By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor


No use for livewells, which means faster boats and no captive fish to worry about. Jacking on schools of bass until none will bite anymore. The challenge of a new competitive format.

And the biggie having a say in how the circuit is run.

Those were among the answers from anglers who'll compete on the Bass Pro Tour in 2019 when asked to describe, in just a couple or three sentences, what has them most excited about the new venture. "Growing the sport," a term that's been thrown around liberally for at least a decade, came up a lot, but it's obvious that BPT anglers believe that has a better chance of actually happening via the partnership between Major League Fishing and hook-and-bullet media giant Outdoor Sportsman Group, along with the title sponsorship of Bass Pro Shops.

Here's how some of the 80 BPT recruits answered the question above.

> Josh Bertrand "I'm pretty excited just from the competitive standpoint the field is so stacked and I'm looking forward to fishing against what might be the strongest field of 80 guys ever. I'm also excited to try the hybrid format. It's going to be new for a lot of us and change can be scary, but there's enough similarities that I think we'll all adapt. It will be very interesting to see if guys have to fish differently."

> Brett Hite "The two biggest things for me are, one, the anglers decide how the tournaments are run, and two, expanding the sport to a completely new audience."



BassFan
Photo: BassFan

Jason Christie sees the Bass Pro Tour as a big opportunity for both him and his sponsors.

> Jason Christie "The biggest thing is just the opportunity I have for my sponsors and myself with the platform that's being created, the sky's the limit. Secondly, we have an idea of what's going to happen with the tournaments, but it's MLF and they could put a kink in the pan, and I mean that in a positive way. They'll keep us on our toes and it won't be the same thing day in and day out. Change is scary sometimes, but I look at this as exciting and very rewarding."

> Justin Lucas "I'm excited about having no more than 40 boats on the water at a time. That really opens up the places you can go, like smaller lakes that we've never been to before."

> Ott DeFoe "I guess it would be the fact that we'll be able to make changes and adjustments as anglers on basically every facet of it. It's our baby to take care of and manipulate however we see fit."

> Cody Meyer "We've fished our whole lives trying to catch the five biggest fish every day, and this is going to be different. I don't know if I'm going to do any good with this format, but it's going to be fun to try."

> Andy Montgomery "This has the potential to take the sport to a whole new level with non-endemic sponsors and bringing in new money. The media platform will make that possible. No other professional sport has had success without the non-endemics."

> Jordan Lee "It's a new opportunity as an angler and some of the best fishermen in the world are fishing it with you. It's fun to be a part of something that's just starting something you can look at 10 or 15 years down the road and say 'I was there at the start of that.' There's really no right or wrong tournament format and we've all gotten conditioned to five-fish limits, but this is something different and I think it will be good for the sport."

> Brent Ehrler "For me it's the goal of trying to reach a new audience that's not involved with the sport right now, but also having something new and exciting for our current fans. If we can open it up to new people and new companies, more people will become involved in bass fishing."

> Ish Monroe "The amount of TV exposure 870 hours on multiple networks. That's the brand-builder."

> James Elam "I'm excited to be a part of something new, and also that the anglers are going to have a lot of say in the way things go. We're going to have a lot of voice in the decisions that shape the league. With it being new, there are things that will have to develop, and all 80 guys will have input on that."

> Roy Hawk "The intensity: it's going to be like people were shot out of a rocket. With that format, you can never let off the throttle. Everybody's going to come in breathing fire because it's new and we all have something to prove. It's going to be crazy."

BassFan
Photo: BassFan

Takahiro Omori wants to fish against "the best of the best" and also experience some new fisheries.

> Takahiro Omori "The main motivation for me is to fish against the best of the best in this country that's why I came to the U.S. I'm excited about the new format, but it won't be new for me because I've fished MLF since day 1. We may be going to new lakes and maybe fishing for more prize money, so there's a lot of reasons to be excited."

> Edwin Evers "It's a fresh start and it's something to be excited about, even though we've still got a lot of work to do and a lot of responsibility. This will change the future of the sport for the anglers, the sponsors, the fans ... the whole industry."

> John Murray "Just the change. No more livewells, no more balance beams ... it'll be a lot of different stuff. Most people get a little nervous about change, but I think this is the direction we had to go to keep the sport moving."

> Chris Lane "I'm most excited about the excitement of all the anglers everybody's fired up about it because it's the future of the sport. The amount of TV exposure and media coverage will be great and everybody will get some, regardless of how they're fishing. When guys make a top 10 they're going to see the true MLF effect. Everybody loves watching it on TV and that's all you hear about no matter where you go."

> Aaron Martens "For me, it's a new chapter and it's almost like changing careers. It's really the same thing as what I've done my whole life, but it's going to feel like a complete change and it's a change that should be for the better. Fewer anglers, fisheries we wouldn't go to normally, no more fish care and boats that run faster because they're not carrying 80 gallons of water or whatever. It's all exciting."

> Luke Clausen "I'm used to having to leave fish to try to find bigger ones, but I love to jack fish I want to put a hook through the face of every one of them. When I'm fun-fishing at home and I get on a school of 14-inchers, I don't leave; I want to catch every one I can. As a tournament angler I haven't had the luxury of doing that until now, and that's going to be a fun aspect of it."

> Greg Hackney "Right now I'm more antsy than I am excited because I've seen who else is going to be there it's like going into a wolf's den. It may not be every one of the best guys in the world, but they did a pretty dang good job of getting most of them. I've been very fortunate in my career to see some of the biggest changes that have happened in bass fishing and I truly believe this is the greatest opportunity I'm going to see in my lifetime. If there's any chance to take it mainstream, this is it."