Opinion: B.A.S.S. and MLF Can Create Something Special Together

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Are there any ways to get the top-two fishing leagues, Major League Fishing and B.A.S.S., to work together? I sure think so and the solution might actually be easier than most folks think.

Speaking as a big-time fan and someone who would love to see more cooperation, I sure would like to see it at the top tier of professional bass fishing. As schedules overlap, following both trails has become increasingly difficult and fans are having to take sides. That is not good for the anglers, the league or the fans. I thoroughly enjoy both formats and I want to be able to commit my time to each tournament trail—not one or the other.

Due to various policies throughout the country, the call to grow the sport is being stifled on many fronts outside of professional bass fishing. We have a lot of factors and groups working against us but I sincerely want everyone to hear me when I say this: There has never been a better time to increase tournament viewership than right now.

When everyone got locked up with mandates due to COVID-19, folks quickly found a new, safe and healthy hobby. They went fishing and became enamored with the sport, including tournament bass fishing. As a result, now is the time to have B.A.S.S. and Major League Fishing work closer together.

Competition and competitive business secrets cannot be compromised; that’s totally sensible and I completely get it. At a minimum, however, the schedules should not overlap. Each league is fighting the other for viewers and that just doesn’t make much sense to me. I try to watch as much fishing as humanly possible but due to the overlap in schedules, it’s tough. I believe it’s important to think of the fans.

The more I’m around it, the more our sport reminds me of Major League Baseball where the owners and the players always seem to be at odds. Even when they seem to be cooperating, there’s some sort of undertow that even the fans can feel. In these types of situations, the fans are the losers.

Ultimately, the fans pay the bills and when they are confused or disgruntled, bad things can follow. Nobody, including myself, wants that. I want all of professional bass fishing to prosper as much as possible. Pro anglers at the top level don’t buy many products due to sponsorships but the fans who do make the purchases are truly confused these days. I would think that companies (sponsors) who support anglers in both leagues would be split, too. A professional angler cannot be two places at the same time to promote products when schedules overlap.

I have a lot of friends on both trails and pull for them all equally. There’s no doubt I want each to be successful but I believe the sport would benefit even further if they just worked together. As I said, It starts with schedules.

Overlapping events do not benefit either trail and a lot fans don’t know what to watch, when to watch it or who’s fishing what. I want to watch both live broadcasts because each do an outstanding job, but I can’t do that when they work against each other and each schedule is on top of the other.

Fishing fans deserve better and it’s as simple as having those who work on venues and events to physically sit at a table and figure it out. I know folks in both organizations who do that and instead of pushing against each other, maybe a little pulling together would do wonders for all involved. Heck, I would be glad to moderate that day at the table and work with the leagues to find a palatable solution to the scheduling conflicts.

I have noticed both trails have started to speak favorably about the other recently and that gives me a lot of hope. There is no negative by doing that and it gives the sport perspective of what they are today and what they have done in the past. Believe it or not, history is still very important to our sport.

Ultimately, I would like to see a true championship between both trails; a true championship where players from both leagues participate. Sure, it might be a pie-in-the-sky wish in today’s environment but speaking from the fans perspective, I think it would be a huge success.

Can you imagine the outdoor show if there were a combined event? Having a combination of catch, weigh and release with a five-fish limit might just work. Each angler can catch as many as they wish but total weight would be derived from the 5 largest fish or some other agreed to format might just breathe some fresh air into competitive fishing just like catch, weigh and release did a few years ago.

Wired2fish Managing Editor Walker Smith wrote a piece a while back about his specific ideas for a similar tournament format and I was also involved with something similar with a Top Gun Tournament we held in Texas several years ago where Brent Chapman won.

Championship lakes would be off limits with a day or two of practice—maybe a drive around day and another day where the anglers could fish. I don’t have all the answers but rest assured, I hear it loud and clear from others who follow the sport like I do.

Think about the bragging rights that would come out of this each year and how it could be used for marketing each league the following year. Again, think of the similarities with Major League Baseball and the All-Star game where the American League holds a big-time advantage in victories. There’s certainly no need to poke anyone in the nose but a friendly rivalry just might be the ticket to maximizing the success of both sides.

I am glad we have Major League Fishing and B.A.S.S. and now with the upstart of the NPFL, we now have more places where super-talented anglers can compete.

We all love fishing whether it’s from the bank or a shiny bass boat but the number of folks who follow professional bass fishing is a microcosm of what it could be. Professional fishing, whether you follow it or not, has introduced new anglers, new baits and new technologies we would have never seen without it. Rods and reels are better, boats are better and folks have better ways to catch more fish than ever before. If the two leagues worked together, I personally believe the sport would get better too. I think it’s possible and I sincerely want both to thrive.

Some may believe there is too much water over the dam for it to be salvaged but I know the folks in charge and have the utmost confidence they can work it out.

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