When something new comes along in fishing, the reception it receives can be mixed. It happens with new products, but is especially interesting if it’s a fishing league. Either way, some love it or some are adamantly against it. Seems there isn’t much in between.
Tournament bass fishing can be polarizing. Two stalwarts, B.A.S.S. and FLW, now have a new kid on the block and the buzz has been loud and even downright caustic at times. Welcome to the fray, Major League Fishing!
There has been a lot of banter in recent weeks from pros and fishing fans alike about the three professional leagues and if they will survive. A couple of events into the season, it looks from afar like fishing is doing just fine, thank you.
Major League Fishing with its new Bass Pro Tour has a format that is completely different. Patterned off of their made-for-TV Major League Fishing format, the Bass Pro Tour is a live, on-the-Internet fishing tournament where every fish that weighs at least one pound is counted toward each angler’s total weight.
Eight anglers compete in several rounds with the final 10 fishing the final round with a prize package to the winner of $100,000. Another key difference is these anglers do not pay an entry fee and the top 40 go home with at least $6,500. They are still holding their made-for-TV events, so anglers have more opportunity to get exposure for their sponsors via both.
So far the feedback I am hearing is anglers like the format and fans are warming up to it as well. Longtime bring-fish-to-the-scales anglers and fans of that style do have a learning curve. Their format includes a Midway with participant interviews all done without fish.
As an old school guy, I, too, am still trying to see how it’s going to work out. I still miss the fish and the scales, but also am open to seeing it play out. I am not a fan who will choose a side and embrace everything fishing.
I see the potential of more anglers getting a chance to chase their dreams of fishing for a living and I am all for that. Some of the most recognized and biggest names in fishing are fishing on the MLF Tours.
B.A.S.S. also has a smaller field, 75 anglers instead of 108 of last year, and still has entry fees, but more fishermen go home with money than before due to a deeper payout schedule. After very large crowds attended the weigh-ins at Palatka, Fla., where legendary angler Rick Clunn came out with the victory, it looks as if they are healthy, too.
The latest event at Lake Lanier in Georgia also was well attended on one of the nation’s premier spotted bass fisheries, even with unbelievably cold and rainy conditions on the final day. People just like to see fish weighed in.
B.A.S.S. slogan is “Big Bass, Big Stage and Big Dreams” for 2019 and so far it has lived up to that. Clunn’s winning weight was nearly 100 pounds of fish.
Spotted bass run much smaller, but the winner, Paul Mueller, still had 69 pounds.
A lot of industry insiders as well as pro anglers were worried for FLW, which stuck to its format and really didn’t change much. Those worries were unfounded as the group filled a field of 170 anglers out of the gate.
I recently spoke with legendary pro Larry Nixon at Bedford Sales in Morris and he was almost giddy about what he is still seeing at FLW.
“I had a chance to move to the MLF, but at my age I felt it was best to stay right where I was at FLW,” said Nixon. “I have the utmost respect and appreciation for how I have been treated at FLW and it's home for me. I do like watching MLF, I watch them all mainly on my phone, but there is some real drama and excitement there, too, that is fun to watch.”
FLW Outdoors didn’t change much except the elimination of the co-angler at the Tour level and honestly it seems to be working just fine, having a full field. They are working real hard on their live coverage and I really like the rule about each angler having a camera in the boat. We have already seen the advantages of bonus coverage of those anglers.
I am from the school of cooking things slowly for the best taste and before rushing to a side or a conclusion. I wish all of them the best. It will all work out, so discontinuing the wailing and gnashing of teeth might be a good practice for all of us.
Remember, fishing is truly about the fans, so let’s sit and watch a while longer. With only two events in the books, no question the cream will rise to the top. Let’s give it a chance and follow them all.