Annika Sorenstam. Michelle Wie. Danica Patrick. And now...Kim Bain-Moore. Like those pioneering female athletes before her, Bain-Moore is going up against the guys. A 28-year old angler from Australia, she will become the first woman to compete in the 39-year history of the Bassmaster Classic, the Super Bowl of pro bass fishing. The three-day tournament starts Friday, Feb. 20 on Louisiana's Red River. Bain spoke to TIME's Sean Gregory about her first catch, the sport's old-boys network, and the, er, logistical challenges facing female fishing pros. (Read "Riding the Bass Boom.")
How old were you when you caught your first fish?
I was four years old. I went fishing with my sister, and I remember that I caught two fish at once. I was trash talking even then.
Have you met any resistance from the male anglers?
Overall everyone has been pretty supportive. I've certainly gotten lots of email and phone messages from guys cheering me on. Still, there are 50 guys in a room here and I'm the one lady that's competing. So there's a little bit of the old boys club that remains. But I'm a tough cookie. It's always difficult for the first one when you're paving the way. But hopefully, if I can keep my chin up and keep soldiering forward, it will be easier for the next lady that comes along, and easier for the next lady after that. (See the top 10 female sports heroes.)
What's the most challenging part of fishing?
Um, not being able to pee [laughs]. Logistically, it's a little more difficult for me when I go out fishing in a tournament. I stay so focused that I forget that I need to pee. I can go for 16 hours and then realize 'Oh yeah, that's right, I have to pee.' But apart from that, it's probably the physical strain. It's a long day and it's a tough day. It's standing up for 10-11 hours and casting non-stop. It's not your typical, 'Let's go out and have a drink and eat a sandwich and enjoy the day.'
Why hasn't a woman competed in the Bassmaster Classic before? Bass fishing is not like, say, weightlifting, where it's physically impossible for the top women to lift as much weight as the top men. A woman can catch just as big a fish as a man.
You're right. It doesn't matter if you're a male or female, it's not about strength it's a mental and strategy game. Women have not always been allowed to compete with the men. There were some rules about sexual privacy that toilet issue held women back a number of years. They weren't able to fish. That got thrown out, and a number of ladies started competing. They certainly could compete with all the guys. It's just that a lady has never qualified for this event. They decided to open up it up to one position from the Women's Bassmaster Tour, which has been going on for three years. They did it purely to generate support from the ladies and to grow the sport. I'm certainly honored and lucky that it's me. (See pictures of tuna fish.)
Wait, what were the rules about "sexual privacy?" What's the "toilet issue?" Can you explain this a bit?
They called it the sexual privacy issue guys and girls in a boat together. There was going to be some sort of awkward moment about restroom breaks. It's crazy. We're all adults, and it's a natural thing. It's not something that's relevant and shouldn't be something that stops women from getting out there to compete.
During the tournament, you can't actually get off the boat unless there's an emergency. There's no restroom, and you can't make a restroom break. I'm sure that most of the guys will be able to take restroom breaks just pee of the side of the boat. That's not a luxury that I'm afforded. So I deal with the issue by never going. It works for me now, but who's going to hang out with me when I'm 40? I'll probably be ruined.
Moving on to topics that don't deal with urine...has it been a source of frustration among female anglers that they haven't been able to compete in the Bassmater Classic before now?
I think that it has been. I never really understood or had a full appreciation of it until I earned this Bassmaster Classic spot. I was thinking about it from a selfish perspective, where it was all about me. And suddenly I was introduced to all these women who have been fishing for 40-odd years, who have been dreaming of this day when women would compete in the Bassmaster Classic. They're crying because this is a historical moment. I've always been into fishing, and always been allowed to fish, and when I came here to the USA, I could enter fishing tournaments. It never crossed my mind that not so long ago, that would not have been a possibility. (See the top 10 sports moments of 2008.)
Do you think you can win?
Absolutely I can win this. I've got just as good a shot as anybody. For the fishing I've seen on the Red River, I think that it's pretty easy to go out there and catch a good quality fish. It's going to come down to who gets that lucky big bite. You're going to need one or two fish that'll be bigger than the rest to really shoot ahead in the competition. I'm not fishing for 50th place. I'm fishing for $500,000.
You mentioned earlier that when you were four years old, you were a trash talker. Do you still talk smack?
Oh, absolutely. I never push the limit. You never want to talk so much trash that when you stink it up, you look foolish. So I like to sort of walk the fine line of giving them a hard time without putting too much pressure on myself.
So is fishing like NASCAR at all? When anglers talk trash to each other, do they get into fights, like the drivers?
No, I never get that far. I'm a lover, not a fighter.