What a week it has been in the pro bass fishing world since Sept. 23.
That’s when Major League Fishing released additional details on its new Bass Pro Tour, an eight-event series next year that, in effect, says, ‘Move over Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society.’ The Bassmaster Elite Series and the Fishing League Worldwide Tour, the established circuits on the block, may feel the effects for a long time.
As of Saturday night, 61 pro bass anglers from the Bassmaster Elite Series, mostly, and the FLW Tour have committed to the BPT. The hits just keep on coming after MLF issued invitations to the new tour to 60 Elites and 20 FLW Tour pros, according to reports.
On Friday night, Kevin VanDam announced on Facebook that he was leaving the Elites to fish with the group being payrolled by Bass Pro Shops and Outdoor Sportsman Group. The names already on the list were a veritable who’s who in bass fishing, especially on the Bassmaster Elite Series. The BPT list includes Louisiana’s Greg Hackney and Gerald Spohrer, both of Gonzales, and Cliff Crochet of Pierre Part, all Bassmaster Elite Series regulars.
Just scanning the list of new BPTers, these names jump out at you: Dean Rojas, Aaron Martens, Gary Klein, Mark Davis, Skeet Reese, Russ Lane, Ott Defoe, Gerald Swindle, Todd Faircloth, Boyd Duckett, Timmy Horton, Todd Faircloth, Brent Chapman, Tommy Biffle and Bobby Lane. Those are veterans who many of us older outdoorsmen easily identify with, some of the bass anglers who have been around the longest.
The sport’s rising new stars have gotten on board the BPT train, too, including Jacob Wheeler, James Elam, Fletcher Shyrock, Adrian Avena and Jonathon VanDam, among others.
The exodus from the established circuits continues.
The circuit has been in the planning stages for a while with the intention of offering bass anglers a seat at the table in all league decisions, including payouts, entry fees, event format, schedule and locations. It was pointed out in a prepared statement that bass anglers won’t have to miss Mother’s Day or Memorial Day.
Ducket, a co-founder, said, “Never in the history of our sport have anglers had this much control over their own destiny, from the bathroom to the boardroom and everywhere in between. These 80 anglers will have the opportunity to set a precedent for our sport for generations to come, a precedent that will likely include lower or no entry fees, higher payouts and better conditions for anglers in every regard.”
B.A.S.S. didn’t take the news sitting down.
The 50-year-old organization responded quickly with changes to its 2019 Elite schedule as well as to requalification requirements for 2019 Elites. Also, B.A.S.S. extended a $20,000 early registration incentive bonus to be applied to entry fees to all current Elite Series pros who opt to return in 2019 and make a deposit before Tuesday.
FLW, meanwhile, is standing pat and said in a prepared statement: “As a result of these changes (BPT), we’ve been asked how FLW is going to respond, and the answer is: We aren’t.”
DON SHOOPMAN is outdoors editor of The Daily Iberian.