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Wairarapa women rising to the bait

After a three-year hiatus, Wairarapa’s iconic all-female fishing competition is back at sea – and local anglers are as keen as ever to prove they are the catch of the day.

The Battle of Babes, open to women aged 13 and upwards, will be held at Castlepoint and Mataikona next week: And will see fishers competing on both land and water for a prize pool of close to $10,000.

The competition, founded in 1999, had been a fixture of the summer calendar in Wairarapa but had been on the backburner since 2020, thanks to covid restrictions.

The event was revived in September last year with the formation of a new committee – made up of both keen fishers and their supporters – and is already gaining interest from anglers throughout the region and the lower North Island.

Committee member Lorraine Whitcombe said the Battle of the Babes had been “very popular”, with previous events attracting between 80 and 100 entrants, and at least 50 boat crews.

Traditionally, fishing has been a male-dominated sport – but Battle of the Babes competitors have proven they can easily go toe to toe with their male counterparts, with some recording catches of up to 15kg.

“The competition has always had a lot of interest – there are a lot of women in the region who love fishing. You’d be surprised how many,” Whitcombe said.

“We’ve got a lot of talented women anglers, who are able to bring in some big fish. And some of the young ones, the teenagers, are particularly good. They’re getting stuck in and getting out on the water early.

“It was a very popular and successful event – and we were very keen to get it going again.”

This year’s Battle of the Babes, kicking off next Friday, will include nine different classes [based on fish species caught], with first, second and third prizes on offer for the heaviest catch.

Spot prizes will also be handed out throughout the two days of the competition.

Whitcombe said the generous prize pool was made possible with “great support” from local businesses – with sponsors including The Warehouse, Mitre 10, Tumu ITM, Resene, Kirland Decorating and Maxwell Agspray.

The event will conclude on the Saturday night with a prizegiving at the Wairarapa Fishing Club, complete with food trucks, a DJ and, hopefully, “lots of dancing”.

Whitcombe said the competition was an opportunity for women to spend time with “like-minded people” with similar passions and interests.

“Also, the competition side is a lot of fun!”

The Battle of the Babes will be held from February 24-25, with registration on February 23. For more information, call 027 293 1672, or go to the Battle of the Babes Facebook page.

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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