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Ladies First

One Woman’s Role in the Dawn of Big Game Fishing

A new film by Rapala® explores the story of Helen Lerner, the intrepid angler who broke some of the earliest records in big game fishing and turned the sport into what it is today.

There was a time when many myths lived under the sea. A time when every flash of silver under an agitated ocean tide, every adrenaline-spiking tug on a line, and every sign of undiscovered life that tantalized early saltwater anglers was accompanied by pure mystery and wonder.

The magnificent fish that we know and revere today, from tuna to swordfish to marlin, were, at one time, more story than science. Before big game fishing became the beloved sport that it is today, every new record catch not only revealed a novel manifestation of the earth's wonders but validated techniques that 20th-century big game anglers spent long days on the ocean curating.

Just as these underwater creatures are the stuff of legends, so too, are the anglers who first brought them to the Earth's surface.


Helen Lerner (1902-1979) is one of these quiet legends. According to the International Game Fishing Association (IGFA), this record-breaking angler and marine scientist was the first woman to take a bluefin tuna off the European continent, the first ever to take nine tuna in one year, and the first to catch a broadbill in both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.

Wanting to share her knowledge and create a global community of anglers, Lerner founded the IGFA alongside her husband and fellow expert angler, Michael Lerner, in 1939. Today, the organization is regarded as the leading authority on angling.

A pioneering figure, Lerner brought big game fishing to new heights and paved the way for generations of anglers to come – both male and female. And yet, her story is rarely told.

A new film by Rapala, Ladies First: A Rapala Story, uncovers the story of this incredible angler and transforms the narrative around the role women play, and have played, in the development of big game fishing and marine science since the dawn of the sport.

Today, anglers such as Captain Jane Copland carry on Lerner's legacy. Captain Copland is an avid angler, boat captain, and senior editor for Marlin Magazine. Drawn to the sport from as early as she can remember, Captain Copland is keenly aware of her role in a rich legacy of tenacious women anglers whose talent and grit have served to define the sport yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Visit Rapala.com for all your fishing needs.

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