July 25, 2014
For many teenage girls in the Deep South, the approach of another year of high school is about back-to-school fashion, getting the latest and greatest in make-up, and finding a date to this season's homecoming football game.
Not so for 17-year-old Laura Ann Foshee, a soon to be junior at Gardendale High School, home of the Rockets.
"I'm a fishing nerd," laughs Foshee. "I do like watching The Voice on television, but other than that, what other girl do you know who records all of the bass fishing shows and reads all of the bass fishing articles out there in the magazines and on the Internet?"
With bass fishing in her blood – Foshee's grandparents, Dennis and Joyce Montgomery, and her mom, Tammy Foshee, are the owners of Big Bite Bait Company – the teenage bass angler lives to participate in her next tournament.
Or catch another big bass; she currently has landed three in the eight-pound range, including her personal best, an eight-pound, six-ounce bruiser from Lake Eufaula.
"I live an hour or less from some of the best bass lakes in Alabama and virtually my entire family is associated with bass fishing in some way, so it's no wonder I love the sport the way that I do," said Foshee.
So much so that Foshee, who is a member of the Gardendale High Bass Fishing Team, dreams of one day being a professional bass pro who can challenge Kevin VanDam or Brent Ehrler as the best in the business.
"It's a lot of fun to compete against other individual anglers, but it's also very fun to compete against other schools," she said. "When you beat an arch rival school, it's a lot of fun and very rewarding."
Because of the fun and reward, Foshee is considering fishing far beyond her high school years.
"After high school, I want to fish in college," she said. "And after college, I hope to become a professional angler if I can continue to get better. I'd also like to guide, maybe on Eufaula."
For now, Foshee is content to continue fishing on her high school bass team, which picked up a team tournament win last year during competition in the Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association (www.asabfa.com).
"Our high school tournaments are on Saturdays and typically run from 6 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.," she said. "There are 10 qualifying events throughout the season and a big tournament at the end to qualify for state.
"And if you win state, then you qualify for the high school version of the Bassmaster Classic."
So far, Foshee's best finish individually is a fifth place showing but like a veteran pro, she is quick to point out that she has placed in the Top-10 in 50 percent of her events so far.
That success has led to at least eight sponsorships for Foshee, including Big Bite Baits, Rain Shadow (Batson) Rods, Lew’s Fishing reels, Sunline fishing lines, Spro lures, Gamakatsu hooks, 5X3 apparel and Grabow Outdoors among others.
To put that in perspective, how many other high school athletes do you know with a fishing jersey covered up with so many logos?
True to form, Foshee – who went fishing on Florida's Lake Okeechobee after last week's ICAST 2014 show in Orlando – already knows how to serve as the perfect product pitchman.
"My favorite three baits? That's easy; they are the Trick Stick, Yo Daddy! and Yo Mama!," smiled Foshee.
"My favorite fishing technique? I'd have to say that I like to flip or to worm fish more than I like to fish a crankbait. Why? Because there's more action on the hook set and you can catch some really good fish."
If it sounds like Foshee is on the water a lot, that's an understatement.
"In addition to the tournaments I fish in, I also fish for fun all year long," she said. "I think I've only missed three weekends being on the water so far this year. That includes night fishing, day fishing, whenever I can get out in a boat."
When she can't get out in a boat, Foshee is a student of the game, watching television shows, reading how-to articles, and taking notes when she has an opportunity to see a professional angler speak in person.
Case in point was a recent visit with 2014 Bassmaster Classic champion and Major League Fishing pro Randy Howell, also an Alabama resident.
"Randy came to one of our high school team meetings (earlier this year)," said Foshee. "He told us about how he got involved in the sport, how he wanted to be a pro growing up, and other things like that.
"He's a really good guy and he gave his Christian testimony and said that he wanted to go out and win the Classic and give the glory to God. And that's what he did."
Foshee is hopeful that she can do something similar.
"My faith is really important to me and has been since I got saved," she said. "I've often thought of how I'd like to be able to use fishing to share my testimony and have it be a platform where I can help out other people."
Regardless of whether or not she ever competes in and wins the Bassmaster Classic, the Alabama bass fishing teen does hope that she can help lure other girls into the sport of bass fishing.
"It's really a lot of fun," said Foshee. "I think that a lot of girls just simply have never given fishing (in competition) much of a thought.
"They don't really understand (fishing)," she added. "They don't see it as a sport, just a pastime."
Foshee is determined to change that perception.
"I recently got into a discussion with one of my friends about this," smiled Foshee. "She's a cheerleader at school and we got to talking about Randy Howell. I said that he was famous and walks around as a famous person that everybody can approach.
"My friend told me 'He isn't famous, he's just a fisherman.' I told her yes he was famous, that he won the Bassmaster Classic, that he did so with thousands of people watching in person and millions more on television."
Speaking of television, I couldn't help asking if Foshee had ever watched Jack Link's Major League Fishing on Outdoor Channel.
"Yes I have! I think it's very exciting and I've been recording (each episode)," she smiled. "I think the concept is definitely fair, especially the part of weighing every fish and allowing the weight of as many legal fish as you can catch.
"It's fun to watch because these anglers just don't have time to really figure out where the biggest fish are," she added. "They might find one or two, but they can't expect to do that (consistently)."
Does Foshee harbor any dreams of one day becoming the first woman to fish in a Major League Fishing event?
With a big smile, she nodded, pointed and said "KVD, I'm coming for you!"
Spoken like a true fishing nerd.
Or spoken like one of the best young female anglers in the high school bass fishing game in the football crazy state of Alabama.
With her developing fishing skills and her poise in front of a camera, don't be surprised to look up on a professional weigh-in stage one day soon and see Laura Ann Foshee sporting a big smile.
Along with a collection of big bass that just might help to make her famous. Just like Randy Howell.
Click here for videos, stories and photos from ICAST 2014.