The open letter released by FLW on Thursday in response to the launch of the Bass Pro Tour and subsequent changes B.A.S.S. announced to its Elite Series entry fee/payout structure has generated a mix of reactions from FLW Tour anglers.
The letter seized upon FLW’s strong history of producing anglers who’ve gone on to successful careers with B.A.S.S. and Major League Fishing, but the attention-getter was how the note began.
“It’s an exciting time to be a professional angler,” the letter opened. “Major League Fishing has brought new energy into the sport, and B.A.S.S. has responded with a significant contribution to its Elite Series payouts. It’s unlike anything the sport has experienced since the introduction of the FLW Tour in 1996, and we applaud both organizations’ commitment to top-tier professionals.
“As a result of these changes, we’ve been asked how FLW is going to respond, and the answer is: We aren’t.”
That statement was a disappointment to numerous competitors who were anticipating modifications to be made to the FLW Tour payout system in addition to the previously-announced elimination of co-anglers for the 2019 season. While the BPT and Elite Series fields will compete for larger pools of money than they maybe ever have, FLW has let it be known that it’s comfortable with the status quo.
BassFan contacted several current FLW Tour anglers for their reaction to the letter. Some declined to comment for publication while others were willing to offer their feedback.
“I was very disappointed. I honestly thought, and the other guys I’ve talked to as well, we all thought that, ‘B.A.S.S. did this and BPT is going to do this. What is FLW about to do?’ Ultimatley, it was like thinking you knew what you’re getting for Christmas, then you get up that morning and it’s not under the tree. I was expecting some sort of something.”
“I chose to fish FLW throughout my career just because FLW has been good to me all through my amateur and professional career. I, too, want change in the bass fishing industry. Payouts were better 20 years ago versus entry fees and now we’re paying more to fish for less. That being said, FLW had set the standard before MLF and B.A.S.S. came out with their programs. They made positive change that we requested, like the elimination of co-anglers.
“We really don’t have a reason to be mad just because we all knew what our side was going to look like before all of those other things came down. There are a lot of guys up in arms and saying it’s not fair, but that’s not the organization we fish.
“I’m partially disappointed just because as an angler and as a business owner, I know where they can manufacture the money to come from. I see it different than a regular guy going there to just fish. There are opportunities for our anglers, but it seems like the organizations aren’t hungry enough. There is not a lot of progressive thinking going on.”
“I thought it was dumb to post that. It was full of contradictions. They praised MLF and B.A.S.S.’s response and applauded them both. Then they said we’re doing nothing about it. FLW made some changes and those are steps in right directions but at end of the day when entry fees go up and payouts go down that’s unacceptable.
“Did I expect FLW to wave a magic wand and come up with groundbreaking stuff? No, but I expected them to do something. It’s an alarming time. Fishing is a full-time deal for my family and I. What matters to me is dollars and cents. I don’t care if it’s FLW or B.A.S.S. or BFLs, whatever makes me the most money is what I want to be doing.
“At the end of day, I love the people at FLW. They’ve been good to me and my family, but this is constructive criticism just like when our parents tell us when we’re being good or bad. I’m just calling it like I see it. I thought it was a great opportunity for FLW to seize the moment and I don’t think they did a good job of that.”
“I am extremely disappointed in FLW for not stepping up their payouts when compared to the other two circuits. This was an opportunity for them to position themselves ahead of B.A.S.S. and draw new anglers, sponsors, and fans to FLW. Instead, as indicated in the open letter ‘we’re not’ changing anything and are content being the third-best professional circuit. That might pay the bills for FLW, but as an angler my sponsors and fans want to see me competing on a circuit that will generate the most exposure for them. Since this release I have had two sponsors suggest I should try to fish one of the other circuits. I can assure you other FLW Tour pros are having similar conversations with their sponsors after reading this letter.
“I have fished the FLW Tour for the last eight seasons and entered when the fishing industry was in a recession. Entry fees were $4,000 per tournament and have since increased to $5,000, but yet payouts were significantly higher back then. I’m not sure how FLW can say they are moving in the right direction.
“I expected FLW to make a few adjustments in reaction to B.A.S.S.’s moves. Unfortunately, their decision to not do anything suggests to me that they would rather concentrate on the grass roots of the sport. I can’t fault them for that. Time and effort should be spent developing talent. But after spending so much money on the lower levels why not try to retain the talent you have grown and built relationships with. Wouldn’t you draw more people into the grass roots levels if the FLW Tour was extremely lucrative?
“It seems like the public’s reaction to three circuits is extremely positive as it provides more content for the viewers. But, I can assure you the anglers that weren’t invited to the BPT tour are concerned for their careers. Sponsor dollars for the anglers and the other two circuits are moving over to MLF, which leaves a much smaller slice of the pie for the majority of the anglers making it harder to pursue a career in the industry. That’s why I think it was so important for FLW to try to solidify themselves as the second-best circuit. It could have brought more of the remaining sponsor dollars over to FLW and its anglers. Hopefully, FLW will reconsider their stance.”