Changing the face of bass fishing
Traditionally, pro bass tournaments have featured glitzy weigh-ins and fishermen holding up their catch to a crowd of adoring fans.
But the Bass Pro Tour, Major League Fishing’s top rung, does things differently.
Fishermen catch, weigh and release their bass under the supervision of a trained official in their boat. They aren’t restricted to the traditional five bass that are brought to weigh-ins. A minimum standard for a scoreable bass is set before the tournament, and every fish that meets that standard counts.
That bass is weighed and is automatically added to the fisherman’s total for the day. A running scoreboard keeps track of where each competitor stands.
The Bass Pro Tour was criticized in its early days for setting the minimum scorable bass limit at 1 pound. But since then, the standard has been raised to a more respectable level—two pounds in many cases. Nonetheless, fishermen have still tallied some huge totals.
For example, Wheeler recorded 47 bass weighing 165 pounds, 1 ounce in one day on the St. Lawrence River.
When Major League Fishing bought out the FLW circuit two years ago, it built a system of tournaments all the way from the grassroots anglers to the top pros.
The lower levels still operate on the traditional bass-tournament structure—a five bass limit, bringing back weigh-ins, etc. That’s mainly because including a trained official in each boat is cost-prohibitive.
But Duckett foresees a day when all levels of Major League fishing go to the catch, weigh, release format.
“It really does showcase how good some of these pros are,” he said. “Say VanDam goes out and catches 50 scoreable bass in a day and all those fish are weighed. That’s a lot different than limiting him to five bass.
“We’ve had fans who are just amazed at how many bass some of our pros catch. I heard fans say, ‘I don’t catch that much in two weeks.’ “
Pros such as Chapman like the format, too.
“Catch, weigh and release is so much better for the resource,” he said. “After the bass are weighed, they are immediately released.
“I think the days of catching five bass and holding them up in front of a crowd are going away.”