In 2018 a new professional bass tour was established. The Bass Pro Tour (BPT) under the Major League Fishing (MLF) group. In 2011, MLF was started by pro bass anglers, for bass anglers. The anglers along with the Outdoor Channel formed a partnership. The goal was to take professional bass fishing to a higher level.
In the fall of 2018, the new BPT began pulling top level anglers from both B.A.S.S. and FLW ranks. Well-known anglers like Kevin Van Dam, Jordan Lee, Mark Rose, Aaron Martens, Gerald Swindle and others joined the BPT. It was by invitation only.
In the BPT there are no tournament entry fees for the anglers. This season there are eight events and a Redcrest (championship) in August. Payout for first place in each tournament is $100,000 and 40th place yields $6,000. Anglers earn points in each event for placing in the Redcrest and in the MLF Cups.
“It is a completely different format than we have seen in other tournaments, said BPT pro angler Gerald Swindle of Guntersville. “No more having to cull fish and riding them around in your livewell.”
Under BPT rules every scorable bass counts. A scorable bass must weigh a minimum of one pound. A marshal in the boat has a calibrated set of electronic hand-held scales. The fish is weighed, recorded and immediately released back into the lake.
The marshals use a computer tablet connected wirelessly via an app to Scoretracker. The Scoretracker automatically lists the anglers, their current creel weight and position with the other anglers. Marshals are also giving updates to the anglers as to their standing and the position of other anglers.
Each tournament day is segmented into three periods, each at two and a half hours long with a 15-minute break between each period. Marshals call lines in and every angler starts and finishes fishing at the same time.
Throughout the competition day, every angler knows which pros are catching fish and the ones that aren’t. This adds excitement to the live-stream broadcast of the tournament and increases the fishing pressure on the anglers. Bass fishing fans are loving the new format.
In the tournaments, 80 BPT anglers are placed into two groups of 40. Group A fishes days one and three and Group B fishes days two and four. On day five, the top 20 anglers from each group move to the knockout round. There the previous weights are zeroed.
The top 20 anglers from the knockout round move to the final day of competition, the championship round. Again, the previous weights are zeroed. The angler with the most weight at the end of competition wins. There is no final weigh-in back at the ramp.
“I like the format in the BPT,” Swindle said. “There is no racing back to the launch ramp to make it by check-in time.”
Swindle said there is less stress on the fish. But, not so much on the anglers.
At the event on Smith Lake near Cullman in May, Swindle was one pound, five ounces from the cut to make the knockout round. With 47 seconds remaining in the final period, Swindle caught a bass to put him in 19th place to make the cut. And bass fans got see it live.
Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at email@example.com