CELEBRATION, Fla. Janet Parker, a Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats angler, has been lifting the spirits of American troops by communicating to those stationed overseas and by hosting how-to fishing seminars at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas.
Parker, 35, from Little Elm, Texas, started her journey after she received an e-mail from Tech. Sgt. Ronald C. Carden, who was visiting her Web site, www.janetparkerfishing.com, while serving in Iraq.
Carden said he and fellow Air Force Tech. Sgt. James Poirrer were both BASS members and proud that women anglers with the WBT were "adding a touch of style and elegance to an already flamboyant sport."
Parker responded to Carden and offered to send an autographed photo. Jokingly, he reported back that several soldiers had quickly become fishing enthusiasts as well and were looking forward to her correspondence.
Word of Parker's new pen-pal relationship spread quickly and she soon volunteered to visit troops who were training at the Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. Never one to arrive empty-handed, Parker requested product donations from industry manufacturers. She soon found herself with loads of Strike King lures, line from Triple Fish, Evinrude visors, and shirts and hats from Humminbird, Minnkota and Bass Champs.
"I am proud to be able to give something back to them because they and their families make sacrifices that most of us cannot comprehend," Parker said.
Parker made her first visit to Sheppard in early March. She visited with several different groups and talked to them about fishing. "I also thanked them for defending our country so that we can have our freedom," said Parker.
The WBT angler returned the following week and gave fishing lessons to about 20 children who lived on base. She taught them how to tie knots and cast a line, about different types of fish, and about bass behaviors. Though Parker only had planned to work with the kids, she was then asked if she would give a seminar to the airmen. She obliged and the room filled to capacity with 50 attendees. Even more were turned away.
"We thought it was awesome that she came and showed her appreciation for the military," said Staff Sgt. Bradley Donelson. "It built the morale, particularly for those who had not seen their family in a long while. There were a lot of smiles and a lot of troops saying, 'This is cool.'" Donelson said the men and women in attendance would be deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and other places around the globe.
Parker is continuing her quest to keep in touch with American troops. She is donating a fishing excursion on July 4 to an auction that benefits the Sheppard Air Force Base Youth Center, something several other professional anglers are doing as well.
Before Parker left, several airmen gave her tokens of thanks that represented units on the base. Parker said she will wear them during the WBT tournaments as good-luck charms.
"I'm really honored," she said. "These military men and women are my heroes and they've given me such a warm welcome; it leaves me speechless."
The first Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats event is scheduled on April 20-22 on Neely Henry Lake in Alabama.
Sponsors of the Women's Bassmaster Tour include Mercury Marine, Triton Boats, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Advanced Auto Parts and Plano.