by Tim Huffman
Texas fisherman, more correctly fisherwoman, is a regular in national tournaments and the Crappie Anglers of Texas tournaments. She lives on Cedar Creek with husband Jay Don, but she considers home fishing waters to be Lake Fork.
“I started fishing when I met Jay,” says Rhonda. “We jumped on a houseboat that was tied up and each used a hook on a string and fished for perch all day long. It was my first fishing trip.”
What about tournaments? “We’ve had several first place finishes with Crappie Anglers of Texas. Our best finish in a Crappie Masters tournament was second place at Grenada in 2014. We had a one-day total of 20.54 pounds, a national tournament record that still holds. That year was a good year because we hit our stride as a team.”
Favorite fishing memory? “Jay had a small two-seater Bass Buster and an S-10 pickup truck. He and I would throw the boat in the back of the pickup and go fishing at a private lake we had permission to fish. That was good times.
Fishing strength? “Single poling, but we have gotten much better at spider rigging.”
Fishing weakness? “Being calm. I get a little excited and knock fish off with the net. I get in too big of a hurry when excited. Lately, I don’t have the stamina because I’ve been sick so he has to do more of the work.”
Favorite place to fish? “Lake Fork, Texas.”
If only one bait in your boat, what would it be? “Black-chartreuse hair or plastic jig.”
What motivates you? “I love competition. Also, fishing is my outlet.”
Superstitions? “The year we had the big stringer, it happened, as it has several other times, we get a sign. If a butterfly or ladybug lands on a rod or in the boat, it’s a very good sign. I like to see any positive sign that it will be a good day, like a heads-up penny in the parking lot. Those things encourage me.
Pet Peeves? “Wind. It makes things much harder. Also, I hate getting cut off when fishing, or, any lack of sportsmanship in any way.”
How do your spend your time when not fishing? “With our grandkids. We have five grandkids we spend a lot of time with.”
Hero? “Jay. He has been my friend and caretaker. A genuine hero.”
Favorite food? “Fillet mignon steak.”
Favorite boat food? “We don’t eat much in the boat, maybe almonds or cashews.”
Sports teams? “Texas Rangers, Texas Tech Red Raiders.”
Something most people don’t know about you? “I grew up a cotton gin girl. My dad was a cotton ginner.”
How would you like to be remembered? “Kind, a friend, honest, advocate for ovarian cancer.”
“I first got sick in 2015,” says Rhonda. “We were at the championship on Kentucky Lake and wasn’t feeling good. I was tired, my stomach hurt and I just knew something wasn’t right. After seven trips to the doctor and ending up in the Emergency Room, they finally were able to diagnosis it. By then it was stage three cancer. Not unusual but frustrating. I had surgery in November and was in the hospital for two weeks, then had 15 rounds of chemo and several complications requiring more surgeries.
“I spent a total of 73 days in the hospital during the treatment period. I got well and it stayed away for two and a half years. It came back last September. I went back on chemo for five rounds that equaled the 15 rounds. I’m in a critical trial to hopefully keep it away from now on.
“My take on this is simple. We must keep our heads up and keep living every day.”
Home Water: Lake Fork, TX
Fishing Experience: 35 years
Fishing Partner: husband, Jay Don
Highlight: 2014 Crappie Masters seven-fish limit weighing 20.54 pounds
Favorite Jig Color: black-chartreuse
National Ovarian Cancer Coalition Boat
“We wanted to give back to the ovarian cancer community but was struggling how to raise money and awareness. We decided to wrap our boat with the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) logo and colors.
We started asking companies and individuals to give $100 to put something on the boat. To date, we’ve raised over $80,000 by doing it. The boat is covered in names and logos. We are about to run out of room but that’s okay.”