Last week, the MLFLW team hosted two compelling professional fishing events in the state of Florida, both of which brought fans giant fish catches through tumultuous springtime conditions. Hatís off to Pro Circuit winner Laramy Strickland for dropping his mega-bag on day 2; the highlight reel sent chills up my spine.
Each event was similar in big fish results, yet a major adjustment in the FLW league showed just how different the circuits are.
By now, youíve likely guessed that Iím again referring to a scheduling change or competition delay due to weather. And, believe it or not, Iím again surprised.
However, before we go further, I want to make it known that I donít much care how often the tournament trails bow to the wind. You see, Iíve got no skin in the game. So it doesnít personally affect me when competition days are canceled for routine weather, or entire events are rescheduled based on a forecast of things to come. Sure, I feel somewhat obligated to speak up for the anglers from time to time, but Iím not calling anybody out.
It wasnít long ago that we all mourned the inexcusable loss of a fellow angler, when Nik Kayler lost his life in a boating accident during an event on Lake Okeechobee in 2018. And since that time, weíve seen a complete restructuring in weather tolerance by the major leagues.
So, using this new practice as the accepted model Ė and rightfully so Ė perhaps there will need to be consideration for another format. Again, this week illustrates just that.
You see, on the day when the Pro Circuit suspended play on the smallest bodies of water they will fish all year, the Bass Pro Tour went fishing on Okeechobee, one of the largest lakes in the country.
Were the BPT anglers mad, you ask?
Nope. They were simply the beneficiaries of a new way of thinking.
Rather than take off from a single, predetermined location, the BPT pros were allowed to trailer to their ramp of choice at Okeechobee, still going ďlines inĒ at the designated time. Such allowed these anglers to fish the best parts of the lake without needing to cross the wind-frothed waters, possibly jeopardizing the safety of themselves, film crews or marshals.
Now, in the end, both trails completed their events and crowned a champion. But what we saw in the BPT was pure angler adaptation; their tactics changed by changing weather, vintage thinking on the fly and, really, more excitement.
Many of you will recognize my affinity for the great events of the past, as discussed in our walk down memory lane last week. But, along with those Classics of yesteryear, I often remember the tournaments where the winners overcame incredible adversity. Like the flip-stick showdowns at a flooded Buggs Island, or the fearless champions of the Thousand Islands. Even the scorching heat of Lake Mead has changed the game numerous times.
However, I now believe weíve entered a time when those adversities are a thing of the past, and we must adapt. Again, Iím not here to be cynical or point fingers. Instead, Iím really just wondering what the plan is.
You see, the roughest day on the Harris Chain canít compare to a routine day on the Detroit River. So what will that event, scheduled for June of this year, have in store?
Will we see a time in the future where such venues are off the table? Maybe they should be.
Now, to be fair, perhaps this is a sign of an improvement in our sport. A sign of expansion. By comparison, the PGA doesnít play in the rain, neither does outdoor tennis, or baseball for that matter. Does the new protocol simply mean weíre big time?
I guess, to some degree it does. Tournament trails once deemed the best locations as those with the best fishing; nowadays relationships with tourism bureaus and internet signals have as much to do with it as anything.
Perhaps so should the weather, or the possibility of weather-shortened events. Maybe the best places to hold tournaments are those with a back-up plan, should the wind start howling. Or places where itís entirely feasible for anglers to trailer to safer locations and resume play.
Now it may sound like Iím overthinking this to many of you, but I predict weíll see some sort of adaptation in the near future, as the level of weather tolerance seems to be dipping below whatís reasonable.
There was a time when nothing could stop a bass tournament from blasting off. Storms, lightning, wind, floods; all were par for the course. Today things are different, and much for the better.
But these changes wonít come without challenges.
(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.)