Emma Mullineaux has grown the new UMD Bass Fishing Club over her two years as president
Image Credit: Lena McBean, University of Maryland
“People say all the time that bass fishing is what sets the men apart from the boys,” says Emma Mullineaux, a recent graduate (December 2019) from the Agricultural Science and Technology program focusing in agronomy at the University of Maryland. Mullineaux is neither, but she is used to being one of the only women in a male dominated sport, competitive bass fishing. As president of the two-and-a-half years young UMD Bass Fishing Club for the past two years, she has grown the club to include 25 active members and three boats, representing the state of Maryland this past summer as the first ever Marylander to compete in the Bassmaster College Series National Championship. While women have occasionally competed in the past on the national level, for 2019 among 116 teams and 227 participants, Mullineaux was the only female competitor.
“There have been women in the past and a couple all women teams, but I was the only woman there and a one-woman team, since my partner couldn’t come,” explains Mullineaux. “Most teams consist of pairs, so I was one of just a couple people fishing alone. I placed above a couple two-guy teams with my one fish.”
Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, or B.A.S.S., hosts the national championship each year, and they were thrilled to have Mullineaux, not only as a female representative of the bass fishing sport, but as a Marylander and UMD participant. “Bass fishing is big in Maryland, and we actually have two of the best bass fisheries in the country, but the sport of bass fishing is not big here, unfortunately, because it’s a ton of fun,” says Mullineaux. “When we told B.A.S.S. I was coming, they were ecstatic because Maryland has never sent anybody before.” The sport is more popular in the southern states of the U.S., but almost all other states besides Maryland have historically been represented at the national championship. Now with the new Bass Fishing Club team at UMD, UMD is the first and only Maryland college with a team.
That said, a spot at nationals representing Maryland isn’t a given. State qualifying events are held throughout the fall and spring, and teams of two have to perform well in a qualifier to punch their ticket to the national competition in the summer. In bass fishing, a complex and difficult sport, that isn’t always easy.
“Tournament bass fishing is all about making decisions,” says Mullineaux. “You have to make quick decisions and you have to have a plan. And bass fishing is a science and is much more intricate than other forms of fishing. It’s very complicated, and you need all the right stuff available all the time. I fish with at least seven different rods on board in tournament fishing so I can keep switching to what works.”
Mullineaux goes on to describe the many different variables that factor into a successful day of tournament fishing. “The color of your bait or lure and the action or what your bait is actually has to be matched up to where and when you are fishing. It changes seasonally, with water color, salinity, turbidity, and temperature, and by terrain - rocks, ledges, grass flats. In every condition the fish are in a different place, need a different bait or lure, and you might want a different rod.”
The sport garners a lot of attention in competitive fishing for its complexity and fast pace, and the collegiate championships are broadcast on ESPN each year. “My ultimate dream would be to get paid to fish, to one day jump on a pro circuit,” says Mullineaux. For now, however, Mullineaux already has a job lined up as head agronomist for Madtech Agronomy Services, a company out of Huntingtown, Maryland, that flies drones for agricultural surveying and consulting.
In addition to being an intricate sport, B.A.S.S. does extensive conservation work and hires researchers and biologists to study habitat, vegetation, and the overall health of bass fisheries and aquatic ecosystems. All fish are returned to their environment after being weighed, and data collected helps advance research and promote the health of the bass population. “This is conservation at it’s finest,” says Mullineaux. “Hunting and fishing are conservation, and people fail to notice that all the time. It is absolutely an important aspect of the health of our waterways and the Chesapeake Bay.”
Mullineaux will be competing to try to qualify for nationals again next summer. Even after graduation, she plans to stay involved with the UMD Bass Fishing Club as much as she can, and she is already a member of two adult bass fishing clubs outside of the university, so she will definitely continue to compete. Her father is also a member of a bass fishing club with her and is very excited about her success in the sport. He taught her to fish when she was six years old, and they still fish together as often as possible.