A big parade took place in the southeastern corner of Louisiana on Tuesday as fans celebrated the Saints' first-ever Super Bowl championship in New Orleans. A much-less festive procession occurred at the opposite end of the state as a couple hundred bass boats pulled out of the Shreveport-Bossier City area in the wake of the cancellation of the 2010 FLW Tour opener at the Red River.
A huge influx of cold water from recent rains has the Red running 7 or 8 feet higher than it was for the Bassmaster Classic a year ago, and a large group of anglers went to FLW Outdoors officials this afternoon – about an hour prior to the scheduled registration meeting – with concerns about safety. Officials then reportedly met amongst themselves and consulted outside sources before calling off the event a short while later.
"This was a tough, tough decision," FLW Outdoors president and CEO Charlie Evans said in a press release. “After consulting with local authorities and FLW Outdoors staff members, we feel this was the best decision for the safety of the anglers. Unfortunately there is not a winning formula and we apologize for any hardships resulting from this decision."
It's just the second time in its 15-year history that FLW Outdoors has canceled a tour-level event – the only other occasion was 2001, when the Forrest Wood Cup was called off after the 9/11 attacks. The move reduces the 2010 season to a five-event circuit and pro entry fees will be rolled over to cover the final event at Lake Guntersville in June.
No Power, No Chance
Alabama pro Greg Pugh said the number of anglers who went to Evans, tournament director Bill Taylor and other FLW officials this afternoon to express their concerns about hazardous conditions totaled at least 70 and might've been higher. That would comprise roughly half of the 149-angler field.
Chief among their concerns was the possibility of a boat losing the power from its outboard motor and being relegated to the whims of the 10- to 12-mph current, which they deemed too strong to navigate via trolling motor. With no way to stop it, the craft could end up going over the dam.
Another issue was water temperature, which has bounced from the high 30s to the mid 40s since practice began on Saturday. If a pro or co-angler were to go overboard, that would be another peril in addition to the powerful current.
"We told (officials) we understood the position they were in and we understood what it took to put a tournament on, but that this was a safety deal," Pugh said. "It was the right decision to make and I think FLW took a big step forward as far as listening to the anglers. I don't think the old FLW would've done that, and they should be applauded for what they did today.
"If you look at it from a money perspective, it makes you want to think one way. But it's different if you look at it from the safety side. Yes, we're professionals and we deal with stuff like this. But with the dams the way they are, if you broke down you'd be at the mercy of the river and there's no houses where you can stop and get help."
Illinois veteran Chad Morgenthaler agreed.
"The current's so high that if you lose power you'd be in a very bad way," he said. "A trolling motor won't get it done and it's at the point where most guys can't even be towed.
"My hat's off to FLW for making the call and ruling on the side of safety. We all know it was a difficult decision, but now everybody has a chance to make it home safely."
Edwin Evers was somewhat dismayed that his FLW Tour debut was postponed.
Some Wanted to Fish
Some pros were dismayed at the decision to abandon the tournament and wondered if whether the extremely tough bite was a factor in their fellow competitors' desire for a cancellation. Notable among those was longtime Bassmaster stalwart Edwin Evers of Oklahoma, who was set to make his FLW Tour debut on a venue where he's experienced a fair amount of success.
"I'm disappointed that that many anglers came up with that many excuses to not go out and fish," he said. "We'd already practiced for 3 days and conditions weren't getting any worse. It seems like a bunch of people put FLW in a bad position.
"It's not like I was getting a bunch of bites or anything, but with the way this thing was setting up (as an extremely low-weight event), it would've been one of the easiest tournaments in the world for somebody to win."
Californian Zack Thompson, the 2009 Western FLW Series Angler of the Year, was greatly anticipating his first tour-level event since he competed on the Bassmaster circuit in 2005.
"I'm not any more upset that I came all the way from California than I would be if I'd come from Arkansas – I was just looking forward to fishing. It didn't seem like it was going to be fun, but work isn't always supposed to be fun.
"I don't blame FLW for the decision they made and I can definitely see why they wanted to play it safe. But I like tough bites and I've been working hard to get things going, and I just wanted to fish."
Dave Lefebre said the fear of not catching much had no bearing on why he was in favor of the cancellation. He saw a pair of 4-pounders caught from his boat on the final practice day and was quite sure he'd have had that area all to himself during the tournament.
"I was considering myself a threat to win this thing, but at the same time, the decision was a no-brainer," he said. "We didn't practice under the conditions that are forecast for Thursday and Friday, when they're predicting sleet, and we didn't launch 150 boats from an ice-covered ramp in 25-degree temperatures.
"People would've had to survive out there not for 1 day, but for 3. The risk just wasn't worth it."
> Although four Bassmaster Elite Series anglers (Evers, Steve Kennedy, Ish Monroe and Dave Smith) were among the field, Kennedy is the lone Bassmaster Classic qualifier among them. The cancellation means that he won't miss any official practice for the Feb. 19-21 event.
> BASS had planned to conduct the championship event of its now-defunct Women's Bassmaster Tour on the Red last October, but it was moved to Cypress Black Bayou Lake in Benton, La. due to high flows on the river.
> The ramp at Red River South Marina in Bossier City, which would've been used for the tournament, is the only launch facility on the river that's still operating. All others had been previously closed by local officials because of the conditions.
> Several anglers reported that many of the color-coded channel marker buoys are submerged, making an already-tough navigational situation even more difficult.