No matter where someone is from, how they grew up or what their gender, race or background is, fishing has the chance to get them hooked. Those who enjoy the sport will forever have it in their blood and return time after time. The chase of our finned counterparts creates a common bond that connects anglers not only to each other but to nature.
For angler Leslie McHugh, the opportunity to begin fishing salt water wasn’t that long ago.
“I came from north Georgia mountains where we would fish freshwater and lakes growing up. When I moved down here, I had the opportunity to get out on salt water and was immediately addicted,” McHugh said. Her new obsession landed her in a boat dealership in the summer of 2016.
“I went and saw a Nautic Star boat on my lunch break and bought it. From there, I pretty much started doing it all on my own from trailering, launching the boat, driving, catching bait and rigging,” she said. “Everything.”
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Less than a year later, McHugh decided she needed something bigger. Staying in the brand, she upgraded to a 24-foot Nautic Star Bay boat. “I learned a lot about what I needed. At first I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I was able to learn about the things I wanted in my next boat.”
The traveling nurse and mother of two enjoys her days off on the water and gets out almost all chances she can get.
“I usually launch in the Manatee River and head first thing to the Skyway for bait. It gets interesting with an all-women crew when we’re throwing our own nets for bait and navigating skinny water, as it’s not something you see everyday.”
With friends Tonya Bellamy, Carissa Decos and Morgan Stinton, McHugh entered two tournaments last year with the creative name Team Netfish and Chill. Their first effort resulted in a second place, while the following tournament saw the team winning the ladies division of the Big Art Memorial with a 38- and 21.5-inch snook. They were hooked.
“We got a taste of tournament fishing, and are already planning out dates and getting everything on a schedule for next year,” the ambitious angler described. “After being awake all night, the last shiner to our name in the live-well caught us the 38-inch snook that won us the tournament.”
The bigger success from the tournament came after the victory. Their Netfish and Chill team shirts caught plenty of attention from both male and female anglers. McHugh realized she might be onto something.
“People stopped us and were asking for shirts, so we printed a few more. It took no time to sell out. From there, we started coming up with even more slogans and sayings for men and women’s shirts, and it’s been going very well.
“I don’t really do too much in the way of advertising besides online ads and exhibiting at a few boat shows, but I’m gearing up for a bigger push in 2018.”
Look for team Netfish and Chill this year and beyond in local tournaments, but don’t take them lightly. Chances are, McHugh will be out there finding plenty of big fish and saving them for tournament day.
If you’re interested in seeing the Netfish and Chill line of apparel, visit netfishwear.com.
For more information, contact Jon Chapman at firstname.lastname@example.org.