By Todd Ceisner
The 14-event schedule on tap for the Bass Pro Tour and Major League Fishing in 2019 is perhaps the most ambitious and lucrative slate ever seen in pro bass fishing.
Spanning from late January with the start of the BPT season to the end of October, when the last of four MLF Cups wraps up, the schedule will feature a jam-packed spring as all eight BPT events will be in the books before the end of June, similar to what BassFans are used to seeing with the FLW Tour. A BPT championship tournament is slated for late August. Exact dates and locations of the inaugural BPT events will be revealed at a later date.
According to sources, no BPT or MLF Cups will conflict with either the Bassmaster Classic or Forrest Wood Cup in 2019.
BPT Event Details
There will be $6,914,000 up for grabs during the BPT season, including the championship, with another $2.916 million available through the MLF Cups and World Championship, bringing the total purse for the 2019 season to $9.83 million.
The eight BPT events will follow the same catch-weigh-release format utilized by MLF with anglers aiming to accumulate the most weight from all the scorable bass (each weighing at least 1 pound) caught over the course of a day.
Each BPT tournament will be structured as follows:
> Following two days of practice, the 80-angler field will be split into two groups of 40. Group A will compete on days 1 and 3 with Group B competing on days 2 and 4.
> The top 20 anglers from each group (based on cumulative two-day weight) will advance to the Sudden Death Round on day 5.
> Weights will be zeroed and the first 10 anglers to reach a pre-determined cut weight that day will advance to the Championship Round. If 10 anglers do not reach the cut weight prior to the end of the competition, the top 10 anglers when the buzzer sounds will move on.
> The weights will be zeroed again for the final day and the winner will be determined by highest weight that day.
Not only is the six-day BPT format, a stark contrast to the traditional four-day, cumulative weight format used in Elite Series and FLW Tour events, the payouts set it apart as well. Here’s what the top 10 finishers stand to earn at each BPT:
11-40. $10,000 ea.
At BPT events, anglers will compete out of their own boats and jerseys. A uniformed official, who will have gone through in-person and online training regarding the MLF format and rules, will be in each boat with provided scales and a cellular-enabled tablet for scoring. MLF penalties (fish handling miscues, encroachment, break offs, etc.) will only be assessed on the final day of BPT tournaments.
A cumulative points tally will be kept across all BPT events and the top 30 at season’s end will qualify for the BPT Championship, a five-day event where all anglers will compete on day 1 before being split up into three groups of 10 with each group competing separately over the next three days. The championship round will feature a nine- or 10-angler field (to be determined) and the champion will be determined based on the heaviest weight caught that day.
All MLF rules and penalties will apply to all days of the BPT Championship. As with the payouts, the tournament formats will be subject to an angler vote once the 80-man field is finalized.
Pathway to MLF Cups
The top 30 anglers in points after the first two BPT events will compete in the first MLF Cup, in which they will compete out of wrapped MLF boats and don MLF-issued jerseys. Likewise, the top 30 anglers in points accumulated during the third and fourth BPT events will qualify for the second Cup. The top 30 from BPT events five and six will clinch a spot in Cup No. 3 while the Top 30 from the final two events will clinch a berth in the fourth Cup.
The 2019 Cups will follow the format of previous Cups with three groups of 10 anglers competing separately over the first three days. The top six finishers in each group (18 total) will then be divided into two groups of nine to compete separately on days 4 and 5 with the first four anglers from each group to reach a pre-determined cut weight advancing to the championship round. With weights zeroed for the championship round, the angler with the heaviest weight on the final day will be crowned the winner.
As has been customary for previous MLF Cups, the results of Cups held in 2019 will be confidential until the shows begin to air on television in early and mid 2020.
The field for the MLF Cup Championship will be comprised of a 16-man field – top three finishers from each of the four Cups, top two anglers in Cup points, reigning BPT champion, reigning Cup champion. There will be no practice days for the MLF Cup Championship.
Also, starting at the conclusion of the 2021 season, the bottom 10 anglers on the 3-year BPT points total will be relegated out of the BPT field and be replaced by 10 anglers from qualifying events.