By Todd Ceisner
BassFan Editor

Once the clocks strikes 12:01 a.m. on the first day of official practice, competitors in the new Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour won’t be able to share lures with fellow anglers or be allowed to talk to other MLF anglers about competition waters.

Those are among some of the new rules that will be in place for the start of the Bass Pro Tour next week at the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes (and Lake Garcia) in Florida.

After weeks of polling anglers and making adjustments to satisfy the majority of the field, the Bass Pro Tour rules were finalized and circulated to competitors last week. It’s a 19-page document that largely resembles the rules that were already in place for the MLF Cups. Included are mainstay MLF rules like a scorable bass must weigh at least 1 pound and penalties assessed for fish-handling mishaps. There are several noteworthy additions, however, including the “no talking” rule.

With practice for the inaugural stage set to begin Sunday, the 80 competitors, especially the 29 who’ve never competed in an MLF event, will have to familiarize themselves with what’s new and different in an effort to avoid the stop-fishing penalties that accompany most infractions.

Also included in the rules is an updated payout breakdown, reflecting the reductions after the field voted to eliminate entry fees. The payout for a Bass Pro Tour stage will be as follows:

> Winner: $100,000
> 2. $42,000
> 3. $30,000
> 4. $24,000
> 5. $18,000
> 6. $16,800
> 7. $15,600
> 8. $14,400
> 9. $13,200
> 10. $12,000
> 11-40. $6,000
> Daily Big Bass $1,000
> Overall Big Bass $1,000
> Event Total Payout $473,000

The payout for the REDCREST championship tournament will be as follows:

> Winner: $300,000
> 2. $60,000
> 3. $48,000
> 4. $30,000
> 5. $27,000
> 6. $24,000
> 7. $21,000
> 8. $18,000
> 9. $16,000
> 10. $ 15,000
> 11-20. $12,000
> 21-30. $6,000
> Daily Big Bass $1,000
> Overall Big Bass $1,000
> Event Total Payout $745,000

Gary Klein, a co-founder of MLF and also a Bass Pro Tour competitor, helped craft the rule book with new senior director of competitions Steve Core. The rest of the field weighed in on various rules via their angler representatives.

“Our rules are a living document and they will evolve,” Klein said. “As we move through this process, competitors or viewers will already see the 2019 BPT rules are a little different than the Cup rules and World Championship rules.

“The process that Steve Core and I went through was very easy because Steve has been with us from the beginning and we know each other really well. Most of the time on any of these rules, I just try to step away and just live it.”

Klein said it’ll be possible for rules to be altered or added once the season gets rolling.

“One of the cool things is we’re really liquid,” he said. “If something isn’t right or isn’t working, we’ll change it overnight because it’s affecting the 80 anglers and they’re our priority. If an angler experiences something, they’ll go to their angler reps who’ve been elected by the group. Those suggestions go to them and they go through the proper channel to bring it to management.”

Raising an issue with a rule doesn’t mean it’ll be automatically changed, though, Klein said.

“If any of our guys have an issue, don’t come to me without a solution,” he added. “The bottom line is we try to get it right.”

For fans who’ve followed MLF, the no-information rule has been a key principle to maintaining a level playing field. In MLF Cup events, anglers aren’t aware of which body of water they’ll be on until the morning of competition and they’re not allowed to even research lakes in the general area they’re in. In Bass Pro Tour competition, anglers know the fishery in advance and get two days of practice, so in order to keep the playing field level, certain rules were put in place to limit cooperation between or among anglers, in addition to the strict no-information rules.

Under the “Tackle and Equipment” section, Rule 9.D states that “MLF Anglers can receive lures and other equipment from other MLF anglers up until 12:01 a.m. of the first official day of practice.” Additionally, under the No-Information Rule section, Rule 23.I states that “MLF Anglers are allowed to talk to other MLF Anglers about MLF event waters up until the first day of official practice.”

The latter rule has prompted some anglers who’ve traveled and stayed together in the past to opt to arrange separate accommodations so as to avoid running afoul of the new rules.

“The intent is to make it the purest form of even, level competition that we know how to make,” Klein said. “It’s why Rule 23 has that phrase that says an ‘MLF angler cannot engage in any type of activity to gain a competitive advantage over other MLF anglers that is not public information.’ When an angler shows up and gets beat or struggles, he has no one else to blame but himself. He can’t point to another guy and say he had a bunch of help.”

Klein said the restriction on lure sharing was one he and Core wrestled with.

“That was a tough one,” he said. “Most people know Cliff Pace and I travel and stay together and we tie jigs together and carry all kinds of lure making stuff with us. We decided the sharing of info had to stop going into day 1 of practice. We had to draw the line somewhere. How can you go up to an angler in a parking lot and share a lure without sharing information? We can talk fishing all we want to, but we just can’t talk about the competition waters.”

Klein did lay out a scenario, however, where an angler could give a competitor a bait, but not be in violation of the rule.

“Let’s say I go up to him in the parking lot and ask him if I could see his deep-diving crankbait box and he says to take what I need,” Klein said. “I don’t consider that a rule violation, but if I ask him to see his crankbait box and he says I should be throwing something with chartreuse in it, that would be an issue.”

The no-information rule was also expanded for the Bass Pro Tour to restrict how anglers gather information from publicly available sources – they must do it themselves. In addition, they will not be allowed to view live-streaming coverage of the first two rounds (days 1-4) of competition.

Here’s how the rule was written for MLF Cup events:

NO INFORMATION RULE: MLF Anglers shall not pursue any action of any kind that may give that MLF Angler a competitive advantage during competition.

All actively competing MLF Anglers may not talk with any other MLF Angler, sponsor, locals or anyone else except for authorized MLF media personnel about any daily results or any other event information. Actively competing MLF Anglers may not talk to MLF Boat Officials about any other MLF Angler’s results or tactics used during any competition day. Eliminated MLF Anglers may discuss daily results and any other event information with other eliminated MLF Anglers only.

MLF Anglers may not use any mapping or GPS device including boat electronics, cell phones, tablets or computers to research any information about any possible fisheries in the general area of the event location.

Should an MLF Angler receive information that potentially gives him a competitive advantage, such as locations: baits, topography, conditions, etc., including unsolicited information, he is required to share that information with the MLF Commissioner. The MLF Commissioner shall determine whether this information should be subsequently shared with any or all other MLF Anglers.

The No Information Rule will be governed by a Rule Infraction Verification Test.

Here's how the Bass Pro Tour No-Information rule reads:

A. The no information rule will be governed by a rule infraction verification test. (Penalty –Official: Receiving/Sharing Information, will be determined by the Senior Director of Competitions)

B. Once MLF has released the Bass Pro Tour schedule and dates or if an angler were to learn such information from other sources, the angler must comply with the MLF no information rule or be subject to fines, penalties or disqualification from that event or all future MLF events.

C. No information means that an MLF angler cannot engage in any type of activity to gain a competitive advantage over other MLF anglers that is not public information. THIS INCLUDES RECEIVING WAYPOINTS.

D. MLF Anglers are allowed to research public information such as maps, Google, print material etc. MLF Anglers are prohibited from receiving research assistance from ANYONE.

E. MLF Anglers are not allowed to view live-streaming during the first two rounds of competition (Shotgun Round and Elimination Round).

F. There will be a 30-day off-limits period leading up to 12:01 am the morning of the first day of official practice. During the official off-limits an MLF Angler cannot be on the event water, gather any information or intentionally receive any information from any source that is not publicly available.

G. Prior to the 30-day off limits, an MLF Angler can prefish the scheduled event water by themselves or with immediate family members, however the immediate family members will not be allowed to fish for bass.

H. During the official two-day practice period, an MLF Angler cannot be on the water with anyone without prior approval from the Senior Director of Competition.

I. MLF Anglers are allowed to talk to other MLF Anglers about MLF event waters up until the first day of official practice.

J. Actively competing MLF Anglers may not talk to MLF Officials about any other MLF Angler’s tactics used during any competition day.

Among the other notable rules implemented for the Bass Pro Tour:

> Each competition day will be split into three 2 1/2-hour periods, a la MLF Cups, however Bass Pro Tour anglers are not required to return to a pre-determined rendezvous point at the end of each period. At the end of the round, anglers will be required to return immediately to the launch ramp. Anglers are not allowed to look for new fishing locations on the way back to the ramp.

“When we created the Cups, we went with three 2 1/2-hour periods and two 30-minute breaks, which gave the league an opportunity to make adjustments,” Klein said. “Whether that meant equipment or to update ScoreTracker, it also gives the anglers a chance to take a breather. In the BPT, it’ll give the league a chance to put cameras in different boats. We’ll know where guys are since there’s no run time during those breaks.”

> Umbrella rigs are not allowed (they had been permitted in MLF Cups and Selects).

“The biggest reason that’s in there is it’s what they’re used to,” Klein noted. “I’m not in favor of that rule because I feel all techniques that we can employ to catch fish should be available to us. When the other organizations took it out of play, they also took the innovation and creativity with it.”

> There is a 30-day off-limits period prior to 12:01 a.m. on the first day of practice. Prior to the off-limits period, MLF anglers are allowed on event waters by themselves or with immediate family members, however, the immediate family members are not allowed to fish for bass.

Because of how each Bass Pro Tour event is structured, there will be anglers in groups A and B that finish 21st, 22nd, 23rd and so on down to 40th. In order to arrive at a 41st through 80th overall finishing order, anglers will be ranked by a Performance Rating, which is the average of the total fish and total weight percentage of the other anglers is said group. The rules spell out the following example:

> Angler A scored the most fish and the most weight (10 bass and 20 pounds). Angler B scored 6 bass and 10 pounds. Angler A is given a total fish percentage of 1.000 while Angler B is credited with a total fish percentage of .600. Angler A also has a 1.000 total weight percentage while Angler B has a .500 total weight percentage. Angler A’s Performance Rating will be 1.000 while Angler B’s Performance Rating will be .550.

Now that the rules have been written and the first stage is growing ever closer, Klein said he’s anxious to get the new series under way.

“I’m so amped up,” he said Thursday while waiting for other MLF officials to arrive in Florida. “I have lived this game with 8 ScoreTrackers going, then it moved it to 10. The first day I competed with 10 there was so much more chatter on the leaderboard. I can’t imagine what it’ll be like with 40. It’ll be mind-boggling. On a normal Cup event, the leaderboard is quiet early on and then guys get in the groove. In these events, these guys will have two days of practice, so it’ll be getting lit up from the start.”

The 2019 MLF Bass Pro Tour rules are embedded below (allow for page to load, then hover cursor over PDF, then begin scrolling. Rules should load shortly thereafter):