My job isn’t always easy. Sure, I celebrate the opportunity to get paid for something I truly enjoy – keeping tabs on the sport of bass fishing, forming an opinion on the many variables that affect it and reporting back to you with my findings. Couldn’t be easier, right?
Well, sometimes things get a little sticky. Opinions often come with baggage and I’ve rocked the boat a few times in the past, likely to the dismay of my editor. However, despite my criticized outlook, I always try to remain fair, presenting both sides of the story for readers before making my case.
So don’t shoot the messenger.
Let me start by presenting you a proposal: I’m going to bring 80 of the best bass fishermen in the entire world to your home lake. Once there, they will spend six or more days frothing the water to oblivion, catching every single fish they can. At no time will they back down; 1-pound schoolers will continue to be punished until they raise the white flag. In the end, these master anglers will catch weights of fish measured in tons, not pounds; releasing each one unharmed, yet quite a bit smarter.
Once the fun is over and the lake is back to normal a week or so later, I’m going to bring my Ned-Rig Army back to do it all over again. In return, you can watch them fish online, learning more about how to catch the fish in your back yard.
Sound like a deal?
Of course, by now you’ve guessed our subject matter for this week: The Bass Pro Tour’s recent incredible catch rates at Table Rock Lake and its announcement to return to Table Rock for back-to-back events.
Now, sticking to my guns, I feel the need to give credit where it’s due, as I continue to be a huge MLF/BPT fan. As declared in nearly every press release and piece of media concerning the new mega-tour, the BPT is changing the face of competitive fishing, no doubt. The product they offer is second to none, in my opinion, in terms of overall entertainment.
In addition, we’ve already seen smaller circuits adopting much of the MLF format, from immediate weigh and release to bracket-style competitions. As I predicted here in previous columns, those not looking to adapt to this new game are finding themselves falling behind.
Also, it’s simply impossible to overstate the importance of the immediate release format – and the reduction of tournament-caught bass mortality as a result. Again, as I’ve mentioned in the past, the number of fish that eventually die from weigh-in stress is scientifically proven to often be much higher than what is reported. MLF has totally eliminated that – kudos to them.
However, one thing that I’ve yet to see discussed is the overall impact on the fisheries involved; specifically, what happens when you unleash 80 guys on a lake for a week with orders to take no prisoners.
As you ponder, let me pose another question. How often have we read articles discussing the strategies of successful touring pros, and heard stories of how they must adapt during the event, as practice success far outweighs that of competition? Specifically, I’m thinking of several pieces where FLW pros were quoted as saying something along the lines of “When you get 250 pros practicing for three days, the fishing falls apart." You get my drift.
Now remember, those are guys who often shake off the majority of their bites and rarely stay in one spot very long. If anything, they try not to catch fish.
Therefore, based on these professional opinions, I wonder how much it affects a fishery when anglers hook and release 13,000 bass over the course of a week? While there’s nothing against the rules in doing so, and the ultimate goal of the new format is never-ending fish catches, shouldn’t there be some sort of limit to the plundering?
Again, looking at the benefits of these events, the economic impact to the area is often a real perk. As thousands of armchair anglers watch the pros catch fish every cast, it’s a no-brainer that vacation plans are adjusted accordingly, bringing more business to area bait shops, gas stations and hotels.
But the major argument presented behind the recent MLF decision – the need to ensure connectivity – is a bit overstated. Sure, it’s easy for me to say, as I’m not putting on a live broadcast, and I totally understand the decision behind a move, as the original venue (Grand Lake in Oklahoma) is suffering from catastrophic flooding. But there has to be more than a half-dozen lakes in the country that fit the bill.
In an additional attempt to justify the move, MLF has changed the competition hours, gearing them toward an evening event. Again, I can’t find any good reason for this, and doubt the tired, hungry pros will either.
In the end, I’ll continue to enjoy my new favorite pro bass fishing show, just not this week.
You see, I’ve never been into watching repeats.
(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.)