a year. The Corps threatened to revoke the permit the BASSMASTER BP Top 100 tournament needed to fish Bull Shoals Lake, Ark., May 8-11, unless women were allowed to compete.”

  • Joe J

    OK, here we go again. Its all about being fair, right? Women should be allowed to fish in “mens” tournaments…play on boys sports teams…do other things that traditionally only men/males do? OK, if you allow that in the name of fairness, then in that same name you must allow men to compete in women’s events and sports. You have to be consistent if you “don’t want to discriminate”. That would pretty much destroy women’s sports if any sizable number of men wanted to do them. I am one of those who think its a good thing, at times, for men to be only with men, and women to be only with women. A girl at LSU recently announced she would try out for place kicker on the football team. Then a guy should be allowed to try out for the girl’s softball team. You can see how chaos would soon develop all in the name of “fairness” and because we dont want to exclude or “discriminate”.

  • Harold Sharp

    Hi Pete, Here’s a reply to you questions and comments.

    I don’t know much about what the laws allow or don’t allow, that’s why we employed a New York lawyer to handle our case and explain our position to the judge. I do know the judge dismissed the case and we never heard more about it. You question, “What if that man in question wouldn’t mind fishing with a women?” The problem was not fishing with a women, the rules stated you must stay in sight of your partner all day and this created a problem for both when a potty break was due. If we had waited until they were paired, then ask the man if he minded fishing with a women and he said, I do mind , then we would have had a much larger problem. So we had rules from the start to cover that.

    We had to apply for permits on several lakes during my time as BASS TD, some from Corp Of Engrs, some from State G&F Departments, some from local C of C, all were designed to keep several different groups from staging events at the same location and same time. I never remember any problem with Corp Of Engrs concerning permits that I applied for. I’m not sure what happened between BASS and the Corp concerning the 1991 Missouri events as I left BASS in 1987. Dewey Kendrick was BASS TD at that time, maybe he will read Bass Fishing Archives and provide us some answers concerning this subject.

    I’m not saying it did not happen as reported, I know this is the first time that I’ve seen anything stating that The Corp Of Engineers forced BASS into changing their rules three days before the event. I fail to see how the Corp would or could revoke a permit three days before the event. The local sponsor paid to have BASS conduct the event at that location, they did it to get 200 to 300 people there to spend money for a week, so how could the Corp deny the community this revenue? How could the Corp control who was allowed or not allowed to fish this lake? Did the Corp also force Bass N Gals and Women’s BASS to allow men to fish their events on Corp lakes? They both had rules stating no men allowed.

    BASS Official Rules always had a rule allowing the TD to reject any application for any reason and return the deposit or entry fee. It is still in the Official BASS rules (P1). So BASS could always just reject any application for any reason.

    You state the following from Bassmaster.com: “Women just didn’t compete. The sport stayed that way until 1991 when the Corp Of Engrs forced BASS into having a women compete on Missouri’s Truman Lake.” You also quote the Philly Inquirer reporting that Helen Sevier had to scramble to find a female to fish the event three days before practice started, she recruited Vojai Reed. Now my question to someone who knows the answer is: At the time Vojai Reed was entered in this event was she a member of BASS? If so, how long had she been a member? Did she pay an entry fee to fish this event?

    I left BASS in 1987, so I don’t know the details of how women were allowed to fish BASS events in 1991 or how The Corp Of Engineers could have forced BASS into that and allowed Bass N’ Gals and Women’s BASS to exclude men, if anyone knows the answer I hope they will post it on Bass Fishing Archives.

    • I would love to hear from Dewey and/or Helen — does anyone know how to reach them?

      • Harold Sharp

        I will try to locate you an email for them.

  • Jeff Hahn

    I was fortunate to attend the 1990 & 1991 Bass ‘n Gal championships on Lake Chicamauga as a press observer. I was paired with Vojai Reed each year and became friends with her and Charlie. My recollection is that both Vojai and Charlie recounted the story of her entry in the 1991 Missouri Invitational just as it was printed in Bassmaster and as Joey cited it, above.

    Another questions…didn’t Operations BASS allow women to fish in their tournaments many years before B.A.S.S. allowed women to fish? How did they handle the “potty problem?”

    One thing that very much impressed me at the Bass ‘n’ Gal championships was the way Sugar and Bob Ferris handled this issue. At a meeting the evening before the first day, Sugar got up front with her mic and (since most of the press people were men) gently, but bluntly, told the group (I’m paraphrasing here) “Look folks, we’re all human beings here. Since we are all human, we all have to answer the call of nature. So, if you have to “go” during the day, please inform the person that you are riding with and ask them to kindly divert their eyes while you do your business. If we all respect each other, I am sure that this will all work out just fine.” And, it did. No one I spoke with during those two years, including particularly the women who were competing, had a single negative experience nor a single complaint about the way Sugar handled the “potty” problem.”

    • Hey Jeff, great to see you here! To answer your question, I don’t recall how OB handled the “potty” issue. Maybe someone here will know and chime in.

      Thanks for visiting and for participating! Keep in touch.

      Terry

  • Harold Sharp

    Regarding the way Operation Bass and Bass N’ Gals handled the potty problem, neither, to my knowledge had rules that read the same as B.A.S.S., that you must stay in sight of your partner and his fish. With this rule reading that way we never considered placing our contestants in a position of relieving himself in front of a strange women, even one with her head turned. Here’s exactly how the first B.A.S.S. rule read and it was in bold print :” When two contestants check out at the beginning of the day they MUST STAY TOGETHER AND IN SIGHT OF HIS PAIRED PARTNER’S “FISH” THROUGHOUT THE DAY AND UNTIL THEIR WEIGH-IN IS COMPLETED. Notice that it stated “his”. The rule was written to prevent cheating, not to place men and women in arkward positions or violate anyones civil rights. When BASS changed it years later a provision was inserted allowing partners to get out of sight of each other.