SHREVEPORT, La. - Kim Bain-Moore is making history as the first woman to compete in the Bassmaster Classic, but many of the 50 male anglers she is fishing against aren't happy about it.
They insist it's nothing personal against the 28-year-old Australian native, just that she doesn't deserve a shot at the $500,000 first prize and the endorsements that come with a Classic victory.
The Classic, which is today through Sunday on the Red River, includes the top 37 anglers from the Bassmaster Elite Series, a grueling 11-tournament circuit. The rest qualified from the Bassmaster Open tournament trails and the BASS Federation Nation.
Bain-Moore, who lives in Pelham, Ala., 30 miles south of Birmingham, qualified as the 2008 angler of the year from the five-tournament Women's Bassmaster Tour. That policy was instituted last year by BASS, which is owned by ESPN. The cable network is televising the event.
"I don't really care that she's fishing," said Peter Thliveros, of Jacksonville, a 12-time Classic qualifier. "My biggest gripe about it is she was given an opportunity that none of us were ever given. None of us had the opportunity to fish [the WBT]. It's a girls' club only."
"Kim is a really good angler and she's also a good ambassador for the sport," said pro Bernie Schultz, of Gainesville, Fla. "But the simple fact remains that she did not qualify like the rest of the competitors. She didn't compete against the guys who earned the right to be here. She competed with a completely different league of anglers."
Most of the pros like the buzz that Bain-Moore's presence has created, especially if it brings new fans and new sponsors to the sport. Bain-Moore has been deluged by writers and television crews seeking interviews and signed countless autographs.
"She's already gotten more publicity than the winner will probably get," Schultz said.
Asked about the comments made by some of her fellow pros, Bain-Moore said, "I just want to enjoy myself and do the best that I can."
That's been her goal since she got hooked on fishing as a young girl in Brisbane.
"I'm going for a victory like the 50 other guys here," Bain-Moore said.