WI Women Fish, a fishing club for women, has an annual event called Fish Camp that has become the largest event of the season. Women gather to attend fishing seminars, mentor each other, enjoy a fun tournament, have an awards ceremony and of course GO FISHING. With this year’s COVID-19 crisis, the 14th Annual Fish Camp was cancelled and reformatted to be a virtual event.
Many of the members were skeptical of a virtual event, and Barb Carey and Rikki Pardun, the event organizers, were faced with having to learn how to deliver virtual content, develop engagement with the audience, and create an environment that would feel like a personal experience. One attendee stated, “I am so impressed by how well Fish Camp went. A virtual event that actually felt in person! I think we all needed it!”
Despite the skepticism, 108 women from 7 states and Canada attended, making it the largest attended event in the club’s history. The entire event took place on a private Facebook page and everything was broadcasted live to their audience with the instructor’s presentations seamlessly integrated. They brought in women seminar speakers that covered content such as kayak fishing, trolling with planer boards, bass fishing, walleye fishing, social media, shore fishing, old school fishing, so you want to be a pro, and even had a boot camp for new anglers. Several attendees commented that they were thrilled to have it virtually, because due to their location, they would not have been able to attend in person. Many members had never made it to an organized event, and others had been to many and made close friends over the years.
They were able to create interaction and social hours to have it feel as much like an in-person event as they could. After Friday night’s programming, there was a seminar on how to make a lemon drop martini. Many of the gals bought the ingredients ahead of time and followed along. There were “rooms” created afterwards and people could pick which room to go to based on the topic. People would be able to go to the Walleye Room, and everyone in the room could talk, ask questions, share tips, and even use various filters…they had lots of laughs! Everyone in the room had their face on the screen, so it felt more personal. Quite a few members got together in small groups for the weekend and watched the content on the big screen after a day of fishing together.
Some of the feedback received was how interested the members’ husbands were in the content that was being delivered. Some started watching over their wife’s shoulder and finally pulled up a chair. Two members shared:
“My husband just excitedly asked what the next class is…turns out he’s been listening behind me all weekend and loving it!!
“We had people in town this weekend so I missed a few and my husband said, “when are you catching up on your classes? Want me to hook it up on the tv?!” I think he’s jealous.”
The staff learned how to deliver personalized content to their audience and are now saying it will be something they do on a regular basis. “The women in the club are starving for information and we are their trusted source to deliver what they need,” said Carey. In a recent survey on how members choose a fishing product to purchase, 78% chose “advice from members from WI Women Fish.”
The post-event energy and feedback is amazing. Women usually leave in-person events filled with joy and excitement, and often feel taller than when they arrived. This virtual event somehow managed to make everyone feel right at home. The platform was user-friendly, there was enough interaction that personal connections were made, and they were all able to be “together” in the best way they could.
WI WOMEN FISH’S Barb Carey
Here’s what a couple members had to say about their experience:
“Thanks to all involved in making this year’s Fish Camp. Hats off to you! B*R*A*V*O! for making something that was questionable as to whether or not it could be a success, that
and so much more. I am immensely impressed, and grateful to you for keeping the fun, education, momentum and camaraderie of this wonderful organization alive!” “So Virtual Fish Camp was awesome. Thanks to all who made it possible for me and others to participate in this event. I had so much fun and learned so much from the seminars. I never considered my participation in this club anything other than fulfilling a special place in my heart for valued friendships, a chance to share my passion for fishing, a place to learn how to be a better angler and a special sense of pride to just be associated with such wonderful women. If you are new to this club, welcome…you came to the right place.”
This event had several sponsors. Clam Outdoors, St Croix Rods, Off Shore Tackle Company, Pico Lures, Grizzly Coolers, Lance Valentine’s Teachin Fishin, Bella Carrabelle Vacation Rental, Fishing with Julie Guide Service, True North Guiding and Outfitters, Escape Excursions, The Wampum Shop, Hydro Glow Fishing Lights, Bucket Hoodie, Aqua Vu, Captain Barb Carey, 50 Campfires, and various members of WI Women Fish.