Well, I just got back from a great vacation. I might have gone a little overboard, spending a couple thousand bucks and fishing everyday, but it was worth it. I needed some time off.
Where does a guy like me go to blow some cash and get away from it all, you ask? Was it the flats of the Florida Keys for bonefish? Maybe flyfishing in Yellowstone National Park? An Alaskan fly-in?
Nope, far from it.
For my money, I went to Richmond, Va., and never set a hook.
I’m sure many of you now realize that I’m alluding to my participation in the recently canceled – then twice rescheduled – FLW Northern Rayovac tournament on the James River. Like many others, I traveled to Richmond and practiced for the derby that never took place.
Such occurrences were nobody's fault, most notably the parent tournament organization. However, the decision to reschedule, and how it will unfairly handicap many would-be participants, can certainly be met with some serious scrutiny.
To back up a bit, let me give you a blow-by-blow of what transpired.
As many of you know, much of the country was ravaged by rain last week, causing monumental flooding across the South. Such problems made their way downstream to the Richmond area the day prior to the kick-off of the James River Rayovac. The night before the tournament, the river rose to flood stage and was expected to continue rising. Day 1 was canceled and the prospects for day 2 were in question.
Throughout the morning of the would-be day 1, contestants were notified that the entire event would be canceled and rescheduled. By that evening, contestants were notified of the rescheduled date in September.
Following the weekend, contestants were again notified that the rescheduled date was changed from September to August 21, 2014.
Naturally, entry fees would be refunded if contestants were unable to attend the make-up event. Contestants who traveled to the James River for the original tournament were not offered any type of compensation for their expenses incurred.
As I limped my way back home following a 13-hour drive and a blown tire, I had to assess the situation before making a decision as to my season. After some long review, I highly doubt I will be competing in any Rayovac events for 2014, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
To simply switch the date of the event is totally unfair to those of us who have already invested in the previous event. To make matters worse, the newly scheduled tournament set for August conflicts with my family plans for an annual summer vacation – a vacation that was planned around the 2014 Rayovac schedule.
I originally planned to compete in this season’s Rayovac circuit mainly because it offered a championship. As I’ve stated here numerous times in the past, the triple-A leagues’ regular-season payouts are far from lucrative when compared to the expense to compete. Adding to this the fact that each Rayovac event is extremely far from my home puts even more stress on trying to recoup losses at the championship.
But by having the regular-season event rescheduled, and not allowing for any credit for those of us who have already been to the James River this year, my chances of qualifying for the championship, based on a three-tournament schedule, are null due to my aforementioned conflict.
To again rekindle our earlier topic, the costs incurred by contestants who’ve already traveled for one event this year were astronomical. For the week, I recorded over 1,700 miles on my vehicle (which equates to about $500 in fuel), racked up about a hundred bucks in tolls, spent over $400 in boat gas, about $400 more on hotel rooms, blew a tire, destroyed a rim, dumped a wallet-full on tackle, ate out for a week and got off relatively cheap compared to some!
For that, I will receive no points or compensation, and am expected to do it all again in August. Rather than having me do the math for you, take a look at payouts for these events and see where I’ll need to place in order to not lose my shirt.
Before I let frustration sway me any more, let’s take a subjective look at the details and see what choices FLW had. The cancellation of the event was absolutely necessary for safety reasons – we’re in agreement there. From that point, the organization's choices were:
1. Fish a two-tournament tour, with championship qualifications based solely on those two events. This would have been totally unfair, as competitors who sacrificed time and expense to travel to the James River would have received nothing for it and "jackpotters" who had no intention of fishing all three events could now jump in and qualify for the championship much easier.
2. Reschedule the event (as FLW did). Again, totally unfair and unrealistic. This assumes that the contestants, most of whom are not professional fishermen, would be able to just come up with another week of vacation and a week’s worth of expense money.
3. Immediately change the location of the tournament. As crazy as this seems, we’ve seen it done. Years ago, an event was moved from Buggs Island to Gaston. More recently, a few events have been bumped to different locales for reasons of flooding, storm damage, etc. But, in most cases, the change was well in advance, and these events were true professional tournaments. While it led to an advantage for some, the bulk of the competitors were traveling pros who were all in the same figurative boat. In the event that a similar concept was tried at our tournament in question, and the event was moved to a nearby lake (although most of those were also flooded, but safe), this would have led to an astronomical advantage for local anglers.
4. Postpone the event and wait a few more days for things to calm down. Really not an option for reasons mentioned above, as most competitors had to be at work Monday morning.
5. Cancel the event and award points to those anglers who were present. In my opinion, this was the only viable solution. FLW should award points, based either on a flat rate or on average performance at the next two regularly scheduled Northern Rayovac events, to those who were registered and present at the original James River event. It’s pretty easy to figure out who that was, as the pairings were already done prior to cancellation. Those anglers should be awarded points that enable them to qualify for the championship if they perform well at the other two events, and thus disallow two-tournament anglers from qualifying as easily.
While it’s easy for me to sit behind my desk and point fingers, I fully realize that there is no good solution. When I inquired further with FLW, I was told that its goal is to hold events “to determine who the very best anglers are so that they can be rewarded appropriately both in terms of onsite payout and points toward advancement to the Rayovac FLW Series Championship." And that “when a tournament is canceled for reasons beyond our control, our practice, when possible, is to reschedule the event."
The scheduling change is simply unrealistic to expect from the organization's part-time-pro customers. I can understand that position, but I don’t agree with it. And I doubt that I’m alone in feeling slighted on a season that could have been.
(Joe Balog is the often outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)