5 Things Men Can Learn from Female Anglers

by Anietra Hamper

The science behind what makes men and women different when it comes to fishing.

Anietra Hamper and brother Shay Hamper caught this 38-pound blue catfish on Wilson Lake in Alabama while fishing with Brian Barton Outdoors.

It’s no secret that the differences in male and female traits impact every area of life but do those factors matter when it comes to fishing? Some expert anglers like Benji Brown and Marty Clauson think so.

“Women do tend to catch the bigger fish on the boat at times,” said Benji Brown, an avid tournament angler. “Almost every guy has fished at one point in his life and knows the basics. Women tend to be more eager about learning something new and pay more attention to detail.”

Wisconsin guide Marty Clauson has had similar experiences with men and women in his boat.

“My experiences would favor the ladies for one very important reason—women listen and retain the information that I provide. Guys start off following instructions but eventually do it their own way.”

Their perspectives on the subject are not unique. Ask almost any fishing guide about the dynamics that play out when men and women fish together and you will find similar answers, usually accompanied by a little laughter, reflecting that women oftentimes out-fish their male counterparts. But, is there any validity to it?

Anietra Hamper with a 56-pound blue catfish she caught on the Ohio River in Kentucky.

Research on the subject is limited but it is not beyond the scope of curiosity as evidenced by one of the earliest studies done in 1987 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It looks at how men and women view and participate in outdoor recreation activities like camping and fishing.

The study reveals that there are more similarities than differences in the values and attitudes towards these types of activities but there is one glaring disparity between the sexes. Men approach participation in outdoor recreation the way that they do team sports, competitively, whereas women approach it as just something to do in the same way that they would engage in cultural or social activities. So, how each sex views participation in outdoor activities is altogether different which translates into how they behave and perform while doing them.

Utilizing interviews and research spanning behavioral health, psychology, biology, physiology and sociology, five key differences between men and women emerge when it comes to fishing. These differences could provide insight into the quiet observations that fishing guides have made for years about what plays out when men and women fish together.

  1. Listening

One of the key and notable differences between men and women as it relates to fishing is how each listens to instruction. Women generally pay more attention to the details like the specific tips a guide gives about the body of water and the species they are targeting.

Research conducted at the Indiana University School of Medicine used brain scans of both sexes to determine how and why men and women process language differently. Men use one side of their brain to listen whereas women use both sides of their brain.

Another body of research by Dr. Michael Purdy, a renowned scholar in the field of listening, indicates that women also judge non-verbal cues more accurately therefore providing them a deeper understanding of what is being communicated.

According to the Global Listening Centre, men and women are equal when it comes to their ability to listen, but how women process communication is what makes them more in tune to the fine details. This might explain why women tend to more closely follow instruction from the guide and why men are more likely to casually listen as they toss the line into the water.

  1. Hamper is shown here hooked up to one of her record-breaking Mekong catfish. She set a female record at Bungsamran Lake in Thailand by catching 25 Mekong catfish in a single day. The Mekong cats weighed between 30 and 75 pounds each.

    Coping

Shaking off the loss of the big one, especially after fighting it for 20 minutes is tough, but coping with that disappointment is different for men than for women.

Dr. Don Hafer, Administrator of Behavioral Health at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, who is a psychologist and an angler explains the disparity in coping from his work with both sexes in high stress situations. He says it boils down to the hormone variations of oxytocin, adrenaline, and cortisol that are released during periods of stress.

“During stress, men have an increase in testosterone levels making them more aggressive when combined with the other stress hormones,” said Hafer. “Women have an increase in oxytocin which makes them want to gather and support.”

The difference in how stress hormones are released is why men tend to get angry and shut down, especially after a disappointment. Women tend to look at the problem, evaluate what did not work and determine what they can do to solve it the next time.

“Women generally pay more attention to the details…”
  1. Finesse

Women, by nature, possess a physical finesse that is not part of a man’s DNA but how each sex manages the fishing rod, equipment, and even the fish during high stress is also influenced by the release of hormones.

“We solely use circle hooks for catfishing,” said Benji Brown. “For a circle hook to work properly you must reel fast for 3-7 seconds before picking up the rod. Women tend to listen and reel down properly as instructed. Many guys have bass fished in the past and tend to jerk on the rod, which is one of the worst moves to make.”

The difference here is that the female combination of estrogen and oxytocin has a calming effect whereas the combination of testosterone and oxytocin in men creates an aggressive reaction which impacts how they handle the rod.

 

  1. Patience

Patience is an attribute that is influenced by intuition, but the physiology of the sexes means that each responds to delayed gratification differently.

“Intuition intelligently informs patience. It’ll convey when to have it and if something is worth working on or waiting for,” said Dr. Judith Orloff, a psychiatrist and author of “Emotional Freedom.”
That’s not to say that men do not have intuition. They do, according to a study by Dr. Richard Wiseman. He researched intuition and asked males and females to identify fake smiles versus sincere ones. Wiseman’s conclusions show that while men do have intuition, theirs results in snap decisions based on logic whereas a woman’s intuition includes the element of emotion enabling her to evaluate the situation with more information. That additional intuitive information allows women to exercise more patience when it comes to fishing.

 

  1. Competitive Drive

It is no surprise that men and women view competition differently. Oftentimes, women are not competing at all, they are just participating. For men, competition is a zero-sum game according to Dr. Quinn McDonald, a corporate trainer who works with men and women in competitive scenarios.
“Men make sure someone else loses in order to win. Women just want the high score,” said McDonald. “Women congratulate each other for being successful and men tend to tease each other for messing up.”

A staunch competitive drive is a positive when it comes to fishing in tournaments, but for casual outings, a woman’s natural approach fosters more friendly competition on the water.

The Takeaway

Applying science to the generalized differences between men and women when they fish together gives a new perspective on how the sexes relate to one another and more importantly what they can learn from each other. There’s no doubt that women anglers learn from men, after all, most fishing guides are men, but digging deeper into the quiet observations made from guides around the world indicate that men can pick up a few skills from the women too.

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