I’m not gonna lie, when MLF started the Bass Pro Tour, I thought B.A.S.S. was going to have a hard time of it. Now I want to be clear from the onset here, this isn’t a position piece or a pro-B.A.S.S. piece or a pro-MLF piece.
Most folks are hesitant to say anything publicly about either company for fear of the other getting upset. But I’m not here to bash one or to look at the other through rose-colored glasses either. I believe at the very base level most of us could agree that both organizations and the handful of others who are running national tournaments bring something special to the table for the overall good of bass fishing.
I’m just simply stating another instance where I was wrong. When MLF announced the Bass Pro Tour and we sat back as an industry while a large portion of the former Bassmaster Elite Series anglers made their decisions on whether to stay on the Elites or go fish the Bass Pro Tour, I was skeptical whether B.A.S.S. could survive the avalanche of anglers who left. I just couldn’t see a way for them to feasibly move forward.
That being said, I was really wrong.
I’m not here to debate which company is top tier and which is second string and all that mess. My honest opinion, they offer different products and again, both bring something to the table for the good of bass fishing as a whole. There’s no doubt MLF has brought a lot of new eyes and interest to the sport of bass fishing. But what I didn’t foresee was the caliber of anglers out there waiting in the wings, hungry and itching for a chance to prove they belonged.
What quickly became evident was the existence of this large number of extremely skilled fishermen just looking for a chance to compete. In 2019, we saw a huge group of fired up Elite Series rookies with a big chip on their shoulders looking to prove something. And the only fire that shined brighter than the one in those rookies’ eyes was the one burning in the resident Elite anglers’ eyes that had either chosen to stay or felt rejected by not receiving an invite.
If you’d have asked me at the time, I’d have predicted the ship was sunk and there was no way to bail water fast enough.
I was very wrong.
B.A.S.S., the best I can tell, is rolling on better than ever. Having weathered the storm, shifted, modified and grown through the process of adversity, B.A.S.S. has more than steadied themselves. I’m sure they did a lot of things behind the scenes to right the ship as they were undoubtedly rocked a bit, but I have to give a ton of credit to the anglers who stepped up to fill in the gap as well.
The grit, fire and passion they had to prove they belonged and weren’t just an after thought or fillers… that went a long way in B.A.S.S. weathering the storm. If the growth B.A.S.S. has seen the last couple years (despite the mayhem of COVID-19 and all the other madness that came with 2020 and 2021) wasn’t proof enough of their staying power, just look at the recent success, attendance and widespread interest in the 2022 Bassmaster Classic.
There are likely a few other instances where I missed the mark in my predictions over the years. But I’d say these three take the proverbial cake when it comes to me being wrong about the bass fishing industry. Jacob Wheeler has proven himself as one of the best anglers of all time, carving his way through any level of competition put before him. Missile Baits was never just another soft-plastic bait company really, though that was my perception of it from the start and one that had a grim outlook. But hard work, ingenuity and vision proved me wrong there for sure.
And as it pertains to B.A.S.S. taking a heavy blow and continuing to move forward, they may have been knocked down a bit but certainly weren’t knocked out. Any wavering of the knees seems to have steadied over the last couple years as they’re hitting full stride again, having produced several new household names like Walters, Livesay and Feider while other staples like Crews and Cherry have established themselves as new-age veterans.
All in all, I guess I’d say it’s okay to be wrong every now and then. Just best to be willing to admit it and move on. We all miss the mark sometimes. And these are just three such instances in which I did.