(Editor's note: Because of the level of voting on the current BassFan Poll, and the high amount of FeedBack we've gotten on the issue, we decided to run Scot Laney's opinion on the subject here.)
Every now and then BassFan.com touches on a sore subject. When this happens, we hear about it -- boy, do we hear about it. The current BassFan Poll seems to be one of these occasions.
First, Some History
I have to address this first: A few who have submitted their thoughts to the FeedBack section wonder if BassFan.com is advocating the elimination of Federation anglers from the BASS Masters Classic. I don't know where that point of view came from (too much caffeine and too many Tom Clancy movies?), but it's dead wrong.
There's an extremely fat line between airing an issue and advocating a point of view on that issue.
We actually ran the poll because the Federation elimination issue was raised again at the recently-concluded Classic. And I say "again" because it was a huge topic of discussion among the Federation leaders as recently as early this year, before ESPN grasped exactly what the Federation is to B.A.S.S. and bass fishing.
This is one of those issues that comes around every once in a while and never really goes away. But maybe it will now.
As you might imagine, as executive director of the Professional Anglers Association, I talk to a lot of pros. I have heard a number of concerns from them. But never once have any of them suggested to me that the Federation anglers should not have a place in the Classic.
I believe that the pros fully understand the role that the Federation plays in professional bass fishing. They understand that the Federation members make the market for the products that the pros are paid to endorse. Many of them got their starts in the Federation.
Again contrary to some of the Clancy-esque paranoia expressed in the FeedBack this week, the pros are not "afraid" of the Federation anglers. The pros respect these anglers just like they respect any other Tour angler or person. And they don't fear any competitor, not even Kevin VanDam.
During this year's Classic, I attended a press conference that was called "ESPN/B.A.S.S., One Year Later" or something to that effect. During the conference ESPN outlined the five major areas of concentration needed (by them) to move the sport along in a positive direction. In order they were: Membership Growth, TV Innovation, Non-Endemic Sponsors, The Federation and Conservation.
As I see it, Federation anglers make that list three times: membership growth, the Federation and conservation. Oddly, the Tour pros were not mentioned. Maybe the feeling in Bristol is that the big boys should be eliminated from the Classic. Who knows?
The point is that ESPN now sees the Federation as a key to its growth. So I doubt that eliminating Federation members from Classic participation is on the table or even a debatable issue right now. But I've been wrong in the past.
So Who Exactly Has Been Voting?
In case you missed it, the early voting in the current BassFan Poll was heavily weighted against further participation by the Federation anglers in the Classic. This weekend that changed, as more than 20,000 votes were cast to keep the Federation and Open guys in.
That in itself a great example of what the Federation can do when it gets the wheels turning. So who were the readers voting the other way? We don't know.
What I would like to know is why none of the early, anti-Federation/Open voters were willing to provide FeedBack about their reasons for feeling like they do. Not one "anti" voter gave BassFan.com any reason for wanting the Federation out of the Classic. Perhaps the light of day is uncomfortable to them. Maybe they're from Transylvania (blah).
My feeling is that this issue has had enough play, and that we collectively as "the sport of bass fishing" need to put it behind us. The simple truth is that ESPN/B.A.S.S., the Federation (and non-Federation B.A.S.S. members), the Tour pros and the fans all need each other to make this thing work.
You've heard me say that before, and I am resolute in that feeling. One feeds off the other on down the line. As goes the other, so goes us.
Long live the Federation.
Laney Opinions are not necessarily the opinions of BassFan.com or of the Professional Anglers Association, of which Scot Laney is executive director.
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