Organizers of the recent La Biche Walleye fishing tournament needed a little time to fish out all the numbers from their in inaugural derby.
Hosted by the Lac La Biche Lions Club, the June 13-14 event brought in 144 anglers, with several top earners splitting $64,490 in cash prizes — the six top anglers accounted for two-thirds of the prize money haul. Youth category competitors also went home with prizes of tackle gear. The event drew boats from across the Lakeland and across the Prairies.
The anglers weren’t the only winners from the weekend event to net prizes. Funds remaining after the prize money was subtracted from entry fees and sponsor funding will go to local charities, saidLions Club member Mel Kuprowsky in the weeks leading up to the event. While final counts on proceeds raised during the La Biche Walleye Cup and have not yet been announced by the Lac La Biche Lions Club, Kuprowsky says local recipients will likely be charities focused on autism and sight impairment.
Final counts on proceeds raised during the La Biche Walleye Cup and the specific charity that will benefits from the events have not been announced by the Lac La Biche Lions Club, and event organizers have yet to reply to Lakeland This Week’s inquires on total funds raised for donation.
Of the 144 participants in the first-time derby, Marlee Brownlie was one of only eight women registered. Organizers were pleased to see more female participation, in what Brownlie says can be seen as a male-dominated sport.
Entering a team with her husband Chad, she enjoyed the derby and was pleased to see a little more gender mixing in the boats.
Brownlie says she is commonly referred to as a tomboy, and welcomed the opportunity to be stuck on a boat with her husband. She says competing on a mixed team with a spouse has its pros and cons — like finding time to properly prepare for tournaments while balancing busy family lives.
“The Pre-fishing time is more of a challenge for us; if we bring our kids not as much fishing gets done, and if we don't bring our kids — mama's gotta stay at home with them,” she says with a laugh .
Beyond the routine hassles of finding the time to get out, getting boats in the water or handling the fish and hooking the leeches or finding time away from kids, Brownlie says, she isn’t surprised that more women don’t take part in these events.
“I appreciated being able to participate in this predominantly male sport,” says Brownlie, while acknowledging how reinforced stereotypes can keep women and girls out of the competitive circuit.
“My dad trained me young to practice backing up trailers and loading or unloading boats, so Chad and I have a pretty seamless system. However, it could be intimidating for some, typically women, to feel comfortable having to double launch (two trucks side by side at the same launch) the boat under pressure,” she says, adding that she hopes her participation can be an example to young and old that they can get out there too.
Brownlie and her husband didn’t finish the weekend in the money list, but that didn’t dampen her enjoyment. She not only enjoyed that the first-time event was local, but that it as well organized and even had the weather cooperating.
“You couldn't ask for better weather or conditions, and while enjoying some winnings would have been nice, I ultimately enjoyed the quality time with my husband,” she told Lakeland This Week. “It felt great to be able to fish at our home base and support local, after such a long stretch of the town suffering due to COVID.”
Hopeful that the event will run again next year, Brownlie is already looking forward to the chance to mingle with more of the participants
“We definitely plan to sign up again next year and I personally would like to experience a tournament free of COVID restrictions... where you get to mingle with more of the anglers and volunteers, and have a big group meal,” she said.