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A reel passion

How ‘Bobber Anne’ followed her passion to land fishing career

When “Bobber Anne” Orth was a girl, she and her family often went fishing on the banks of the Sauk River or in the creek that ran through her family’s farm near Melrose.

“Bobber Anne” Orth, who grew up near Melrose, with a muskie. Orth was recently named to the Hall of Fame at Freshwater Fish Museum. Contributed photo

“We fished for pike and skinny carp,” she recalled. “We had the homeliest equipment. When the line snarled, my brothers would run it down the driveway, reel it back up again, and hope for the best. Our bobbers were chunks of Styrofoam.” She never suspected a childhood pastime would lead to a career.

Today, Anne’s equipment is top of the line, and promoting it is her job. As a field representative for a tackle company in Becker, she covers a large territory, driving around the Midwest and Canada. She gives fishing seminars to youngsters and adults; promotes a line of fishing equipment and instructional videos; and appears on TV, DVDs, and the Internet, sometimes doing her own underwater filming. One of the clips available on the Internet is one of those lucky shots— a pike leaping out of the water to land a walleye.

Anne explained how she came by her nickname at a Cincinnati Sports Show.

“The guys in a nearby booth started singing Barbara Ann when business was slow. It gave them something to do.” And thus that classic song, with the repetitive refrain that haunts the memories of the 1960s generation, became her new, appropriate name.

A recent DVD is called Fishing the World with the Old Man and “Bobber” Anne, the old man being company head Dan Gapen, showing their adventures in Argentina, Venezuela and Canada. She writes articles promoting outdoor sports, appears on the stand at fishing shows, and does filming, sometimes underwater. She has even published Bobber Anne’s Fish/Fowl/Game Recipe Book in a handy long format to fit in a tackle box or gun case.

This March her efforts earned her a spot in the 2018 Hall of Fame at the Freshwater Fishing Museum in Hayward, Wisconsin. She is one of only a few women to receive this honor. Her boss said of his protege. “(She) was taking her place among the hall of fame immortals. I wasn’t sure what I was feeling, but I couldn’t have been prouder, as tears of pride, love and joy filled my eyes.” Also present and proud at the award, presented at the Northwest Sport Show in Minneapolis, were her parents, Eymard and Lucille Orth, of Melrose, and many of her 10 siblings, plus nieces and nephews. The award was in the promotions category, but Anne holds many other outdoor sports records, including fish caught in Costa Rica—an 86-pound cubera snapper, a 135-pound tarpon and several hefty lake trout and channel catfish.

“Bobber Anne” stands next to an exhibit in her honor at the Minnesota Fishing Museum in Little Falls. Photo by Jean Paschke

Anne didn’t go directly from her local creek to fishing fame. After graduating from St. Francis High School, Little Falls, she worked at various times as a cook, shipping clerk, waitress, housekeeper, and airport maintenance worker. When she was a dispatcher for the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office in St. Cloud in 1991 she came to Dan Gapen’s attention.

“Dan always wanted to get pictures of people fishing,” she said. He contacted a friend of Anne’s who said she wasn’t the outdoorsy type, but she had a friend who was. “When I came along, Dan said, there’s a hardworking farm girl, let’s put her on the road.” She learned about fishing techniques and tackle on the job.

“I keep trying to promote outdoor sport in young people, but it’s a losing battle,” she said. “Kids are gamers and getting away from natural sports.” Some lucky kids at her seminars might put down their tablets long enough to win a fishing trip. Meanwhile, Anne never misses a chance in her free time, not that she has much of it, to enjoy fishing.

“I fish on the Red River in Winnipeg, where you can catch 25 to 30-pound catfish, and I do any kind of bobber fishing, even bank fishing if I’m near a river. I also hunt whitetails here, and twice I went caribou hunting in Manitoba. I shot a couple of Minnesota black bears and an antelope in Wyoming.”

Her boss said of her acceptance speech at the hall of fame award, “It’s a short, soft talk giving credit to others rather than expounding on herself, like the love and trust she’s gained from hundreds of sporting good buyers and thousands of anglers nationwide, nurtured throughout her 27-year career.”

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