By Todd Ceisner
It's no surprise that FLW's decision to ban the umbrella rig in Tour events beginning in 2014 got the bulk of the attention last week when FLW released its rules for the coming season.
Its presence in high-stakes tournaments had been a hot-button issue for the last 2 years and likely would've continued to be had FLW not changed course, especially considering the liberties anglers were taking with modifications made to some rigs. FLW officials said the move was made partly in response to feedback received from anglers, the majority of whom preferred to move forward without the multi-lure contraption in their tackle compartment.
After a more thorough examination of the 2014 rules by BassFan, it appears there were other issues that either anglers felt should be addressed or FLW deemed worthy of additional language. A side-by-side comparison of the 2013 and 2014 FLW Tour rules revealed three other significant additions for next year – one closes a jackpotting loophole, one implements a new restricted access period before off-limits and the third will allow pros to update social media accounts from the water during competition.
These are in addition to the change in payout structure for Tour events, which involved reallocating money to allow for payouts of $10,000 for 21st through 60th. In 2014, finishing 2nd will pay $30,000, a $5,000 decrease from 2013. The same decrease will apply to 3rd, 4th and 5th. Finishing 6th through 10th will pay $1,000 per place less.
The rest of the field will be broken into two payout groupings – 11th through 20th will earn $12,000 and 21st through 60th will bank $10,000. Previously, FLW had broken the field into seven segments beyond the Top 10.
Below is a breakdown of the new rules adopted for the 2014 FLW tour season.
Jackpotting Rule Tightened
A couple changes were made under Section 2 of the rules that cover "Payback and Participation."
The first was the addition of the following passage in the section's introductory pagaraph: "Any person who, in the judgment of the tournament director, is disabled or handicapped in such a manner as to unfairly hinder his or her pro or co-angler partner or compromise his or her safety or the safety of his or her pro or co-angler partner may not be eligible to participate."
The second addition was made under the "Pro Entry" subsection. It reads, "Pros are expected to fish all six qualifying tournaments. A pro may be permitted to miss a tournament for proper cause with prior approval from the tournament director. Missing a tournament without prior approval will result in ineligibility to participate in future 2014 FLW Tour events."
It is believed this addition was made in an attempt to discourage anglers from paying deposits for the whole season when they only intend to fish one event, likely a tournament on their home waters. In other words, locals hoping to jackpot a Tour event won't be able to do so unless they have a pretty good excuse for not fishing the other five events on the schedule. This was an issue on a couple of occasions during the 2013 season.
New Restricted Access Period
Changes were also made to Section 4, which deals with "Purchasing of Information." The 2013 Tour rules prohibited "the purchasing of, or bartering for, information about locating or catching fish on tournament waters, including but not limited to GPS waypoints (other than through commercially available sources) and the hiring of fishing guide services," after Jan. 16, 2013.
In 2014, the date has been moved up two weeks to Jan. 2, 2014.
This topic is always among the most talked about on Tour and an addition to the rules outlines new conditions under which pros will be allowed on tournament waters prior to the off-limits period, which will again begin 13 days before the first official practice day.
New language covering "restricted access" was added. It reads, "Thirty days prior to the first practice day pros are only permitted on tournament waters alone or accompanied by a contestant in the tournament, a member of their immediate family (mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, grandparent, grandchild or spouse), approved sponsor representatives, approved youth age 18 or younger or approved media representatives. With prior approval from the tournament director, pros may participate in FLW, B.A.S.S. Elite Series, B.A.S.S. Opens, PAA and other pro/am tournaments featuring random partner draws within the 30-day window."
The wording is straightforward and is aimed at discouraging getting on-the-water help from guides or knowledgeable friends inside the 30-day window (click here to view a chart of when restricted access begins for each 2014 Tour event). Outside that time period, though, pros can be on tournament waters with whomever they wish, provided the aforementioned "purchasing of information" rules are observed.
FLW tournament director Bill Taylor said the inclusion of a restricted access period came as a result of angler feedback generated from the annual angler survey.
"The 13-day off limits period was favored," he said. "And they responded that they would like to see a more controlled atmosphere after the schedule has been announced when it comes to getting information. The most important thing that we do is ensuring a level playing field for everyone. The perception of someone going out with a known guide is not always a good image to portray. It's been a compromise of listening to the anglers and we feel like it'll be good for everyone."
Another departure from previous years is pros will now be able to actively update their social media accounts during competition days with the help of their co-angler.
Typically, use of mobile communication devices (phones, marine radios, etc.) are prohibited, but a few exceptions are outlined in the rules, such as to communicate with a lockmaster or to communicate with the tournament director. A third exception was added for 2014, allowing "for pros to post social media updates."
The details of the new exception are as follows: "At the request of their pro partner, a co-angler may use a cell phone for the sole purpose of assisting the pro with his or her social media updates. Co-anglers are not, however, obligated to assist a pro with social media updates."
The assumption here is that a co-angler will snap a photo of a fish catch with the pro's smart phone and the pro will then post the image to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., then get back to fishing. It appears to be a progressive-leaning addition to the rules that will allow pros to report to their fans in real time how the tournament is going for them.
> Click here to read the complete 2014 FLW Tour rules.