Gia Peebles has been fishing for decades.
But when she participated in last year's Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, a fishing competition held in Morehead City, she noticed something: a lack of racial and gender diversity in her challengers.
The experience at that competition inspired Peebles, a Black woman, to start her own fishing team.
“I noticed there was nobody in the tournament that looked like me, so I went ahead and did it,” Peebles said.
She reached out to some close friends, including Lesleigh Mausi, who said the offer to join the new team was “the perfect calling.”
Within weeks, fellow fishers Tiana Davis, Glenda Turner and Bobbiette Palmer joined Peebles and Mausi — and they knew they had something special.
“We formed our team, we bought the T-shirts, we developed a logo within 30 days," Mausi said. "And then won our first tournament."
The result was Ebony Anglers, a Triangle-based Black competitive women’s fishing team. The team has become renowned in the field of competitive angling and has opened doors for many in the sport — specifically for women of color.
In their first competition as a team, the Ebony Anglers won first place, catching a 48-pound king mackerel and garnering a special citation from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
The team is now hosting educational programs in an effort to empower young people of color through the art of fishing while aiding them in their development of self-sufficiency and leadership skills.
The five women continue to make strides in competitive fishing as they seek to highlight the gender and racial inequalities that persist in the white male-dominated sport.
The team organized two educational groups, “Black Girls Fish” and “Black Boys Boat," which aim to promote inclusion, diversity and growth among youth of color who have an appreciation and interest in competitive fishing.
The group has also organized two summer fishing camps for children in the community. They hosted their first camp at Falls Lake in Durham on Aug. 15. Their next camp is set for Oct. 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Dana Anthony has an 11-year-old son who is participating in the summer fishing camps. Anthony — one of many parents who have expressed their appreciation for the youth camps — said she's grateful for the Black representation the programs provide.
Additionally, it offers an opportunity for her son to pass on the skills he's learned.
“If your family doesn’t know how to do it, you don’t learn it," Anthony said. "That’s the way it goes.”
The first round of the camps has proven to be a massive success, Mausi said, with more than 20 participants from four different counties in North Carolina.
“This was something bigger than us and we had an opportunity to use our platform, so we decided to pass down our legacy that we created to young people,” Mausi said. “It is important to target children of color that don’t have access to direct waterways."
Mausi said the team has considered holding a gala in order to raise funds for other events and camps. She also said the team's nonprofit, The Ebony Anglers Foundation, has aided them in providing scholarships to kids from different income brackets as they hope to continue the camp on an annual basis.
Anthony said the programs will help children develop a love and appreciation for competitive fishing while allowing them to do so in an environment they'll feel more comfortable in.
“For my son to have access to the sport in the same environment where people look like his mom and him is very important," Anthony said. "I really wanted him to learn those important life skills in Black spaces. He can take those life skills and share them with his community."
Editor's note: Dana Anthony previously served as a giving and donor engagement specialist at The Daily Tar Heel.