The bass world is buzzing this week with recent developments on multiple fronts. Perhaps most noteworthy is the lawsuit filed by Jerry Rago – regarded by hardcore members of our industry as the greatest swimbait designer of all time – against an accused copy cat and it’s promoter. While I’m anxious to see how the development unfolds, we’ll have to wait to learn more details before choosing sides.
The B.A.S.S. Elite tour also made news this week by extending its tournament through the weekend into Monday. As usual, weather was the culprit.
But it was the FLW Tour that created the most headlines. Specifically, three newsworthy parts were at play this week at Beaver Lake. We’ll need to break each down separately.
First off, credit must be given to FLW as an organization for finally reporting on the realities of life, without feeling the need to hide behind the fishing industry’s smoke screen. By that, as highlighted in press of the event, Beaver Lake champion Johnny McCombs is back on Tour after fighting a 12-year battle with drug abuse. As reported all throughout the industry, FLW welcomed its new champion without sugar-coating his past, despite the tournament trail’s record for being over the top in regard to political correctness.
A case in point: I personally was once given a tongue-lashing for referring to weather conditions as “hellacious” at weigh-in. “We don’t condone swear-words on stage,” the weigh-master told me.
Boy, how times have changed.
I, for one, am encouraged that our sport is coming up to speed with society. While I’ll never figure out how someone could allow substances to take precedence over things like family and fishing, I understand that it’s happening. It’s nice to see that we’re finally dealing with reality here in the world of bass, instead of just “dad-gum" and “golly-gee.”
On another note, it was interesting to see that, while its B.A.S.S. counterparts waited out the storms at Ross Barnett, FLW pros were given the go-ahead on the final day of their event, despite sky-rocketing lake-levels and massive amounts of floating debris throughout the system. Without nit-picking the details, I vividly remember many events being postponed, or even canceled, under similar conditions. A long drive home from the James River comes to mind.
Regardless, the point is this: Where is the consistency in these decisions? I quizzed FLW, and the organization's statement follows:
"We watched the weather extremely closely all week and while the conditions were less than ideal, the lake was deemed safe to fish,” said FLW Senior Director of Tournament Operations Bill Taylor. "We stressed the need for extreme caution and the anglers handled the conditions like the professionals they are."
I guess we need to take a step back and consider the options. Postponing the event was one, but one or two days wouldn't likely clear up a flood. Canceling the final day(s) was another, however, then the win comes with an asterisk. Altogether moving the venue is a third – no minor undertaking in itself – but possible with limited weekend field sizes.
Regardless, the point I’m trying to once again make is that cancelations in major events have gotten out of hand. Adapting for the weather was once a sign of talent among touring professionals; some of the most successful professionals to ever play the game built their reputations on adversity.
But today things are different. Waves over four feet, the chance for afternoon thunderstorms, even water releases through dams are impacting our sport. While I’m all for putting safety first, I wonder if this might be a subject that presents no clear line in the sand. If nothing else, it makes for inconsistency and uncertainty among the leagues and their athletes.
Finally, we must mention another occurrence at this week’s Tour stop; one that seems to be as regular as the Daily News: Bryan Thrift placed near the top. With his latest 3rd-place finish, Thrift expanded his already overwhelming Angler of the Year lead to 84 points, making it now nearly impossible for anyone to catch him with only two events remaining. Thrift readily admits that he almost always bombs one event per year, but who doesn’t?
In any event, Thrift is, unquestionably, the best professional tournament fisherman in the world today. While I may never figure out what makes guys like him tick, I’ll continue to try, and post my findings here. A small credit can certainly be given to streaks and building confidence, but, then again, neither are on the end of Thrift’s line. His Damiki lures are – the same ones you and I can buy at Tackle Warehouse – and last I checked, neither one of us were making the FLW Tour look like our own private bass club.
It’s been a busy week for BassFans. As the pro circuits hit their strides and Rago serves his papers, it sure will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)