If you didn't get an opportunity to tune into the FLW Outdoors web site before you took off for your July 4th holiday last week, you missed a statement issued by FLW Outdoors chairman Irwin Jacobs that was intended to clear up a few misconceptions about next year's tour schedule overlaps.
The entire text of the statement is below, but first Jacobs answered a few questions posed to him by BassFan.com.
BassFan.com: Why did you feel it necessary to issue this statement?
Jacobs: Actually my daughter came to see me (his daughter is an FLW Outdoors marketing executive). She pays more attention to the feedback out there and hears more of it than I do. The fact is that that there are people out there who want to stir up trouble. They want to create a controversy over things. She said, 'Dad, I think you need to put something out there that clarifies what's going on. Some people don't understand it.' The Wal-Mart open -- there's no way we could change (those dates). And honestly, I didn't have anything against what B.A.S.S. did. They had to (schedule how they scheduled), and we had to do what we did too. But in any case there were a lot of emails and postings (that indicated) people really didn't know (certain information about the schedule conflicts). They were speculating. So rather than speculating, I put (the statement) out.
I'm just telling the facts. I didn't change anything, I just told the story. What else could I do? Cancel my tournaments? I haven't agreed with everything B.A.S.S. has done any more than they've agreed with what we've done over the years.
BassFan.com: It seems that people expected the Wal-Mart Open conflict, but were surprised by the schedule conflict in February.
Jacobs: You have to remember that (B.A.S.S. has) a 30-day off-limits, so the conflict is there. People have to understand that as they (B.A.S.S.) grow and we grow, there will have to be conflicts. Would they rather I slow the tournaments and money down so I don't have a problem? That doesn't make a lot of sense.
I hope B.A.S.S. grows 10 times what it is because I know we'll grow just as much. What people have to understand is that this is healthy for the sport.
Following is the entire text of Jacobs' statement.
To all professional bass anglers:
I have recently had the opportunity to read and listen to many of the professional anglers' comments regarding the FLW and B.A.S.S. tournaments scheduled for next year. There seems to be a lot of confusion and controversy about the B.A.S.S. and FLW tournament schedules overlapping in 2003. Therefore, I've decided to take this opportunity to try and clarify the discussions that I, for the most part, believe are based on partial information and speculation.
First of all, I want to state for the record that FLW Outdoors (formerly Operation Bass) has had one goal from the first day I purchased the company back in 1996: to grow the sport and spectatorship of competitive fishing to a new level of recognition and participation, like several of the other professional sports have grown, i.e. golf, tennis, etc. I was convinced then, and even more so today, that competitive angling needed larger cash purses, television and high-profile consumer product sponsors who believed in the sport and were willing to make a financial investment to promote competitive fishing like never before.
I believe the FLW Outdoors organization accomplished several of its early goals in record time. (Obviously, we have much more to do and a strong commitment to continue to raise the bar.) What seems to confuse some people is the belief that FLW Outdoors' goal was, or is, to destroy and/or hurt the B.A.S.S. organization. Nothing could be further from the truth. If that were the case, Ranger could have dropped out as a sponsor of B.A.S.S. long before it did. The fact is, the only reason Ranger left B.A.S.S. when it did was because B.A.S.S. decided to mix fishing and boat racing. Ranger made this very clear to B.A.S.S. at the time. Ranger was prepared to stay on as a major sponsor of B.A.S.S. if the tournament organization reconsidered and kept B.A.S.S. as a professional fishing circuit without boat racing, but the former B.A.S.S. management was staunch in their position to hold onto it. To their credit, the new leadership at B.A.S.S. later abandoned the concept. Even after Ranger left B.A.S.S. as a sponsor, I insisted that whatever FLW Outdoors and/or Ranger did, we would always be there to help grow the sport of fishing through promotion, participation and spectatorship, including the recognition of B.A.S.S. as an important part of the sport.
Although it seems as if B.A.S.S. and the FLW are competing against one another, I don't believe it's the type of competition that is meant to hurt the sport of competitive fishing, but rather to raise the bar, both in cash purses and opportunities for the anglers. The main reason I personally became involved in promoting tournament angling was to help grow fishing into a high-profile spectator and competitive sport. I've worked as hard, if not harder, on helping to grow and promote the sport of competitive fishing than any other business venture I've been involved in. I don't believe anyone can deny that the sport offers more opportunities today and in the future for the professional angler than any time in its history. I will state for the record that FLW Outdoors has committed and supported its participants and tournaments with more prize money in 2002 than it will take in. FLW Outdoors and all of its tournaments have my personal support and, if necessary, the financial backing to fulfill the commitment to grow the sport of fishing.
At the same time, I want, and expect, the sport to continue to grow in spectatorship, cash purses and more tournaments. With public commitment on the part of B.A.S.S. for larger cash purses and more tournaments along with FLW Outdoors' continued commitment for more tournaments and larger paydays, what could be greater for the sport of competitive fishing? I don't know how many anglers B.A.S.S. has on a waiting list to compete in its tournaments, but I do know that the FLW Tour has a waiting list large enough to more than double its tournaments.
For the record, I want everyone to know that the tournament conflict between B.A.S.S.' and FLW's April tournaments in 2003 is unavoidable. FLW's April tournament is the Wal-Mart Open. Since Wal-Mart became our title sponsor, the tournament has been held on approximately the same dates every year. The week of the Wal-Mart Open is also vendor week at Wal-Mart in Bentonville, Ark. We've always had our sponsors and their staffs heavily involved during the week of the April Wal-Mart Open. On the other hand, I accept and understand that B.A.S.S. cannot change its April date in 2003. The fact remains that B.A.S.S. needs to do what it believes is best for its organization and all its constituencies, and the FLW has to do the same. I truly hope that B.A.S.S. grows in the future to be a multiple of what it is today. Obviously, it will be great for the sport of competitive angling to continue to grow and be successful on all fronts.
I think anyone interested in participating in the sport of professional angling will have more opportunities in the future, given B.A.S.S.' and FLW's continued commitment to grow the sport and spectatorship. On the other hand, we realize that we can't please everyone any more than B.A.S.S. can please everyone. But I think anyone with any knowledge at all of the situation should be able to ask themselves – and answer – the question: Is the sport of professional angling better off today than it was before the Wal-Mart FLW Tour arrived?
I'll be the first to admit that every decision one makes in life isn't always the right one, which includes me. However, I've always put my all behind everything I've ever done in my life – and that includes and will continue to include FLW Outdoors.
Finally, I want everyone to know that the FLW Outdoors organization, not including me, wanted to honor me by naming the championship the “Jacobs Cup.” The first time they suggested it was last year, and I said “absolutely not.” Charlie Hoover asked me again this year to please reconsider, and after a personal conversation with Charlie, I agreed. I know some people will think it's an ego trip that I personally created, but that wasn't the case.
I don't expect everyone who reads this letter to understand and/or agree with me; however, I do want to personally thank each and every person who has helped make my involvement in the world of competitive fishing one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life.
Irwin L. Jacobs
Chairman, FLW Outdoors
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