For weeks now, big talk in the bass fishing world has centered on the increase in live broadcasting available to fans. Much of this comes as a result of expansion in the competitive circle itself with the formation of the MLF Bass Pro Tour, offering junkies untold hours of cast-and-wind coverage. Accordingly, both B.A.S.S. and FLW are also increasing their game for 2019. Live coverage, it appears, is the most valuable aspect of the sport to the tournament organizations.
I have to admit, there was a time in my life when I would have done anything for so much reporting. As many of you likely recall, it wasn’t long ago that the entire world of tournament bass fishing was wrapped up into one hour-long television program, broadcast on select Sunday nights on TNN.
I remember taping the old Bassmaster TV shows on my VHS (believe it or not, I still have many of the cassettes), hoping – praying – that the leaders would show their lures or tune me in to their fishing location. For me and many competitive fishermen of the time, it wasn’t uncommon to rewind key snippets over and over, hoping to gain more knowledge of a hidden variable.
Today, there’s more insight available than most people have time to digest. From what I can see, ravenous fans will have the opportunity to watch at least 700 hours of live tournament coverage in 2019. Now, consider that the average American bass angler actually fishes about 17 days a year (roughly 136 hours), and you see the irony in the situation.
So why all the attention into live viewing? It appears that the primary goal of the competitors is to grab as many hits as possible from fans; such gives them more arrows in their quiver to solicit advertising. Internet hits, views, and the like, however, can be inaccurate ways to reflect on the buying public’s preferences, as numbers sometimes get inflated in mysterious ways.
But in any case, each group seems to be pulling as many resources as possible to dominate live fishing. Broadcast teams have been assembled, consisting of retired tournament anglers, veteran journalists and social media “celebrities”, each promising to offer the best insight into the game being played.
But what is it, do you suppose, that the tournament organizations plan to reveal? I truly wonder.
From my vantage point, it will be incredibly difficult for producers of the online coverage to satisfy the needs of all the viewers. As in the past, commentators who try to “dumb down” tournament fishing fail miserably in the eyes of seasoned anglers, while those who come from a competitive background themselves are frequently unable to explain the sport’s intricacies to the occasional angler.
A few standout broadcasters have blended well – Rob Newell and Jerry McKinnis both immediately come to mind. But with all the expanded coverage, it will become incredibly difficult to offer a new, fresh product for very long.
Will viewers simply get tired of live tournament bass coverage? Will the pie be so divided, and the product so diluted, that advertisers will look elsewhere to promote their products? It could very well happen.
To get a better handle on this phenomenon, I ask you: How much live coverage do you plan to watch?
Sure, initially it will be fun to check in on the progress of the sport. How will the huge group of FLW rookies fare, and will the former Tour veterans now dominate the Elite Series? What will happen when Andy Morgan finally takes on Kevin VanDam? And just how good is Jordan Lee?
Like many of you, I can’t wait to get under way and see how things all shake out. Viewership and discussion among the fans will quickly determine the industry leader. After a while, however, I wonder just how quickly live viewing may taper off.
In the long run, I’d be very surprised if we didn’t see less attention to live broadcasting and more to other sources of exposure. Perhaps the weigh-in format will hold strong and leave advertisers a better way to present their products to living, breathing people. Maybe print or television ads will persist with companies still desiring a direct connection to consumers.
Again, I can’t overstate my excitement for this bass-junkie dream – it sure beats the days of old. But I wonder what the rest of the world will think.
(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.)