Ladies of the Lake--Volume 1, Issue 2

Last month, I shared with you my own unlucky stories of my first adventures as a "lady of the lake." As you may remember, I made more of a "bass" of myself than anything--pun intended. : ) Instead, this month, I'm going to share with you the story of a "reel" lady of the lake--professional angler and founder of Reel Girls Fish, Denise Sustaita. Sustaita, originally of Houston, fished Sam Rayburn Lake, with her father, since she was a child. It wasn't until just a few years ago, that the shores of Lake Rayburn called her home. She bought a lake house and turned her love of life at the lake into a full-time job. She was hooked--for life. And she's kicking bass and taking names, or at least making a name for herself, on the professional circuit. Sustaita competes in tournament trails, particularly the Lady Bass Angler Association (LBAA) trail, and in most of the big annual tournaments in the area, traveling nearly every weekend from February through October throughout the United States. But to her, all the travel and weekends away from home, it's worth it. In fact, to her, anywhere on the water is home. "Maybe it's the competitiveness--the possibility of catching 'the big fish.' It's in my blood--maybe somewhat of an addiction. Only those people [other anglers] understand being out on the water--the tranquility of being on water--in the dark, with the sun coming up and the coyotes and wolves howling and the sun rise and then, the sun sets when you've been out there all day--it's breathtaking--surreal," she said. Her experiences may seem surreal, but her rankings on the circuit and recent successes are very real, both on the boat and online. When she isn't on the lake and tying fishing knots and casting fishing lines, she's gluing rhinestones and working online with her Reel Girls Fish business. She created Reel Girls Fish, which specializes in women's fishing apparel and accessories, designed by a woman (Sustaita herself!) and for women. Sustaita began the business about three years ago. "The idea of Reel Girls Fish! started when I got sick and tired of not being able to find apparel for women when preparing for bass tournaments. It got to the point where I was just fed up with shopping in the men's department, having to buy men's shirts that didn't fit right and caps that I didn't like -- I prefer fishing visors. After asking tournament directors over and over again for a visor for the women fisherman and looking for shirts that actually fit, I decided to create the things that I would want to wear myself - both on the water and off," she said. "Today's woman angler is as serious about her fishing as she is her sense of style. The fit is very important to women anglers - shirts that are actually made to fit a women's body, visors that women can wear and other accessories that are more custom made to enhance a woman's physique were something that I had always looked for, but could never find," she continued. But Sustaita said to "be careful what you wish, or in this case, 'fish' for." Right now, it's an online business only, and she is the only employee, but business has really taken off, causing a need for expansion--something she has been hoping for, but which will require a big step. And like her Reel Girls Fish business, Sustaita is also taking care of business and stepping up in her fishing career. The 2014 LBAA season will be Sustaita's third year fishing on the circuit, but this year will be her first year as a pro-angler, rather than a co-angler, meaning that she will be on her own, with her own boat. For her, this is the year to step it up and take control. The first two years were like getting her feet wet, she said, but this year, she is hoping to dive in and make a big splash--figuratively of course. "I have to live up to the expectations of doing well. It's time to make that step and do really good," she said. But she's done more than good. In her first year on the LBAA tour, as a co-angler, she placed second at the Classic and got the "Big Bass." Currently, she is ranked #4 in the bass rankings, according to, for her two-year average. And although she's making a name for herself nationally, Sustaita remains a down-to-earth, local entrepreneur, hometown supporter, and inspirational role-model to children, women (and even men!) everywhere. "Times have changed - we live in a new era," she said. There are more than 13.6 million female anglers in the United States, which is about 33% of all anglers. In addition, women anglers spend over $3 billion annually on trip-related fishing expenses and fishing equipment according to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. Hence, the inspiration for Reel Girls Fish and the possibility of developing a Reel Girls Fish Camp, designated to helping young girls have access to and to develop the same love for fishing that she has. In addition, she helps out and participates with local events. Last month, she competed in the Jimmy Johnson Memorial Championship, hosted by Lufkin professional anglers Scott Burns and Ron Jones at Jackson Hill Park & Marina. The tournament proceeds of $4,000 were donated to the family of Jimmy Johnson, a Texas angler who was shot and killed by a burglar at a hotel in Jackson, Mississippi, while at a tournament. Sustaita found out about the tournament the day before and immediately signed up. She felt it was the right thing to do. She said, "With fishing, people become family-friendly--it's a common bond." Whether she's fishing for a cause or fishing for the applause, in everything she does, Sustaita lives up to her catchphrase and is one woman who really does keep it REEL. Catch Sustaita casting a line on the shores of Rayburn or online at or for some last minute Christmas shopping, check out her merchandise at or email at [email protected]

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Lake Sam Rayburn Weather Forecast



Hi: 49

Saturday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 30


Mostly Sunny

Hi: 57

Sunday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 37


Rain Showers Likely

Hi: 53

Monday Night

Rain Showers Likely

Lo: 42


Mostly Cloudy

Hi: 56

Tuesday Night

Partly Cloudy

Lo: 33

Lake Sam Rayburn Water Level (last 30 days)

Water Level on 1/22: 161.00 (-3.40)

Lake Sam Rayburn

Fishing Report from TPWD (Jan. 19)

GOOD. Water stained; 55-58 degrees; 3.33 feet low. Fishing remains the same as we head into another cold front. Bass are good on Carolina rigs and crankbaits in the points, ditches and drains. Crappie are good on live minnows, then jigs after the live bite subsides. You will find them in creeks and river channels. Catfish are good in shallow to 15 feet of water, moving towards the creeks. Report by Lynn Atkinson, Reel Um N Guide Service.

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