There’s just so much going on in professional bass fishing. Of course, that’s the case every week lately as developments, expansions and a craving for competition seem to drive the entire industry. But at whose expense?
I perused the headlines and eyed recent events, and a number of subjects popped up to chat about. As a result, I felt compelled to divide this week’s Bass War into a number of bullet points. With each, you’ll likely get my take, but I also wonder about yours.
> BPT’s new format comes into play: This week we’re watching as Bass Pro Tour competitors are required to catch bass weighing over 2 pounds to score, and it’s making for a change in scenery. While the hottest anglers continue to blaze the trail, the number of quality fish coming aboard is monumentality greater. In the qualifying rounds at Eufaula, nearly every top competitor scored fish in the 4-pound-plus range, with numerous 6-pound heavyweights getting camera time. The pros’ social media posts are loaded with big ones. Kudos, I say.
> B.A.S.S. cancels two days on the St. Johns; postpones Chickamauga: With the expansion of the sport comes consideration of multiple factors, including broadcast reliability, marshal and observer safety and crowd control. Thus, professional bass tournaments are routinely being postponed and canceled for what was once viewed as “normal weather” to most fishermen. While I’m all about keeping things safe, I wonder how much consideration is going into the schedules and expenses of the anglers. Is it safe to assume that they’re all committed full-time pros with nothing on their plate except bass derbies?
> MLF’s website still confuses me: Okay, I get it. When following the BPT, I’m often subject to news of events that already occurred, as those delays are factored in for the television audience. So, taking a look again this week, I’m supposed to know that Jeff Sprague did not, in fact, win the 2020 Challenge Cup on Bull Shoals at the same time he finished 10th in his qualifying group at the BPT event on Eufaula, even though news of both came as press releases dated the same day. Sure, I know that. But does everyone?
> What happened at the St. Johns?: B.A.S.S. seemed baffled by the poor catches at last week’s Elite event in Palatka, while the FLW Series reported plans for a lightweight tournament at the same location. Locals, however, are not surprised. For several years, much of the river system has seen an absence of grass, and corresponding lackluster fishing. In reality, Lake George has been mostly responsible for keeping the weigh-ins heavy. Last year, George, too, lost its grass, yet the pros prevailed by bludgeoning the displaced bass that crowded the adjacent riverbanks. And the fishing pressure didn’t cease after the big names left town, as throngs of tourists, drunk on weigh-in hype, continued to pilfer the shallows for months. The result? Surprise! Horrible fishing follows. While it’s impossible to please everyone, I wonder if the tournament organizations factor in the impact their publicity machines make on already struggling fisheries, or even if they care.
> How to pay AAA?: We’ve seen two intro pro circuit events this year. At the FLW Series Opener, 31 out of 122 pros received a paycheck, or 25 percent of the field. Conversely, B.A.S.S. started its Open Series at Kissimmee, where a monster group of 225 pros competed for 40 paychecks, meaning 17 percent got paid. The B.A.S.S. payment, however, was bracketed differently, as the last check-cashers still received well over $3,000 apiece. So I wonder, which model is better? Now, we’re not factoring in total percentage of entry fees paid out – I get that. But considering the overall theme: pay more places smaller amounts, or pay fewer places more money?
So many things to talk about and cross off the list; I’m sure next week will be the same. But with each decision comes two sides to the story. It’s always important to hear them both.
(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.)