By Todd Ceisner
BassFan Editor

Randy Blaukat, a veteran of more than 350 B.A.S.S. and FLW tournaments in his career, is planning to return to Bassmaster competition in 2020.

Blaukat went public last week with his decision to depart the former FLW Tour, which has been rebranded as the FLW Pro Circuit as part of Major League Fishings acquisition of FLW, in favor of the Bassmaster Opens. The eight-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier with more than $1.5 million in career earnings said he declined an invitation to the FLW Pro Circuit and will compete in both divisions of the Bassmaster Opens. He believes there will be others who choose the same path.

Theres not a right or wrong answer for anybody, Blaukat said. You have to analyze the situation and make the best decision for yourself and your family. Im pretty excited about it and Im looking forward to the change.

Never shy about voicing his opinion on topics facing the sport, Blaukat pointed to a $5,000 entry fee hike and the shuttering of the FLW Cup as the main factors behind his decision.

To me, that diminished the tours value and truly turned it into a feeder system for MLF, he said, referring to MLFs elimination of the Cup in favor of a season-ending Angler of the Year derby. Obviously, it was a big decision because Ive been with FLW since 1997. For me, it was a combination of a lot of different things. More than anything else, its about gravitating toward where your energies lie and where youre best aligned.

Entry fees for the 2019 FLW Tour (seven regular season events and the $300,000-to-win FLW Cup) were $35,000. For the 2020 FLW Pro Circuit, entry fees were raised to $40,000 for seven tournaments and a championship event featuring a $200,000 top prize.

Further, Blaukat said he disagreed with some of the rhetoric MLF used when talking about the roster of anglers it built for its Bass Pro Tour last year.

I really dont like the fact when an organization claims to have the best anglers because by doing that it diminishes the value of everyone else, he said. To me, theres no daylight in the skill level between the BPT, the Elites, FLW Tour, Costas or the Opens. The triple-A circuits are just as competitive as the tour level.

Lets say theres a tournament at Guntersville in April. It doesnt matter if its an Elite Series, an Open or a Costa, it will still take 25 pounds per day to win. This whole thing about one circuit claiming to have the best anglers in the world, its fake news. Its just not true.

Had to Choose Before

This is not the first time Blaukat has wrestled with a decision over which circuit to compete on. He was among the initial group of anglers invited to join the Bassmaster Elite Series when it launched in 2006, but he declined that option because his sponsor portfolio at the time more aligned with FLWs lineup of non-endemic partners. Its a move he came to regret.

The biggest mistake of my career was turning down the Elites in 2006, he said. I wanted to stay with B.A.S.S. but the business side pulled me away.

At the time, he had a deal with Fujifilm through FLW and had he opted for the Elite Series bid, it wouldve meant he had to affix a Busch beer decal to his boat. FLW rules prohibited alcohol advertising, so its a near certainty that he wouldve lost the Fujifilm deal had he chosen the B.A.S.S. route.

Since then, he says hes witnessed a slow decline in sponsor enthusiasm toward FLW and its anglers.

It just seemed like the endemics were more willing to do something for you if you were fishing the Elite Series or MLF now, he said.

Faced with a similar decision this time around, hes committed to earning his way to the top B.A.S.S. circuit.

I feel so good about the decision because Im committed to it, he said. Its not a case of Im trying it for a year. Im totally committed to moving forward with B.A.S.S. for the rest of my career. Everybody has to be comfortable and feel good about the decision theyre going to make. Im going to do all I can to promote the B.A.S.S. brand and get back to the Elites.

Experience Has Its Drawbacks

Blaukat has fished exactly 200 B.A.S.S. tournaments in his career, but only three since 2005. He doesnt anticipate making any sweeping changes to how he prepares or practices for a tournament despite there being no off-limits period for Open tournaments.

Im going to practice three or four days per tournament, he said. Any more and youre defeating the purpose unless you need to learn how to run certain water because of hazards. Im used to fishing against a big field from the FLW Tour so a 200-boat field is nothing new.

Performance-wise, Blaukats results havent come close to meeting his expectations in recent years. Hes been 100th or lower in FLW Tour points three of the last four seasons and last made the FLW Cup in 2008. The challenge moving forward, he says, will be balancing his experience with trying to stay creative and thinking with an open mind.

I think my approach has been really good, but the issue has been missed opportunities, he said. Ive had a lot of key fish come off and there were some weather changes that threw me for a loop where I didnt make the right adjustments.

I know Im on the right path. Im figuring them out in practice and knowing how to catch em. I just have to get into that flow. Im into my 50s now and I have to make the transition to be able to utilize that experience because creativity and ingenuity outpace experience. If Im going to have any type of approach moving forward, itll be to put my experience on the back burner and remember whats it like to be 20 years old and try stuff others havent tried.