It’s been nearly two months since I made the drive home from the last FLW Pro Circuit event on Lake Martin. Since then, we have all watched as the world changed around us in response to the pandemic. These changes included the postponing of upcoming events across all leagues and uncertainty as to when they would resume.
Now it seems as though there might be light at the end of the tunnel, and it not only is the light illuminating hope that the Pro Circuit season might be restarting soon, but the future might be even brighter than when things got put on hold.
With the recent press-release introducing the newly established Pro Circuit “Super Tournaments,” the second half of the 2020 season looks to be more exciting than any of us could have imagined and promises to showcase the power of combining the BPT with the FLW Pro Circuit fields.
I see these changes as great opportunities, and almost equally exciting are the challenges these changes bring as I work to rebound from a sub-par finish at Martin.
One of the biggest changes to the newly announced Super Tournaments is the schedule itself. Instead of four remaining regular-season events being held on Hartwell, Dardanelle, Cherokee and the Detroit River, we now have three events left on Chickamauga and the Mississippi River, with the Detroit River being the only venue to remain from the original schedule.
I’ll be the first to admit, one of the things I was excited about with the original FLW schedule was the omission of Lake Chickamauga. Not because I don’t think “Chick” is one of the best lakes in the country, but rather because I still find it my most challenging venue in a tournament setting – which is the reason I moved to the area to make it my home lake.
If you look at my track record, Chick has been an Achilles' heel of sorts, but I have been starting to understand it better, and getting a shot at fishing another Pro Circuit event out here is the kind of opportunity to challenge myself and transform my weaknesses into strengths.
On the other end of the spectrum, the addition of the Mississippi River out of LaCrosse, Wis. is exciting for a completely different reason – because I feel that it fits my shallow-water power-fishing style perfectly. As big of a challenge as Chick might be for me, I feel LaCrosse will really allow me to run on autopilot and fish instinctively, and flat out have fun.
Finally, we still have the Detroit River, which is also an event where I will have to overcome a lot, with my lack of experience fishing any events on the Great Lakes and strictly targeting smallmouth.
All in all, the revised schedule includes an excellent mix of exciting playing fields and skill-testing challenges that will be essential to my growth as a competitor.
New Field, Payouts and Exposure
Another aspect of these Super Tournaments that pose both challenges and great opportunities is the invitation of the Bass Pro Tour anglers to fish these events.
The BPT field includes some of the biggest names in the sport, many of whom inspired me from a young age as I set out on this path to become a professional angler.
Make no mistake about it, the level of experience that these anglers have is going to be a major challenge going into these three events. However, I believe in the importance of competing against the best, and the addition of the BPT field to our already incredibly stout field of Pro Circuit anglers is going to give me the chance to test my mettle against one of the strongest fields I have ever seen in the sport.
Another exciting development to come with the Super Tournaments and the inclusion of the BPT field is the drastically improved payouts, which are disproportionately larger with each additional angler coming from the BPT. This makes a greater opportunity for me to make a profit for the remainder of the season.
Finally, to put an exclamation mark on this unprecedented move to combine the two Tours, MLF and FLW are utilizing their combined resources to improve exposure for the Pro Circuit, including the increase of live coverage from two days to all four days of each event. This will not only help professionals promote their sponsors, but also gives fans more content to watch, which is certainly something we are all hungry for.
Make no mistake about it, this year is a new chapter in all our lives, and we will be feeling the effects of this pandemic economically, socially and culturally for many years to come.
I knew that recent events would have a major impact on the tournament schedule, but I would have never dreamt that the changes would come in the form of the BPT and FLW working together as a cohesive organization to create a compromise that elevates not only our ability to continue making money as professional anglers, but also elevates the fan experience with bolstered live programming and content generation across the board.
In our continued efforts as fans and professionals in the fishing industry to do what’s best for the sport, I couldn’t think of a better way to take advantage of what is likely to be the biggest challenge our fishing community has ever faced, and turning it into an opportunity to work together and create a fun, exciting and profitable platform.
Sure, I’ll admit that these changes, under normal circumstances, would be considered irregular, but with the new economic landscape we now face, I'm encouraged by the creativity and cohesiveness that the MLFLW organization has shown in their combined efforts to best utilize their resources to push forward during challenging times.
As for myself, I feel as though I am starting a new chapter in my young career, and I really look forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead!
(Miles "Sonar" Burghoff is an FLW Pro Circuit competitor and the co-host of the TV series "Sweetwater." To visit his website, click here. You can also visit him on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (SonarFishing) and Instagram (@sonarfishing).