The Fishing Diva
How does a former majorette and beauty queen from Cullman become one of the South's top anglers? Just ask Kimberlee Chambers Striker about that or anything to do with bass fishing, and it's easy to see how she became known as "the Fishing Diva."
Striker's country twang, short stature and big smile have been compared to that of country music star Dolly Parton. Whether she's coloring hair at her salon (aptly named Curl Harbor) or skimming across the waters of beautiful Smith Lake in a speeding bass boat, she's anything but pretentious. That doesn't mean she skimps on style. Her makeup is perfect, and she's dressed in the latest fishing attire.
|Striker releases a spotted bass caught from beautiful Smith Lake in Cullman County.|
"A lot of my friends I went to school with can't believe I'm a professional angler," Striker said. "Heck, it's not just them, most people I meet don't believe it either. When I was in school I was sort of wild. I liked to wear wild clothes - Cyndi Lauper was my idol if that tells you anything."
But when her family moved to a farm that had a big pond, she began fishing with her brother. Later, she dated a boy who had a boat, and she started fishing more with him.
"Then one time when we were fishing, he wouldn't let me do it the way I wanted to, so I got mad and went and bought my own boat," she said. "He hasn't beaten me at a tournament yet."
Striker's favorite fishing hole then and now is the crystal-clear water of Smith Lake in Cullman County. Fishing also introduced her to her husband, Shawn, who operates a logging and timber business. They've been married five years and both are Alfa policyholders.
The lady angler who is quick to answer any question, except how old she is, describes them as a "two-boat family."
"Shawn fishes a lot of the local tournaments around here, and he used to travel to some of the big tournaments out of state with me," Striker said. "But he says I'm a big girl now and can take care of myself. Sometimes my mom travels with me, which is a big help. It's expensive and involves a lot of time on the road. But, I absolutely love it."
Still, it hasn't always been smooth sailing for the up-and-coming fishing star. She traveled thousands of miles fishing against some of the top male and female anglers in the world to get her to the point where sponsors began to contact her.
"I started fishing tournaments around Smith Lake and began winning some money, so I started fishing other tournaments," Striker said. "That's about the time the industry began to notice women and how many women were interested in the sport. My name started getting out there, and I started having companies calling me and wanting to send me merchandise like tackle boxes, lines, rods and stuff like that. I started volunteering to work at fishing shows and boat shows. I didn't want pay. I wanted to learn, be in the atmosphere and meet people. It's really paid off."
Now Striker has several sponsorships that range from cash to those who donate merchandise she uses on tour. They include Shakespeare, which manufactures Pflueger Reels and All-Star Rods; Plano Tackle Boxes; Shakespeare Supreme Line; Lucky Craft Lures; Humminbird Fish Finders and Minn Kota Trolling Motors.
Striker donates a good bit of her time to charity events, and she's helped organize lake-cleanup projects such as the one earlier this year on Lake George near Cullman.
She also finds time to appear on several TV shows where she loves to talk about her favorite pastime. She's been on Fox Sports Net, OLN and was a guest host on Midwest Outdoors. But it was a guest appearance on ESPN2's Bass Tech TV show that garnered her more than just some good exposure - she got the truck of her dreams.
She already had the truck, but the "Bass Rats" who appear on the show chose to "trick out her truck." Now, the Chevrolet three-quarter ton pickup has a camper with an electric sunroof, boxes in the bed to hold her rods and reels, a mattress, XM and Sirius radio systems, a TV/DVD system, a global position system and a state-of-the-art stereo system.
Striker said Alabama supports bass fishing more than any other state. Birmingham, which was recently voted America's bass capital by Bassmaster magazine readers, will host the CITGO Bassmaster Classic on Feb. 23-25, 2007.
Anglers will fish on the 12,000-acre Lay Lake, site of both the 1996 and 2002 Bassmaster Classics. Anglers will weigh in at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center.
The Women's Bassmaster Tour championship, which will be held in conjunction with the 2007 CITGO Bassmaster Classic, is the first-ever women's championship event. The Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour Championship, presented by Triton Boats, will take place Feb. 22-25, 2007, on Lake Mitchell near Birmingham. It will feature the top 12 anglers and co-anglers from the five-event inaugural season of the women's tour, based on Toyota Women's Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year points.
Striker is hoping to make the cut, but admits she hasn't had as good of a year as she had wished for.
"But if I don't make it to the top 12, then I'll be there probably working the show for some of my sponsors and watching the weigh in," she said.
Striker said even though she loves her salon, her dream would be to fish professionally full time. She's fished some of the most famous lakes in the country, but none are as special to her as Smith Lake, she said.
"Smith Lake is like heaven for me," said Striker who once caught a 30-pound striper from its waters. "I have to travel a lot and fish other lakes, but this is like when you go home from work and you just can't wait to get in your old worn-out blue jeans and beat-up sweat shirt. Coming back and getting on this lake is like that for me. It's the most beautiful lake in Alabama, and it's peaceful. It's also the cleanest lake in Alabama, and it's fun to come here fishing."
What advice would Striker give to other women interested in a sport traditionally reserved for men only?
"Get out there, steal your husband's boat - don't even ask him, just do it," she said. "Learn how to back and load a boat and run the trolling motors. Practice a lot, and when you feel comfortable, go to a tournament and try it. When you realize how much fun it is to go out there and fish and have fun with all these other women who love it, it gets in your blood."