At the same time the Forrest Wood Cup was playing out last week at Georgia's Lake Lanier, a big-time golf tournament was taking place about 350 miles east at Kiawah Island, S.C. The 94th PGA Championship was won by Rory McIlroy, an Irishman who, at 23, is just a couple years older than newly crowned Cup champion Jacob Wheeler.
Both events were blowouts: McIlroy won the PGA by 8 strokes; Wheeler won the Cup by well over 7 pounds.
The similarities don't go on forever, though. In fact, they come to a grinding halt when you arrive at one key element – the make-up of the respective fields.
All of the world's greatest golfers were at Kiawah Island – some from the PGA Tour, others from the European or Asian circuits. Not nearly all of the top competitive bass fishermen were at Lanier. The competitors were all from the FLW Tour or one of its lower-level trails.
Segregated championships have been the norm in fishing for a long time now. But that doesn't make it any more palatable, and it certainly doesn't make it good.
Jacob Wheeler cruised to victory last week in the Forrest Wood Cup at Lake Lanier over a field that featured a lot of top anglers. It's unfortunate that neither the Cup nor the Bassmaster Classic bring together all of the world's best, as golf's four Majors do.
Pro bass fishing has two signature events – the Cup and what is still (and likely always will be) the granddaddy, the Bassmaster Classic. Nobody, but nobody, competed in both of them this year. Jason Christie will likely do it in 2013 and it'll be fun to watch him take on the Elite Series' best at a venue he knows well in the Classic at Grand Lake, but we need a lot more than that.
We need David Dudley, Kevin VanDam and all of the other angling superstars competing on the same body of water at the same time on multiple occasions each year. Golf, auto racing and all other circuit-based pro sports featuring individual (as opposed to team) competition have that. Bass fishing needs it – badly.
I'm not going to spend a lot of time typing stuff here about the differences between the two organizations, B.A.S.S. and FLW, that control pro bass fishing in this country. If you're a visitor to this site, you likely already know all that, and even if you don't, it's not real compelling to read.
I'll just sit here and lament the fact that, in 2012, we're left to ponder a lot of questions that should be answered on the water.
If 40 accomplished Elite Series pros had mixed it up with the 40 or so FLW guys at Lanier, would Wheeler still have won? I'm thinking he would have, but I certainly don't know for sure. I harken back to the 2009 Cup at Pittsburgh, when Greg Hackney and Mike Iaconelli – both Elite Series competitors – finished 1st and 2nd, respectively.
What if Hackney had been at Lanier? Might he have gotten something going with the river-dwelling largemouths that carried Wheeler to victory? You know he would've been trying hard from the get-go.
Or how about Ike? That derby and its off-kilter conditions caused by low water and gray weather might've been right in his wheelhouse. Wouldn't we all have liked to see what he could do with those suddenly unpredictable spotted bass?
In the same vein, what if Christie or Jay Yelas had been flipping all that Red River wood at this year's Classic along with eventual winner Chris Lane, Alton Jones and the rest of the B.A.S.S. boys? Would the results have been different? Nobody knows. Would the complexion of the event have been altered? Oh, yeah.
Off the top of your head, can you name the five anglers who've won both the Cup and the Classic? No avid golf fan with a love for the game's history struggles to rattle off the five men who've won that sport's modern Grand Slam – Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods. But in fishing, not a lot is made of the Classic/Cup double because the anglers don't get a shot at both of them every year.
For the record, the names are David Fritts, Davy Hite, George Cochran, Dion Hibdon and Luke Clausen. The last to join that group was Clausen – all the way back in 2006.
The Professional Anglers Association-sanctioned Toyota Texas Bass Classic has tried hard to fill the unifying championship void and it's put together some strong mixed-tour fields over the past couple of years. However, at least at this point, it lacks the juice of the Bassmaster Classic or the Cup, primarily because it lacks the half-million-dollar top prize and the massive marketing machine to promote it.
Maybe the TTBC will acquire those things over time, or maybe not. Man, it would be nice to have three honest-to-goodness "Majors" every year, wouldn't it? One in early spring, one in mid-summer and one in the fall. The entire fishing year would revolve around them and the anticipation and hype could be taken to a level that this sport has never seen.
The bottom line with this whole segregated-tour thing is that it presently works well enough for the sport's power brokers and there's no real incentive on either side to find common ground. Since the inception of the Elite Series in 2006, just once (2010) have the organizations created tour-level schedules that didn't overlap on at least one week. Why that can't be done on an annual basis is beyond me.
For now, we'll just keep pumping numbers into the BassFan World Rankings formula and allowing it to spit out its tabulations, and all of you can gripe about it if you don't like the results. Under the present scenario, that's the best we can do.
There's simply no question that Rory McIlroy was the best golfer in the world last week. Jacob Wheeler soundly beat some of the world's best anglers at Lanier, and it would've been great if he'd gotten a shot at all the others, too.
John Johnson is BassFan's Senior Editor.