There’s never been a better time to be a pro bass angler. With many top fishing pros signing contracts to switch from the traditional pro series to fish exclusively in the new Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour, those traditional top-level trails are making moves.
B.A.S.S. has announced changes to its Bassmaster Elite Series. According to a BASS press release: “Elite Series pros will begin the 2019 season with a smaller field of competition, vastly increased payouts, dramatically reduced entry fees and the promise of more exposure through the company’s industry-leading media platforms.
“The 2019 Elite Series field size will be based on 80 anglers, down from 110 last year. This reduction in the number of competitors will not only allow the pros to get more exposure through B.A.S.S. media platforms, but also will improve their odds of winning and qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic.
“The new format features three no-entry fee events that will payout $1 million each: Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship and the Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, bass fishing’s crown jewel. Additionally, the eight regular-season Elite Series events will now pay the entire field of anglers, a first in the world of professional fishing. First-place prize will remain $100,000, but now the last-place angler will earn $2,500.
“Increased payouts are just half of the story, though. Alongside the three no-entry fee events, B.A.S.S. slashed regular-season entry fees by $5,375. So, the entry fees for Elite Series anglers is now $43,000. Because every angler is guaranteed to make at least $23,500, the total out of pocket expense is now only $19,500.
“But there is even more good news for Elite Series anglers. B.A.S.S. is providing a $20,000 credit to anglers who competed in the 2018 Elite Series season and who take advantage of an early entry fee offer, giving these fishermen a $500 surplus above participation fees. So, for the first time in the history of professional bass fishing, anglers are actually being paid by the league to fish. In total, B.A.S.S. is investing an additional $3 million in payouts and reduced entry fees for the 2019 Elite Series.”
Meanwhile, many big-name pro anglers have already announced a switch to the new Bass Pro Tour and Major League Fishing. Lots of the sport’s biggest names will be leaving their current tournament organizations in favor of this brand-new tour and tournament format. They will not fish multiple tours.
Here are some of the pros who have announced they are leaving the BASS Elite Series Tour to fish the MLF: seven-time BASS Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam, Classic and FLW Cup winner Luke Clausen, Aaron Martins, Gerald Swindle, Paul Elias, Tommy Biffle, Shaw Grigsby and Cliff Pace. Alabama anglers leaving the Elites Series for the new MLF Tour are Dustin Connell, two-time Classic winner Jordan Lee, Matt Lee, Greg Vinson, Randall Tharpe, Timmy Horton and Boyd Duckett.
“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,” said MLF and Pro Bass Tour Anglers’ Association (PBTAA) co-founder Boyd Duckett. “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.”
According to MLF, “The new Bass Pro Tour eight-event series and Bass Pro Tour Championship also offer heightened payouts, made possible through enthusiastic support from Bass Pro Shops and Outdoor Sportsman Group (OSG). Regular tour events will pay out more than $700,000 per event, with the championship purse exceeding $1.2 million. Success in tour events also qualifies anglers to high-paying Cup events, which ultimately gives anglers the chance to compete in the General Tire World Championship with CBS airtime. The four Cup events will pay a total of more than $2.2 million and the World Championship will pay more than $700,000 among only 16 participants.
“While MLF will continue its popular Cup events and World Championship, airing on Outdoor Channel, CBS Network and CBS Sports cable, it will now also have the Bass Pro Tour competitions and championship airing as originals on Discovery Channel with re-airs on Sportsman Channel in 2020. All together, Major League Fishing will air more than 850 hours of television programming in addition to the more than 350 hours of live coverage that will be streamed on majorleaguefishing.com.”
Update Oct. 3, 2018: The full 80-angler field for 2019 MFL Bass Pro Tour is set.
The 2019 MLF anglers are: Casey Ashley, Justin Atkins, Adrian Avena, Josh Bertrand, Tommy Biffle, Zack Birge, Stephen Browning, Brent Chapman, Jason Christie, Luke Clausen, Gary Clouse, Dustin Connell, Brandon Coulter, Cliff Crochet, Mark Daniels Jr., Mark Davis, Ott DeFoe, Boyd Duckett, Brent Ehrler, James Elam, Paul Elias, Edwin Evers, Todd Faircloth, Shinichi Fukae, Shaw Grigsby, Greg Hackney, Roy Hawk, Brett Hite, Tim Horton, Randy Howell, Mike Iaconelli, Alton Jones, Alton Jones Jr., Kelly Jordon, JT Kenney, Gary Klein, Jeff Kriet, Jason Lambert, Bobby Lane, Chris Lane, Russ Lane, Jordan Lee, Matt Lee, Dave Lefebre, Jared Lintner, Justin Lucas, Aaron Martens, Mike McClelland, Cody Meyer, Ish Monroe, Andy Montgomery, Andy Morgan, John Murray, Britt Myers, Michael Neal, Takahiro Omori, Cliff Pace, Brandon Palaniuk, Keith Poche, Jacob Powroznik, Skeet Reese, Marty Robinson, Dean Rojas, Mark Rose, Fred Roumbanis, Bradley Roy, Terry Scroggins, Fletcher Shryock, Gerald Spohrer, Wesley Strader, Scott Suggs, Gerald Swindle, Randall Tharp, Jonathon VanDam, Kevin VanDam, Greg Vinson, David Walker, James Watson, Jacob Wheeler and Jesse Wiggins.
“We understand how difficult this decision was for pro anglers … everyone who has faced a potential career-changing move can relate to it, but the deadline has passed for the invitees and we now proudly have 80 individuals who have committed to a dream that goes beyond just a tournament payday,” said MLF co-founder and PBTAA Vice President Boyd Duckett. “Sure, higher payouts are part of it, but for us this is not a competition we’re in against other trails. It doesn’t matter what B.A.S.S. or FLW does; our goal is different. These anglers know that and we’re ecstatic to have them on board with the new MLF plans.”