By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Many BassFans are eager to get a look at the schedule for the inaugural season of the Bass Pro Tour. Major League Fishing co-founder Boyd Duckett says it'll be forthcoming in December, but it's unlikely that the full slate will be announced all at once.
The reason for the piecemeal reveal is not to create an aura of suspense or anything like that. Rather, because the organization will be wholly reliant on Internet live-streaming to disseminate its events, the conductivity at each venue must be tested in advance. That process is currently under way and may continue into the first part of 2019 for late-season tournaments.
The vast majority of the 80 BPT anglers don't even know where they're going next year, which will undoubtedly cause some to get creative with travel arrangements.
"We have all the venues selected," Duckett said. "The biggest issue is we have to test some new technology, and that gives us some different scheduling criteria than other leagues. Most of the time this stuff is done a year or two out and right now it's actually easier to produce a schedule for 2020 than it is for 2019.
"The five (MLF) Cup events (which are taped for TV broadcast at a much later date) are easier because we know that just requires cell service to run the ScoreTracker. It's the live-streamed events that are the real pain."
Time not An Ally
From the get-go, MLF was far behind the curve in developing a 2019 schedule. The circuit, which pulled 67 anglers from the 2018 Bassmaster Elite Series roster and another dozen from the FLW Tour, wasn't a reality until late summer, well after the aforementioned trails had announced their dates and locations.
That, combined with the overriding need for on-site conductivity, has posted some big hurdles to be overcome.
"It's been challenging, but we've created a lot of our own challenges," Duckett said. "It's not the same as for B.A.S.S. or FLW, where you get the tournament permit and you're ready to roll.
"We were so late starting with the cities that we knew that was going to be tough. In a lot of cases we couldn't have the week we wanted to be there because they have an apple festival going on or some other function like that."
MLF has teamed up with Idaho-based software company Cradlepoint for the live-streaming venture. Duckett said Cradlepoint's technology can digitally link multiple boats that are on the water on a given day – even if they're separated by many miles – to create a single stream.
"The live effort is going to be larger than anything the sport has ever seen," he said. "But we need really good Internet and we need fiber optics at the truck. It's very different from what B.A.S.S. and FLW look for."
Some Places Out of Play
Duckett said that hardcore followers of the sport will recognize most of the BPT venues, but there may be a couple that are unfamiliar outside of that particular region. With smaller fields (no more than 40 anglers will be on the water on any day), less-expansive bodies of water can be utilized.
In some cases, different nearby venues will be used for the final days of BPT tournaments. In others, part of a lake (a large creek arm, for instance) may be put off limits for practice and the preliminary rounds, and then used exclusively on championship day. Or if conductivity is poor on a particular portion of the lake, that area will be ruled out for competition altogether.
"With 10 boats, it'll be very similar to a Cup event and we just don't need a lot of room," he said.
A few well-known venues simply won't fit the bill due to technical issues.
"Border waters are tough, whether they be with Canada or Mexico. We can't make it work with the cell coverage switching between countries."
When asked to describe the tour's overall outlook for the debut season, he said he's less anxious about it now than he was a couple of months ago.
"I think we're going to be okay," he said. "There's a lot of nervousness that comes with having to start at the last minute and the biggest issues were obvious.
"It's coming together and I feel better about it now than I did in September. I felt pretty clueless back then because you just don't know how bad it's going to be."