Jalaba followed a similar path, convinced by a local angler during a visit to a tackle shop to give tournament angling a try. She showed up on Lake St. Clair in Michigan having never fished all day from a boat, much less a high energy tournament. The weather turned ugly, as it can on the Great Lakes, with a storm packing high winds, rain and otherwise miserable conditions for someone not wearing rainwear. Misery turned to inspiration.
“After gymnastics ended in college I had nowhere to channel my competitive drive,” she said. “To do it through fishing, being outdoors, was intriguing, while renewing my interest in competing.”
Jalaba continued fishing local events, while testing the waters as an FLW Tour co-angler, the goal being to observe, learn and gain skills from the back of the boat. Her ultra-highly competitive drive from collegiate gymnastics, where she trained six hours a day, put her on the fast track to the next level.
“Once you are conditioned to train that way, then you don’t know any other way,” she said. “Training for the pro ranks took me back to what I’d lost, and missed, from gymnastics.”
The second year, Jalaba was a co-angler for as many FLW Tour events as time allowed, viewing the time well spent to learn, gain experience about the rules and format, and watch from the back of the boat.
“I zoomed in and focused, learned to be a sponge,” she said. “I’m an observer, a researcher and a learner, and the variety of the different anglers and fisheries added a great dynamic to my skills and interest.”
Jalaba earned success, made a plan and revaluated it for the next steps. That came when FLW eliminated co-anglers. The timing lined up with her confidence to move up to the highest level.
“Fishing as an FLW Tour co-angler took it to the next level, as I witnessed the pros’ higher degree of professionalism, dedication to the sport and their seriousness,” she said. “It was also a test of my endurance and commitment to see if it was what I really wanted to do.”
It was and she moved to the front of the boat after two years as a co-angler. Now, Jalaba competes on the NITRO Pro Team from a NITRO Z21 bass boat powered by a Mercury Pro XS 250 h.p. outboard.
Success and notoriety have attracted attention from other women aspiring to be like her. Many are reluctant to take the leap.
“It’s really a lack of knowledge about the sport, because they only see men on a screen when watching the tournament coverage,” she said. “Truth is, there are more women in the sport than is perceived, and more coming into it through the college ranks after they graduate.”
As an athlete, Jalaba acknowledged that experience enabled her to fast track her goals. She discourages newcomers from going that route, instead choosing to find their cadence based on their skills and desires.
“Keep in mind that first and foremost, it’s fishing,” she said. “You can either keep it like that, or add the competitive element at the level you enjoy.”