Major League Fishing
The Major League Fishing (MLF) tour is coming out of the gate in 2019 with major changes that looks to put professional bass fishing in a new and different light.
The brainchild of veteran pro anglers Gary Klein and Boyd Duckett, the made-for-television venue began in 2011 with 14 BASS Elite pro anglers competing head-to-head in a format of catch, weigh and release at the boat with on-board referees and television cameras. The field has grown by invitation-only to 80 anglers, with mostly BASS Elite Pros and a small number from the Forrest L. Wood (FLW) circuit to form the Bass Pro Tour (BPT).
The MLF/BPT has plenty of financial and media muscle behind it that includes title sponsor Bass Pro Shops, the largest player in the industry, CBS, CBS Sports Network, Discovery Channel and the Outdoor Sportsman Group that includes Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel, World Fishing Network and My Outdoor TV.
With this firepower, the new tour with eight events and a championship are expected to have payouts larger than those now available in BASS and FLW.
In addition to the payout schedule BPT anglers have no entry fees, as they previously had with BASS and FLW.
“This is an angler/investor owned league,” said co-founder Boyd Duckett on Bass Talk Radio in November. “They voted on this in the early stages of our meetings.”
An invitation went to Palatka’s Terry “Big Show” Scroggins, a 16-year veteran of the BASS Tour, who said he is looking forward to the new venue.
Upon his acceptance, Scroggins made this announcement on social media, writing, in part, “I can’t thank BASS and the people that make up the company enough for the platform and opportunities they’ve given me throughout my career. It wasn’t an easy decision and I’m grateful for everything. Thanks to my fans and sponsors for the continued support.
“I’m excited to see what the future holds - let’s hammer down.”
BASS, in response to losing a large number of its top Elite anglers, announced historic changes to the Series. According to BASS CEO Bruce Akin, from his office in Birmingham, Ala., the season will see a smaller field, vastly increased payouts, drastically reduced entry fees and the promise of more exposure through the company’s media platform. The 2019 Elite Series field would be based on 80 anglers, down from 110 last year, giving the pros more exposure and improve their odds of making the Bassmaster Classic.
Dates for the MLF/BPT have been established for the 2019 season, but locations are still in the planning, according to Duckett.
“We also have dates for the Cup events and World Championship on the Outdoor Channel and CBS that viewers are familiar with,” said Duckett. “The BPT format for each of the eight events will be made up of two teams of 40 anglers each – A and B. Team. A would fish Monday through Wednesday. B team fishes Tuesday through Thursday. Friday’s semi final cut is the top 20 from each team. The top 10 fish Saturday with one champion.
“Just like the early shows, the fans are going to love it. Conservation wise it is a plus by releasing the fish immediately after they are weighed by an onboard referee,” said Duckett. “There is a camera on each boat where results are fed to a data base and every anglers knows who is catching fish.
“The cameras are constantly changing from boat to boat as the live action takes place. This also gives the anglers more exposure to the fans, helps their sponsors and adds to their sponsorships,” said Duckett. “It’s not the five-fish limit with a big land-based weigh-in like many fans are used to; however there will a winner’s presentation that’s still in the planning.
“We asked the anglers to make a three-year commitment that will not prohibit them from fishing any other organization as long as the events don’t coincide,” Duckett said.
Elite Pro Edwin Evers of Talala, Oklahoma, winner of 2011 Bassmaster event in Palatka on the St. Johns River, has been fishing MFL events since its beginning. Evers praised the tour on Facebook, writing he had seen more positive change in the past two weeks than
he had in the past 20 years.
Duckett said more information on the MLF/BPT would be forthcoming.