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Turn And Face The Changes

Friday, January 28, 2005
by Scot H. Laney

Well, I'll say this: BASS rewrote the map last week, don't you think? Not only that, but between the two large tournament organizations – FLW and BASS – just about every line in the sport has been redrawn in the last 3 or 4 years.

All for the better, if you ask me. I know that some will not agree with that, but I also think we all trend toward the "cup half empty" approach to things like this. Bass fishing is funny that way. Few (if any) sports run quite so deep in terms of the level of buy-in bass anglers have. It goes beyond being a fan, in the typical sense of the word.

Bass fishing is as much a state of being as it is an activity for most fans and participants. You hear all this stuff about the Red and the Blue states and think there's some passion there? Come spend some time in the Greenfish nation.

Let's be honest here. Almost all other things that are as addictive as bass fishing are generally smuggled into the U.S. from some village in South America. So it's easy to see and understand why emotions run so high. But I think it also drags the sport down to a lower level than it deserves. Frankly, it makes us look like other sports that have to concentrate on the negative because that's really the bulk of what's going on.

Right now there are a lot of new eyes on the sport. What will an outsider's first impression be? Whatever it is, it affects us all. We need to take good care lest someone gets the wrong idea about who and what we are.

Because there are plenty of positives on both the FLW and BASS sides of the table.

Come down anywhere you want on how BASS and FLW run their respective tours, but let's not get so caught up in the nits that we forget what the view from 20,000 feet looks like.

Anglers now have, for the first time ever, an honest chance at making a solid living on both trails. There is a reasonable progression up the ranks – from entry level to full tour professional. We have not really had that before. There is an opportunity (this is really important) for sponsors of the anglers to actually get some return on investment. What? How can that be?


I've never believed that either BASS or FLW owed one wit of anything to the angler sponsors. Some disagree. But what sport does? Do you think PBR or even NASCAR go out of their way to promote the sponsors of their athletes? Do you think Nike signs LeBron James for millions so he can wear their shoes on television? Even in the NBA, that's only worth close to nothing.

The responsibility of BASS and FLW (really a side effect of participation more than anything else) is that they can make your sponsored athlete recognizable to the public. Show him with a tour shirt, without a tour shirt, in a bunny costume if you want. But show him to us. Let us see his face, hear his story. That's it, that's all they need to do.

Be a real tour in a real sport. That's the beginning, middle, and end of what the tours need to do and they both are doing that now.

It's up to the sponsor to capitalize on that fame. That's what Nike does: the commercials, the appearances, the buzz. The NBA provides the platform, sponsors provide the sizzle.

So if the tours pay all this money and expand into all these places, sponsors get a chance to make some hay with these guys. All the new television (BassCenter, Loudmouth Bass, Bass Saturday and the new FLW program) add even more opportunity for anglers to bring some increased value.

With all of this going on, the anglers who have taken the time to learn the ropes on the sponsorship side are going to see some budgets open up to them. It's about time too, because the industry sponsors have played such a big role in this so far, that they've spent about as much as they can on their teams. I would think that help is on the way.

If you're a newer angler or need to brush up in the sponsorship game, I would definitely purchase Tim Tucker's Bass Pro Workshop Volume 2 ( as fast as I could and wear the thing out listening to it. Bass fishing is now serious business and you need to bring the correct tools if you want to have a future.

A few years ago Irwin Jacobs started taking some measured steps to create his vision of bass fishing. Like it or leave it, credit goes to the FLW for showing the world what a big and deep payback does for the anglers. Last year at the Classic it seemed to me that there was a certain unspoken concern about the $500,000 first-place payout in the FLW championship that would happen only a few weeks later. A BASS executive told me an interesting thing.

He said that BASS was not going to have a knee-jerk reaction to that big payout. That BASS was not going to simply throw money at the Tour – that they would come back with a reasonable plan of their own in due time.

Guess the guy wasn't kidding.

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