Today’s historical photo is, as described in a 1973 news article, of “a 5-foot, 3-inch bundle of fishing enthusiasm.” Her name was Mary Bryson, and according to the article, she was about to make history as the first woman to enter a professional bass fishing organization event. That event was the Kentucky Lake Invitational Bass Tournament hosted by the PBA (Professional Bass Association) which was expected to field approximately 200 anglers in its 1973 contest.
I suppose it could be argued that the women who fished in such events as the Texas State Bass Tournament, as well as the World Series of Sport Fishing events, both of which had female and couples/partner divisions, were likely the first, but organizations such as B.A.S.S. certainly wouldn’t have allowed such to happen back in the 1970s. On the Bassmaster Tournament Trail, that milestone wasn’t reached until 1991.
Back to Mary. In addition to her PBA credentials, she was also a member of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society as well as the National Rifle Association, which she stated she enjoyed hunting as much as fishing. She had started fishing “as a tyke,” but fished every chance she could when not working, often camping out at lakes over the weekend. She tore apart and cleaned her reels regularly, her favorite being the Mitchell 300 spinning reel.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any follow-up stories or information on the event, how she placed, or whether there were any issues given the blind draw format of the event. The lone article, written just a couple weeks before the event, stated tourney organizers as having no issue with her entering and fishing as there was nothing in their rules at the time preventing it. So, an interesting piece of potential bass fishing trivia, but a little unsatisfying as to what ultimately became of Mary and the event.