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Karen Rees with a nice Murray Cod

Karen Rees – GoFish Nagambie ambassador for 2020

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GoFish Nagambie o’fish’ally welcomes Karen Rees as an ambassador for 2020.

Karen Rees is a friend you want in your corner. She’s passionate, knowledge and she is breaking down barriers left, right and centre for women in fishing. With VFA leading the charge, there is an aura of change in the industry, the momentum is shifting, and we want to keep pushing to get more women fishing, more often. With Karen now on the GoFish Nagambie team, brace yourselves because big things are happening. Check out what Karen has to say!

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF. WHERE DOES YOUR FISHING JOURNEY BEGIN?

My journey into fishing all started after marrying a mad keen fisherman. It could definitely be said that I was a very reluctant angler and one thing was certain there was no way I was going to ever touch a smelly and slimy fish! However, one night back in December 2014 proved to be the turning point in my pursuit of fishing. It was the night I landed my first Murray Cod on a surface lure. The thrill and excitement had me captivated and after landing two more for the night I was absolutely hooked. I soon had to come to grips with holding fish and I could be seen pioneering the Care for Cod Campaign well before its time in the most glamourous set of gardening gloves but it wasn’t long until the gloves were off and it was game on!!

2015 saw me competing in the Central Victorian Lure Casters Super Series. I took out the win in Round 2 at Eppalock and spent most of the series building upon and just holding on to my lead up until Round 5, before catching my PB cod in the final round and just narrowly missed out on taking out the Champion Angler and Champion of Champions titles. From there Justin and I were invited to compete in The Australian Freshwater Masters but just before the competition started we discovered we were expecting twins and after competing in the first two legs of the event I had to heartbreakingly withdraw from the last leg of the competition at Mulwala and put fishing on hold.

It had been an unbelievable year of fishing and within three weeks of our twin daughters birth I was back out there. Quite often we would put the girls in a baby carrier each and off we would go fishing from the banks. It wasn’t easy but fishing for me had now become my passion and I would do whatever it took to just be out there chasing our beautiful freshwater natives.

Fishing for me is now all about escaping the everyday hustle and bustle of life; spending time with those I love; giving my daughters a solid grounding in the world we live in and pursuing that dream fish.

YOU’VE ALSO BEEN A BIG PART OF THE VFA’S WOMEN IN RECREATIONAL FISHING (WIRF) NETWORK. HOW DID YOU GET INTO WIRF? WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO APPLY?

After seeing a post about the WIRF Network on the Victoria Fisheries Authority’s Facebook Page on International Women’s Day in 2018 I was so excited to hear about this great initiative that I immediately joined. The Facebook group was a much needed and wanted space for ladies to share their fishing stories and catches, to learn from one another and to support each other in our pursuit and passion of fishing.

In June 2018 the VFA announced the WIRF Leadership Scholarship Program on the WIRF Network. It provided an opportunity to travel up to the Australia Fishing Trade Association Trade Show on the Gold Coast on an all expenses paid trip with nine other ladies to represent the female anglers of Victoria and help shape the future of fishing.

I very nearly didn’t apply. There was so much more to think about and consider, family and work being the main two but I just had this niggling feeling that I needed to apply and it wasn’t until late on the night the application was due that I just knew I had to apply. This was my opportunity to be a voice for the female anglers out there who face barriers much like the ones I had experienced myself. I had a story to tell and I could help change and shape the future for fishing for females.

EXPLAIN THE OPPORTUNITIES AFFORDED TO YOU THANKS TO THE PROGRAM?

When I sit back and reflect upon my experiences since becoming a WIRF Leader I never could have foreseen where I would be today.  For me with each experience a new door and opportunity has opened up and to think that it has lead to this experience of being an Ambassador for GoFish Nagambie is absolutely mind blowing! Some of my biggest highlights and opportunities from being apart of the WIRF Leadership program so far have been:

  • Being able to sit upon the Victorian Freshwater Fish Habitat and Flows Roundtable and working with a range of key stakeholders from across the state to improve our freshwater river systems and consequently the native fish populations.
  • Invited to speak alongside Steve Starling at Trelly’s Tackle Spectacular.
  • Presented my journey as a female cod angler and became the first ever female to present at the VFA’s Murray Codference.
  • Approached to co-manage Steven Threlfall’s new Bendigo store alongside my husband.
  • Selected as a WIRF Mentor to accompany, inspire and guide the 2019 WIRF Leaders at the  AFTA Trade Show and presented the WIRF journey so far at the Gala Dinner.
  • Worked with various groups to help run kids clinics and educational programs including Gone Fishing Day Shepparton, VicFish Kids, Go Fish Nagambie Schools Day and That’s The Thing About Fishing Carer’s Day in Bendigo

Out of all of these experiences and opportunities some of the most rewarding highlights has been the on ground work attending various events and talking to people about the WIRF network; seeing ladies inspired to maybe give fishing a try for their very first time or helping to reignite their passion for fishing from childhood.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE THE BIGGEST BARRIERS TO WOMEN GETTING INVOLVED IN FISHING?

For every female there are many different things that can inhibit them from getting involved in fishing and it is only as we listen to everyone’s personal experiences with fishing that we truly begin to understand what these barriers are and the impact they can have on women being able to get out fishing.

From my conversations with many female anglers and also females who don’t fish you can definitely begin to see trend and the top four barriers that I have found are as follows:

  • No Equipment, Knowledge or Experience – many women feel like they don’t know the first thing about fishing or who or where to turn to to learn that information. It is quite common to hear ladies wanting to try fishing aren’t confident to enter fishing tackle stores or they don’t feel welcome when they visit an angling club.
  • Time Poor – We all lead busy lives! From parenting responsibilities to work commitments the list of things that can get your way are truly endless.
  • Toileting Issues – It just isn’t as easy as being a bloke when stuck out somewhere on a boat and you know nature is calling.
  • Fishing perceived to be a male sport/recreational activity -. The statistics prove that fishing is dominated by males. Advertising and products are generally target with only one market in mind. Guys head away to the river together for a boys weekend. All these things and more can make males and females alike, the young and young at heart perceive that fishing is for males and sadly this is perception occurs from a very young and impressionable age.

HAVE YOU SEEN MORE WOMEN GETTING INVOLVED IN FISHING OVER THE LAST YEAR SINCE WIRF KICKED OFF?

Definitely!!! In my role as a WIRF Leader and position as manager of Trelly’s Outdoor Bendigo you get the opportunity to talk to so many women from all walks of life and hear their fishing stories. I have spoken to so many ladies that are looking to reconnect with fishing because of childhood memories; to many mums who are wanting to take up fishing for the first time and be able to share the experience with their children and to so many ladies like myself who decide to just give fishing a try because their partner is a mad keen angler.

The WIRF message is certainly starting to spread and is gaining momentum and as a result you can really see the increase in women anglers posting on social media and it all just has a flow on effect. On a daily basis you see women joining the WIRF network from all different backgrounds, of varying experience and skill level and the beauty of the network is that it supports each and every one of them at their point of need and interest. It is so great to have a space for female anglers to feel secure to ask questions where they are given nothing but encouragement, support and guidance in their pursuit of fishing.

HOW CAN WE, AS A WHOLE COMMUNITY, SUPPORT WOMEN TAKING PART IN FISHING?

To have the whole fishing community working together to help support women in fishing would be a dream and in my belief crucial to the future of fishing in Australia. The USA fishing scene as we speak are making huge waves in this area and the fishing community and industry are reaping the rewards with participation levels skyrocketing. Together we can work to achieve this in Australia too. From individuals to the major companies and media within the fishing tackle industry, each and every person can play a crucial part in supporting women taking part in fishing.

On an individual level we can all support females taking part in fishing by just encouraging the significant females in your life to give fishing a try. Think of your mum, wife, sisters, daughters, aunts, nieces and girlfriend. By just making some small adjustments to your fishing can make a huge difference for some women including taking them fishing in an area with good access to amenities or making an allowance onboard the boat; adjust the time you head out around their commitments or concentration levels; teach them the basics and empower them to learn how to do it themselves; think about using surface lures to begin with that provide action throughout the retrieve and an incredible adrenaline rush if they get smashed and most importantly, be mindful of the impact your words can have on either encouraging or discouraging someone from a future in fishing.

Angling Clubs play a vital role too by creating a welcoming family and female friendly club. Think about the time of day and location of your meetings and competitions. Are they held at kids bedtimes or on Saturdays when kids generally have sport? Be sure to have a  strategy for when someone new whether male or female comes through the door and think about what impression do you want them to have when they leave at the end of the meeting or event? Making some changes will not only increase membership levels but also help to guarantee the longevity of the club into the future.

Finally, retail, wholesale and media fishing sectors also have one of the most crucial roles to play. From promoting female anglers more regularly though advertising and social media channels to supporting up and coming female anglers with sponsorship. It is exciting to imagine the impact strategic marketing campaigns could potentially have on supporting and encouraging more women into trying fishing for the very first time. Retail stores also need to be very aware of how they treat female customers and not to be quick to make assumptions. For most new female anglers retail stores are the first place they will head to equip themselves and learn about fishing…your role is huge!

YOU ALSO MANAGE TRELLY’S IN BENDIGO. WHAT ARE THE THREE BIGGEST SELLERS?

Great question!

Our top seller would have to be BAIT!!!  Whether it be worms or yabbies, the local customers just love their bait fishing.

Jackall Ganterals would come a close second. This has been one of the hardest items to keep well stocked. Within days of receiving stock we are basically cleaned out. The most popular colour by far has been Brown Dog particularly for those heading to Lake Mulwala.

…and lastly my personal favourite Gangster Lures spinnerbaits would have to come in third. The sales of these awesome quality spinnerbaits has absolutely surpassed our expectations and we are now stocking nearly the entire Gangster Lures range. My all time favourite and one of our best sellers is from the Outcast Series in white and black with a huge white Zman 9” Grubz that the cod find very hard to resist.

YOU GO FISHING WITH YOUR KIDS A LOT. WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR PARENTS TAKING THEIR KIDS OUR FISHING?

Taking kids fishing is so much more than just catching a fish, it is about making memories together, getting the kids out of the house and away from technology, helping them learn about nature and how to care for and protect the environment for the future and passing on the skills and knowledge to help them and future generations continue to enjoy fishing.

There is nothing more rewarding than watching your own kids catch their first fish. The excitement, the joy and the smile makes it all worthwhile. But I’m not going to lie, taking kids fishing at times can be challenging! Hopefully some of the following tips and tricks that I have learnt over the past seven years since becoming a fishing mum can help you along your journey when fishing with your own kids and get you out there enjoying fishing together.

  • Food!

Never underestimate the amount of food the kids will consume. My golden rule is to always pack what you would normally feed them for the day and then double it!! This rule also allows you to stay out longer if the fish come on the bite.

  • Target Species!

Target a relative easy to catch species first. Think redfin, carp and trout. When starting out fishing with kids it is essential to get on the fishing scoreboard early and bait fishing usually does the trick. Remember to make sure you always throw a couple of shrimp nets in and the kids will have fun checking the nets.

  • Location!

Choose your location wisely. Think safety, bank access, toilet facilities and whether there are safe places surrounding you where they can explore, learn, build and play while waiting for the bite. We often pick a location that has at least one of the following features, sand to make sandcastles, shells to collect, branches to build cubby huts with, leaves to collect, pebbles and rocks to create pictures and stack.

  • Set a Time Limit!

As we all know kids have a short attention span. When starting out only go fishing for a short period of time, say 1-2 hours, and stick to it particularly if the fish just aren’t biting. You will gradually be able to build upon this time.

  • Learning to Cast!

When introducing kids to casting their own rod think about the safety of themselves and others around them. For a start take the hooks of the lure until they become aware of their surroundings. It will certainly save an unwanted trip to the hospital and keep you out fishing together for longer.

  • Lure Selection!

When lure fishing, begin with a lure that is visually going to keep their interest levels high. Surface lures can help to build kids confidence quickly allowing them to see what is happening, has a lower risk of becoming snagged and also helps kids to improve their casting technique quickly. Also if the lure gets smashed by a Murray Cod they will be hooked on fishing for life!

  • Be prepared for anything and everything!

There is nothing worse than getting out fishing and realising you have left something essential at home and having to cut your fishing trip short. If you have young kids make sure you have extra layers to put on them when the weather conditions changes, pack extra nappies and wipes and be prepared for kids to sleep on board the boat or on you (time to troll!)

  • Skill Mastery!

Fishing is a pastime we all take years to learn and hone and for a beginning angler there is so much to learn. Start with the basics and only focus on teaching them one new skill at a time until they master it before adding another.

  • Have Patience!

This is one of the most important skills (and possibly the hardest) we need to have as parents in general but particularly when fishing. Something that can be so easy for us to do ourselves can be so incredibly difficult for them to do. If something just isn’t working or they just don’t seem to understand find another way to explain it or just simply leave it for now and try again another time. It is better to do it this way than say something you are going to regret and possibly deter them from fishing for life.

  • Look at the world through your kids eyes!

The new things kids discover in nature whilst out fishing is mind boggling! Things we overlook every time we are out on the water they are amazed and in awe by. Water bugs and insects, wildlife and farm animals, cloud formations, flowers, rocks, bark, leaves, reeds and so much more. Take the time to explore and discover new things with your kids and just slow down and enjoy spending time and creating treasured memories together. Catching a fish is just a bonus!!!

YOU’RE ON BOARD THIS YEAR AS AN AMBASSADOR FOR GOFISH NAGAMIBE. TOGETHER AS A TEAM, WE ARE WORKING HARD TO MAKE OUR EVENT COMFORTABLE FOR WOMEN AND HAVE AN AMBITIOUS TARGET TO CURB THE INDUSTRY AVERAGE OF 10% FEMALE PARTICIPATION (WHICH WE HAD IN 2019) AND HIT 20% OF OUR PARTICIPANTS BEING FEMALE IN 2020.

WHAT’S YOUR MESSAGE FOR WOMEN SITTING ON THE FENCE?

What GoFish Nagambie are doing to encourage more women into fishing is absolutely ground breaking and I am very honoured to be working alongside them and the Victorian Fisheries Authority’s Women In Recreation Fishing Network team to help deliver a fishing tournament that caters to the female anglers in our fishing community like never before.

Whether you are a beginner or a very experienced female angler GoFish Nagambie 2020 will have something to offer you all. We will be keeping your comfort in mind by placing amenities at strategic and easy to reach locations throughout the tournament zone to assist you when you are out on the water fishing and we are also super excited to announce that together we will be holding a ladies event on the Friday night. It will be a night of celebration for female anglers, a night where you can meet your fishing sisterhood, a night where you can learn and build your skills and a night filled with lots of fun, laughter, amazing food and stacks of great prizes.

For those ladies with young kids, GoFish Nagambie 2020 falls on the middle weekend of the Victorian school holidays and it truly offers a fun, friendly and safe family environment with lots of great activities for the kids throughout the weekend. Kids will be able to learn skills that will last them a lifetime from an amazing team of fishing groups, organisations and industry experts, have the chance to be up close and meet some of their fishing idols and be in the running to win some awesome prizes.

Ladies, GoFish Nagambie 2020 is something not to be missed! You have the opportunity to be apart of something far bigger and far more important than you can imagine. You have an opportunity to come together and help shape the future of women in fishing in Australia. I can’t wait to see you all there.

YOU FISHED THE COMP IN 2019. HOW DID YOU FIND IT? WHAT WERE YOUR BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS…WITHOUR GIVING AWAY ALL YOUR SECRETS…

Going into the 2019 GoFish Nagambie tournament I really didn’t know what to expect and I am happy to say I was pleasantly surprised. From the moment I arrived you could just tell that this event was going to be so much more that just a fishing tournament. It had a real festival feel and it truly was a celebration of all things fishing. The vibe at the festival hub every night was amazing with live music, terrific food and a real comradery between the competitors as together we celebrated the catches of the day and listened to the stories of the ones that got away.

The event was so well organised and professionally run. Important and essential measures were in place and everyone was well catered for. Working at the Trelly’s Outdoor stand and taking part in the school’s education program I got to hear and see a little more of the behind the scenes work than most and all I can say I was very impressed.

All the concerns I had prior to the event as a competitor were quickly erased. Launching the boat every morning was a breeze with no line ups and plenty of parking, the waterway handled the 1000 boats beautifully; you could still find plenty of locations to fish and many anglers had great success on the fishing front.

GoFish Nagambie 2020 is looking to be even bigger and better than 2019 and I just can’t wait to get back out there and put into practice some of the lessons I learnt from other competitors and my experience in 2019. My biggest takeways were:

Think outside the box!

Whilst working at the Trelly’s Outdoor site I had the opportunity to hear a lot of stories about how competitors caught their fish during the tournament. Something that certainly stood out from the conversations had with fellow competitors was to think outside the box. Whether it be lure selection, styles of retrieve, getting out of the boat and getting into those hard to reach places, those taking the road less traveled were certainly rewarded. That information gave me that little bit of inspiration that I needed and on the last day I got smashed on a prototype lure we had made up the night before. I had already spent two days casting for only 1 decent follow so I decided to throw something a little out of the norm and I nearly hooked up to a fish of a lifetime.

Fish to your Strengths!

One of my biggest pieces of advice is to stick to your personal strengths and preferences. If you have the majority of your success fishing from the banks, find a good section of bank and stick to it. If you love casting lures find a location where it is possible to have a good casting run. Don’t just go following reports particularly if it isn’t your strength, stick with what you know and are good at and you will have success.

Stop and have lunch!

It seemed like most of the people who had major success in the competition struck it lucky when they stopped for lunch. Many anglers just left a bait line in whilst taking a break and ended up landing a fish. Shall I mention the 2019 winner Clint had just stopped to have lunch and decided to cast a spinnerbait during their break…$80,000 later I believe stopping for a lunch break is key!

Your Safety is Paramount!

My last takeaway from GoFish Nagambie 2019 would have to be the most crucial and of the upmost importance for everyone competing. Please make sure you take every measure to stay safe on and around the water. Fish with at least one other person and wear that lifejacket even if you aren’t required to because in a second you could end up in the water. In a freak series of events that unfolded right before my eyes my husband ended up falling overboard. Without me on board he would have struggled to get back into the boat and without his lifejacket on the outcome could have been a whole lot worse. You will all be relieved to know his rod and reel were also safely rescued.

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