By Shelia Shirah
Ryleigh Tyson is representing St. Cloud in a big way, and inspiring females across the nation in an even bigger way. The 19-year-old from St. Cloud is from a family that has a legacy in Osceola County spanning four generations, and she has marked her own place in history by becoming a member of the first ever all-female fishing team to qualify for the YETI FLW College Fishing National Championships.
Ryleigh began fishing as a small child, and enjoyed going with her dad, brother, and grandpa on their family ranch. However, she did not begin competitively fishing until her junior year at Harmony High School when she joined the Osceola Anglers High School Fishing Club. During her time in the club she fished with Rylie Knowles. Her senior year she became the president of the Osceola Anglers, and finished among the top ten out of the thirty teams within the club. Aside from fishing and learning the ropes of competing in tournaments, a major accomplishment Ryleigh made within the club was assisting in starting the annual breast cancer awareness car wash. The proceeds from this car wash are presented in the arena at the Silver Spurs Monster Bulls event each February, which is also the Tough Enough to Wear Pink night.
Ryleigh had not given much thought into pursuing a collegiate fishing career before graduating high school, but when the coach from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) invited her to come up for a visit her plans changed. She fell in love with the school immediately and found a way to combine her scholastic ambitions with her passion for fishing. She is now a sophomore at SCAD and majoring in Industrial Design, enjoying the use of the school’s cutting-edge technologies in the classroom. Ryleigh has always enjoyed math and engineering and hopes to use her education to pursue a career which allows her to work in the fishing industry, developing new technologies.
Many females are not aware of the opportunity to fish collegiately, and Ryleigh hopes to raise awareness to high school girls and provide inspiration for them. SCAD is part of a growing number of colleges with a varsity fishing team. Women currently are not that common within the world of competitive fishing, and Ryleigh hopes to see that begin to change in the near future.
To date, her biggest accomplishment at the collegiate level is qualifying for the YETI FLW College Fishing National Championships, which will take place in Shreveport, Louisiana on the Red River May 30th-June 2nd. To qualify for this event, Ryleigh and her partner Jaci Skipper placed 14th overall out of a field of 175 teams in the YETI FLW College Fishing Southeastern Conference Tournament on Lake Hartwell. They had a weight of 12 pounds, 8 ounces on a five-bass limit. They made history as the first all-female team to qualify for the national tournament, and Ryleigh will make history again as the first woman to compete solo in the event, due to her partner leaving the school to pursue other passions. She would like to thank Jaci for her partnership and for her part in qualifying for nationals, as well as her parents, Clay and Teri Tyson, for their continued support, SCAD for all of their efforts for making these opportunities and achievements possible, high school fishing captain Tripp Berlinsky, high school fishing club administrator Lamar “Marsy” Chisholm, as well as everyone else who has supported her and helped her along the way.