Some time ago, a friend and I were talking about the future of professional bass fishing. Now, this was well before all the recent developments in the sport. Before MLF and the BPT. Before the win-and-your-in Bassmaster Opens; even before the modern Elite Series.

“There needs to be stadiums, just like all other pro sports,” my buddy insisted. I vividly remember thinking he was nuts, but this guy was sort of a visionary, so you never know. Many incredible ideas start out as the ramblings of a forward-thinker.

Regardless, his point was that professional bass fishing needed to come up with a way for massive spectator engagement. Again, this was some time ago; before the live programming we have now. The best way the sport could grow to true professional size was to incorporate the fans, he said. At the time, the only way for fan engagement was through “chase boats” out on the lake.

Back then, we were starting to see the downside of that. Throngs of followers at major events were simply getting in the way. In addition, those same fans couldn’t really get into the action from a hundred yards away. So the idea was that maybe we could try bringing the anglers to the fans in some sort of structured “course”, perhaps even in a massive stadium.

Remember, I thought the guy had a screw loose. But I was reminded, at the time, of a very similar concept. Also the result of a visionary, the Megabucks tournaments, so popular in the 1980s, were brought to fruition as a way to add spectators to the game. From what I remember, Ray Scott’s original Megabucks idea was to have grandstand-like seating all around the lake, where large groups of fans could watch the anglers attack small sections of water. These “holes”, as they were known, were rotated through on a 50-minute cycle by each of the finalists.

While the grandstands never materialized, Megabucks made for some very compelling television on the old Bassmaster show. Any pro fishing fan over the age of 40 remembers the Larry Nixon “jump shot” that started each episode – filmed during one of Nixon’s monumental Mega-victories.

I was always surprised that Megabucks didn’t last longer and wasn’t more popular. Personally, I loved watching how different pros approached the same sections of water. As Nixon illustrated with numerous wins, there was real strategy involved.

Today, we see another adaption of bass tournaments custom-made for the fans. This past week, two dozen of the top performers competed in a lucrative bass tournament on a custom-made body of water – with possibly the largest population of big bass in the world – specifically for the creation of a television show. Nobody even knows who won.

Of course, I’m referring to the MLF Summit Cup held in southeast Florida on the area’s premier fisheries – Kenansville, Fellsmere Reservoir and others. Most bass fishermen have heard of the water bodies in this region, beginning with the formation of Stick Marsh two decades ago. Since that time, a number of man-made bass havens have opened to the public, the most recent being the most intensely developed and managed, Fellsmere Reservoir.

The intention of all of these waters is two-fold. One, the reservoirs act as a settling pond for the uptake of nutrients that would otherwise overload the upper St. John’s River. The state of Florida, with its ever-present pollution woes and dirty politics, chooses to slow its bleeding, rather than stop the continuous wounds caused by poor environmental practices. In any case, the result is a big win for bass fishermen, as the constructed waterways are extremely “productive”, according to scientists, and have outstanding habitat and massive populations of fast-growing bass.

Such draws lots of bass fishermen, and lots of their money. It also draws attention from a major tournament organization that can compete on these stellar waters, thanks to a catch-and-immediate-release format. Once settled, MLF is able to produce a made-for-TV event that brings us into the boat with the world’s best as they dissect the best lake in the world.

To me, it represents the culmination of Ray Scott’s grandstand idea, my buddy’s cockamamie stadium scheme; any conception to bring us the action we deserve. A big win for the area and a win for us, the fans of professional bass fishing.

Sort of.

Now, maybe I’m the exception to the rule, but I rarely watch bass fishing on television. Really, I rarely watch television. So I highly doubt the stars will align to place me in front of a TV, tuned to the Discovery Channel, at 2 in the afternoon on some random Saturday in April. But that’s what would have to happen for me to watch this event.

Like all the MLF Cups, nothing has been aired online, and nobody knows the results other than the anglers and production crews that attended. What many, including me, consider the shining star of professional bass fishing today – the online programming – has again been removed in order to preserve the suspense of the tournament for the television audience.

What a mistake. By attempting to gain viewers likely outside of bass fishing, the format removes those of us within. It again complicates the ability of fans to follow the sport for an entire season. And it removes the ability for the anglers to promote their sponsors’ products in a relevant manner.

What would be the harm in covering these events live, as well as producing television shows for later broadcasts? With such a great format, incredible anglers and monumental progress in live production, I still can’t understand why MLF insists on this delayed model to appeal to fans.

In the end, they’re losing the most fanatical.

(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.)