Melinda Mize called to duty

While Melinda Mize will miss the inaugural WBT season, she hopes to fish any available events upon her return from the Middle East. 

CELEBRATION, Fla. — One of the most promising and affable stars of the Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats has been called to overseas military duty and — though she was prepared to sign up for all five events — will not fish the tour in 2006.

Melinda Mize, a 23-year-old National Guard member from Arkansas, is now in training and will soon travel to the Middle East where she will work as part of a flight aviation operation. She is scheduled to return in June 2007.

"The day they told me, my world fell apart," said Mize, who joined the National Guard five years ago. "Deployment is not easy and it couldn't have come at a worse time, but it's something I signed up for. So many of my friends have been over there and now it's my turn."

While Mize makes travel preparations, she is putting her BASS angling career on hold. While she'll miss the inaugural WBT season, she said she wants to fish any available events when she returns.

"I was really keyed up for the Women's Bassmaster Tour, and I hate that I will miss this great opportunity," said Mize, who recently returned from volunteering for disaster cleanup in New Orleans.

Like other women anglers, Mize already had in place four sponsorship deals for the season. Ironically, she said, one was the National Guard. She also reached agreements with Berkley, Lowrance Electronics and Stren Fishing Line.

"They all told me we would pick up where we left off when I get done with my service," Mize said. "Berkley and Stren will continue to support me while I am overseas. All of them understand some things are out of my control and they absolutely support me."

Mize might be far away, but she won't be forgotten. She's asked her mother Lucy Mize — who will fish the WBT — to keep her in the loop with any news or new products.

While she doesn't expect to find bass-filled waters near her base, Melinda Mize plans to practice flipping, pitching and casting at targets and develop the ability to cast with her left hand, making her an ambidextrous and more efficient angler.

Although Melinda will not compete on the BASS circuit in 2006, her family will represent her well at BASS tournaments next year. While Lucy fishes the WBT, the patriarch of the family, Jimmy Mize, is fishing the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series.

"The best thing I can do is cheer them on and really encourage them," Melinda said. "I hope they both tear it up."

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.