When I first read of Dakota Ebare’s decision to leave the BPT for the B.A.S.S. Open Series, I thought he was crazy. I’m sure I wasn’t alone.

What seemed like a storybook career, one developing and blossoming at seldom heard of pace, was apparently being tossed aside for a shot at breaking even. Ebare’s MLF accolades were right there on paper. Seven years of large-scale competition resulting in over a million dollars in prize money. A Toyota Series and Invitational win, and several near misses on the BPT. He was poised to be set for life.

Why in the world would he trade that in? Other veterans who’ve done the same aren’t exactly taking the world by storm.

For starters, it’s important to understand that Dakota Ebare is not your average professional bass fisherman. His “cowboy mentality”, born strong from a previous life of getting tossed around in a bull ring, centers on a concept foreign to many competitive anglers. Performance is judged within.

“I didn’t get in this sport to be rich,” Ebare started. “It’s all about the adventure, the journey.”

Since he first broke on the scene, Ebare has been known as a road warrior, fishing as many as 20 national events annually. “This will put me back in the stage of running around and hustling. That situation makes me work.”

To Ebare, pro fishing is all about the competition, and coming out on top. “My focus is success on the water.” With his MLF record speaking for itself, the next logical step is success with B.A.S.S.. “If I’m able to rise to the top there, there won’t be any doubt in my brand.”

Ebare is building a brand. And integrity to that brand is paramount to his career. Comparing that business to more mainstream entrepreneurs brought a take I hadn’t heard.

“You know people start new businesses all the time,” he mentioned. Good point and one that I can go along with. However, many business owners sell one first.

And, to some extent, Ebare looks at his time with MLF similarly. “I had opportunities that I’m very thankful for, including becoming financially stable.” A point not to miss, Ebare confirms that it’s his lifestyle and financial situation that allow him to take the risk.

Single with no children or significant other, Ebare has directed his entire recent life toward professional bass fishing. He’s aligned much of his career, sponsorship pursuit and fishing style around Kevin VanDam’s, the angler Ebare views as the greatest ever. Every decision has been premeditated, including his most recent.

“Trust me, I’ve been thinking about this (organizational change) every day since Saginaw Bay (the last BPT event of 2023)” Still, he couldn’t get past the idea of being the best competitor possible. “This will put me in an environment where I have to get better.”

Money’s not everything, right?

“But I do. I do need the money,” Ebare interjects. “But it’s more about the journey than about financial stability. I’m not going to allow money to compromise my principles”

More than that, Ebare understands that now is the time to gamble on the change. He’s young and able to concentrate entirely on his career. Being “authentic” is what Ebare terms it, and I can’t help but compare such a mindset to athletes of other professional sports. It’s rare that we see that in fishing, where many competitors will do anything for sponsorship and success.

Ebare, by contrast, views that as a shortcoming. He’s vocal about the sport crippling itself through competition amongst the tours. And, as young competitors seem to focus more on social media than heavyweight sacks of bass, Ebare cautions that the only authentic way to the top is through performance. “You need to build a reputation for being the best in what you do,” he insisted.

Still, Ebare’s new venture won’t come without a sponsor and media perk. Strike King – a primary supporter of his career – will be filming Ebare’s B.A.S.S. Open experiences for its Kings of Bass series. But don’t expect much scripted salesmanship. The format will be documentary-focused, showcasing Ebare’s highs and lows in real time. For Opens hopefuls, this will be a day in the life.

I’m guessing we’ll see more highs than lows. Ebare has quickly proven that he’s one of the most talented anglers in the world. Still, I can’t help but think such a move might be a bit reactionary.

Some big names fished the Opens Elite Qualifier division in 2023. A quick review of the standings shows a dozen or more with previous Elite, FLW or BPT experience. And how many of these veterans placed in the necessary Top 9 for 2023?


So, is Dakota Ebare crazy?

We’ll let him answer.

(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.)