Times – Captain Shreve’s Marlee Churchman becomes first woman to sign with LSUS men’s fishing team

With a quick flip of her wrist, Marlee Churchman deftly tossed the white spinner bait between two cypress trees nestled together on the west side of Shreveport’s Cross Lake.

The water temperature below 50 degrees, Churchman slowly retrieved the bait, repeating the effort multiple times before opting to change to a soft plastic for a few throws. Over the next couple of hours, the Captain Shreve senior methodically changed rods and baits several times with little success.

The Monday evening fishing excursion wasn’t really about loading bass into her father’s Tracker bass boat, however. It was more about getting the kinks out of her system after taking the ACT for the fourth time Saturday morning. Churchman reeled in a big one Friday when she became the first woman to sign with the LSU Shreveport fishing team, ranked in the Top 25 of the Association of Collegiate Anglers.

“I’m excited to join the LSUS team and I’m excited for what the future holds for me,” Churchman said. “I think it’ll be a good experience and I can’t wait to do my thing.”

Just the fact that Churchman is able to compete is a joy to her parents. Leanne and Jeff Churchman struggled with pregnancy issues before their only child was born.

“She’s a blessing,” Jeff Churchman said.

Marlee made it official with LSUS coach Charles Thompson in attendance  at the signing event at Shreve.

“I’d been wanting to add a female angler to our team for a while, but I knew it had to be the right one,” Thompson said. “I believe we have found the right one in Marlee.”

Churchman didn’t take up competitive fishing until last year because the family didn’t have a boat. The only child pestered her father into purchasing one, and the Churchman’s hit the Shreveport-area lakes and rivers. But the success was slow in coming.

“We went out several times and I couldn’t catch a fish, so I wanted to quit before I hardly got started,” Churchman said. “Then, I caught a three-pounder and a four-pounder on Toledo Bend. Now, I’m always asking him to go.”

In high school bass fishing, a boat captain (usually a parent) drives the competitors on the water. The captain is only allowed to run the big motor on the boat.

“It’s a really boring day,” her father admitted. “I bring plenty of food and a charged cell phone.”

Figuring out how to coax bass into hitting her offerings on February days in Louisiana is one of Marlee’s toughest challenges. She has already cleared one obstacle.

“I’ve heard a bunch of guys say, ‘girls can’t fish,’ but here I am. I can fish,” she said. “It’s fun fishing against guys and it’s fun fishing against some girls who are out there. My teammates support me, and I think all my upcoming teammates will support me.”

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