The past few months have been filled with changes in the professional fishing industry. BASS, FLW and now the new kid on the block, MLF or Major League Fishing with the new Bass Pro Tour, have created a buzz never before seen in our sport.
Was it timely? Was it well overdue? Will it really change anything? I believe the answer to all of those questions is yes, but the fans have to be considered in these changes, too. They are the consumers and buy the products the pros use and endorse.
What could already be confusing to fans with two pro tours now gets even more confusing to the casual fan and participant with the addition of another top tour level trail. The difficulty is keeping up with who’s who.
Casual fans and participants really don’t care about tournaments and tournament fishing, but rather just love their time on and around the water wetting a line. Those of us who do will have to take a wait-and-see attitude rather than jumping to conclusions.
What will be the long-lasting ramifications? Time will tell, but I believe we have a paradigm shift where the leagues and ownership held all the cards and now maybe not so much. I hope the ultimate outcome is everyone who loves to fish will have more opportunity. I also believe that should be the impetus for cooperation and some much needed flexibility.
Believe it or not, the group of folks who tournament fish or who follow it is a very small percentage of those who fish. Top-level tournaments do benefit all people who fish, however.
The real beauty of tournament fishing is the innovations that come from it. We have better boats, electronics, baits and rods and reels, even at an entry level, than ever before. Without tournaments and tournament anglers, they would not exist.
Businesses, large or small, have been created as a result of needs of the tournament angler. There are arguments that there are too many tools, too much technology and we are pricing ourselves out of the average guy participating. Taking kids fishing may mean taking them by walking along the bank instead of taking them in a high-priced boat. The reality is they may never be able to fish out of one later but can fish from the bank anytime.
It scares me a bit that each league put tournaments first. In the old days it was about being part of something and conservation and it grew as a result. Even at the high school and college levels, it has grown to be only about tournaments. That needs to be tweaked.
Everyone speaks to growing fishing and it’s confusing to most what that really means. Is it more people on the water? Is it more money and interest in the sport from non-endemic sponsors or is it the folks in fishing spending more money?
There is indeed room for all three, but in order for fishing to truly grow it must be recognized as a true sport and one worthy of airtime on TV and other media outlets.
Golf went through the same growing pains until it found the best way to televise it. From the little bit I know about MLF, that seems to be the growth they are speaking to. More than 800 hours of TV seems like it’s moving in the right direction and giving fishing the ability to reach those who may not have known much about it prior. I am pulling for them there.
BASS has done an exceptional job with BASS Live and now has increased it for 2019. There will be more cameras, more anglers and more exposure to the anglers and the techniques. It’s another positive step for exposure. Their television exposure has decreased over the years, but promises to be increased again in 2019.
Although FLW did change a bit and eliminated the co-anglers from the FLW Tour, much remained the same. The organization stood pat on how it does things at the Costa’s and BFL’s other than an increase in entry costs. Time will tell if that will be detrimental or not.
In my opinion, FLW does have the best grassroots programs already in place and has stepped up big-time with both the high school and college angler programs. TV and live coverage need that same care.
I believe all three leagues will make it just fine because each has a different model. Each caters to similar but also very different groups. The only constant moving forward in 2019 is change.
When the smoke clears, the ultimate beneficiaries are those who just love to fish. I hope it stays that way.