For most Americans, 2020 will not be missed when we put it to bed in a couple of weeks. However, some great things occurred in the world of professional bass fishing. While the major tournament organizations found it necessary to pause and rework their competitive schedules, the resulting formats made for noteworthy action. A few milestones shouldnít be missed.
Several events are sure to make my best of 2020 list, but only one can claim the top spot. Letís dive in.
> Palaniuk takes two: Everyone already knew BMP was the real deal, but this year solidified the fact. With two Elite Series wins on two completely unique fisheries (Champlain and Santee Cooper), Palaniuk put to rest any claims of media favoritism or one-dimensional fishing. Without question, he'll be a hero of B.A.S.S. for decades to come, providing he stays healthy and keeps his game straight.
> Monsoor finally wins big at home: With national events routinely visiting the upper Mississippi River, Tom Monsoor was bound to win one eventually. By doing so in 2020, the 71-year-old Monsoor became the oldest competitor to ever win a top-level FLW event, pushing his earnings with the circuit past the $1million threshold. But the win holds more significance than age or money. Tom Monsoor is a bass fishing figure like few others, responsible for pushing the sport further through the refinement and publicity of his methods. Monsoor, doing us all a favor, brought swim jig fishing into the limelight and he well deserves the title of "master."
> Salewske takes down the TITLE: After a nine-year hiatus from professional bass fishing, Rusty Salewske came from nowhere to take home 200 grand and the FLW Pro Circuit TITLE Championship. The humble Salewske credited life experience and a dose of patience for his win, allowing him to trust his area while other competitors struggled with a weather change and displaced fish. Salewske showed anything is possible in pro fishing, as long as you have a chip and a chair.
> Jordan and Jacob continue to roll: Few competitors can match Jordan Lee and Jacob Wheeler on todayís professional tours. Both continued their dominance with 2020 wins, once again placing fear in the hearts of those they pursue on the leaderboard. Two young anglers; already confirmed legends.
> LiveScope wins everything: Iíd be remiss if I didnít mention this seasonís biggest tournament winner: Garminís Livescope. Like it or hate it, as fans of the sport, we canít discount the effectiveness of forward-looking sonar in todayís tournament scene. While I hope to never again find myself video-game fishing, itís technology that has already changed the course of things and will certainly evolve numerous other aspects of professional fishing.
> Scott Martin qualifies for the Elite Series: Hats off to Scott Martin for qualifying for the Elites on his first real try; doing so through the Opens format is no picnic. By officially moving to B.A.S.S., Martin will attempt to pick up where this father left off, qualifying for and winning a Classic. Even more importantly, Martin will again expand his fan base, likely larger than any other professional bass angler. Martinís the real deal; believe me, both on and off the court.
All were notable moments in pro bass fishing, for sure. And each will change the sport to some degree. But none match the greatest accomplishment of 2020:
> Wendlandt wins B.A.S.S. Elite Angler of the Year: After a full nine-event season, Clark Wendlandt became only one of four anglers to win four or more AOY awards, taking his first Bassmaster title in just his second year on the tour. Not to harp on age, Wendlandt showed that the veterans can run with the young dogs, increasing the chances for his peers to do the same. Iíve always been a Wendlandt fan, dating back to his Beaver Lake dominance around the turn of the century, when he and a few others were racking up unheard of amounts of money in the newly publicized FLW Tour. Form there, Wendlandt seemed to constantly be in the mix, winning or just missing every season. Though he never took down a championship, Wendlandtís AOY win illustrates heís as good now as ever and a top contender for a Classic crown. I think fans are in for a treat as we watch the sequel to Wendlandtís storied career unfold.
A year to be forgotten? Maybe for some, but not for BassFans.
(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.)