Fishing & Boating

First all-female junior team rocks the boat at Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament

PALMETTO -- Chasten Whitfield fishes for more causes than one. She's competed in previous fishing tournaments and donated the money to charities such as Face Autism and Prospect Riding Center, and she helped organize the Kiddie Pole Classic fishing tournament to encourage kids to cast out.

And on Sunday, she competed for the sake of another cause. Whitfield assembled a team of five young women; herself included, and decided to school the boys at the 32nd annual Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament.

The team, dubbed "4 A Cause," was the only all-female team competing in Sunday's tournament and the only all-female team to compete in the junior division in the tournament's history.

"A girl can reel in a fish just as good as a boy can," Whitfield said.

Jeff Stephenson, a member of the Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament board, said he hasn't seen a all-female junior team in the 25 years he's been involved with the tourney.

"We were very excited to see them, and we think we'll see them next year," Stephenson said. And he's right; Whitfield and the rest of the team said they eagerly anticipate next year's Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament.

At the ripe age of 15, Whitfield has already competed and placed in a handful of fishing tournaments, including the Fire Charity Fishing Tournament and the Palmetto High Athletic Booster Club Fishing Tournament.

She's been fishing since her mom, Kapi Whitfield, taught her how to fish at age 3.

"I fished my whole life," Kapi Whitfield said. "We never did it competitively because when you put money in it, it becomes a job."

Soon enough, though, Chasten Whitfield fell in love with fishing and wanted to compete for charity. The desire to make a name for herself came after kids in school, particularly other girls, made fun of her and told her to focus her energy on other activities -- the "normal-girl" activities. And in her first tournament, the Fire Charity Fishing Tournament in 2014, Chasten Whitfield got her bait stolen.

Despite all of the heartache, she won first place in her first tournament. Kapi Whitfield

said ever since then, she's been unstoppable.

All of the members of her Crosthwait team go to Manatee High School with her except Aaliyah Rudrud, 13, who attends Electa Lee Magnet Middle School in Bradenton.

Chasten Whitfield said she always wanted to have an all-girls team, and the five friends thought it would be fun to fish in the tournament together. All of them fish for fun in their spare time, and this is their first year competing in the Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament.

Sami Costello, 14, Emma Moneuse, 15, and Olivia Glavan, 15, had never fished in any tournament before they set sail Saturday morning at 8.

Rudrud and Chasten Whitfield had competed before, but never in the Crosthwait event.

Chasten Whitfield said they were "chased off" by a storm at about 8 p.m. Saturday. But they were back at it by 3 a.m. on Sunday and fished until noon.

The biggest and best catch for 4 A Cause was a 32-inch redfish. All of them nodded in agreement when Rudrud said catching is the best part of fishing, but they all also agreed hanging out together and being out on a boat without any adults made the tournament a lot of fun. All of the girls' parents had to sign permission forms for them to be in the tournament, but after the i's were dotted and the t's were crossed, they were free to set sail.

"It was great to just hang out with friends and have the experience of being on an all-girls team in a big, hardcore tournament," Chasten Whitfield said.

Glavan said catching fish gave her an adrenaline rush, and said the memories she has from the weekend made for a great experience.

"I just wanted to show everyone what we're made of," Moneuse said.

Chasten Whitfield has fished with plenty of famous anglers, Kapi Whitfield said.

"But she doesn't do it to be famous," said the proud mom. "She does it to give back and to get other kids fishing."

"Outside of Manatee High School, people know her. She's something," Kapi Whitfield said. "Inside Manatee High School, they are oblivious. Now they might not be."

Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter @jayohday.

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