Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 10/31/2018

Moore, OK – On Tuesday, October 30th, Major League Fishing announced that there would be no entry fees for the 80 anglers competing in the MLF Bass Pro Tour that will kick off in 2019.  Previously, entry fees had been set at $48,000 for the eight-tournament Bass Pro Tour.   

Below is the official MLF press release:  

TULSA, Okla. - The professional bass anglers who comprise the 80-man field in Major League Fishing's (MLF) new Bass Pro Tour have voted "no" to required entry fees for their participation in the 2019 tournament competitions.

The no-fee decision is the first of its kind for a high stakes professional bass fishing series and reveals the kind of autonomous authority the Bass Pro Tour participants have as a group for guiding the future of their events and the sport.

No entry fees means the cash payouts per event will be less than initially announced, although still higher than what the anglers have become accustomed to on other trails. Another advantage to this decision is that the anglers effectively eliminated one of the greatest expenses and upfront cash hurdles professional anglers had to incur annually.

"What brought this great group of anglers together in the first place was the allure of being able to ultimately control our own destiny because collectively we now make the rules," said Gary Klein, who was instrumental in the formation of MLF and Bass Pro Tour. "It's all about the big picture of what we want this sport to be and getting it there. We call this 'Major League' Fishing for a reason and no entry fees is a monumental move in our achieving that distinction."

The MLF expansion with the new Bass Pro Tour has advanced rapidly since being announced in mid-September. It was made possible when Bass Pro Shops and Outdoor Sportsman Group (OSG) pledged additional support to an already long list of MLF sponsors.

In addition to the pro tour, MLF will continue its popular Cup events and General Tire World Championship, airing on Outdoor Channel and CBS, respectively. All events will use the same entertaining MLF format of catch, weigh and immediate release of bass during competitions.

"Things are moving fast and each new step this group takes seems to be another giant leap in bringing attention to fishing," MLF President and CEO, Jim Wilburn said. "It's a pleasure to watch the enthusiasm and sincerity of the greatest bass anglers in the world as they take the reins in advancing the sport to the benefit of everyone who loves to fish."

The BASS ZONE spoke with several anglers competing on the MLF BPT in 2019 and here’s what they had to say about the announcement:  

Justin Lucas
“I think that this announcement, along with a number of other things that will come out over the next months and year, is a huge part of the reason why I made the switch.   I know that MLF wants to change the sport forever and they have the power to do that.   The thing that I couldn’t live with if I had said no (to the MLF Bass Pro Tour), was sitting back and watching what was about to go down with MLF.  They are listening to the anglers, and we are making the decisions.  That’s huge.  

“Every BPT angler cast a vote regarding entry fees and it was overwhelmingly in favor of no entry fees.  It wasn’t even close.  When that many guys who have been doing it as long as we have all agree on something, you know it’s the right decision.   We will take a hit in the overall purse, because that’s a total of $3.9 million in entry fees, but we are all saving $48,000 to start the year.  If you’re running a business do you want to risk $48,000 or do you want to take the guarantee?  You take the guarantee…otherwise it’s just gambling.”  

Russ Lane
“I think that it’s incredibly good news and financially good for me and my family.  More importantly, it sets a precedent for years to come and it’s the next big step in professional bass fishing.  It only took 50 years to get to this point, and I’m not saying that our sport is at a level today where we all want it to be at, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.  

“Every new season, whether you finished high or low in standings the previous year, you’re always playing catch-up and chasing money when you have entry fees.  I guess that chasing money is part of all business, but it’s really a big deal when you have $40,000 to $50,000 in entry fees because you don’t get a lot that sponsor money until the end of the season.

“The thing is that even with the altered BPT payouts without angler entry fees, it looks like it’s going to be about the same amount of money that we’ve been fishing for over the past eight to 10 years with entry fees.   I have a lot of confidence in Major League Fishing taking off, more sponsors coming on board, and the payouts growing over the next years.

“I get asked all the time, ‘How can I be a pro and how can I afford it?’  It’s always people saying that they can’t afford it, or they can’t leave their job, or they weren’t born into a family that had money.   The general public doesn’t realize that the majority of us that are now on the Bass Pro Tour fought and clawed and saved money and wasted money and lost money and won money to get where we are.  My point is, without an entry fee, that excuse isn’t valid anymore.  When the feeder system is in place, all you have to do is qualify for the BPT and outfish everybody.”

Cliff Crochet
“I think that it’s possibly the biggest step ever in the history of professional fishing.   To be totally honest, I’ve had years where it’s touch and go, and it’s hard to explain the burden that comes with over $40,000 in entry fees.  It’s like carrying 10,000 pounds of weight on your back.   The hope is that you’ll win your entry fees back, but you’re automatically starting every season with a burden.   It doesn’t matter if it is sponsor money, personal money, or winnings from last year – it’s still money that’s going out for entry fees.   

“Without entry fees this year on the Bass Pro Tour, it’s pretty much like getting a $48,000 raise.  I also think that eliminating the entry fees will take a lot of guys back to why they started bass fishing, which was for fun.  The more fun it is, the more intense it is.  The more intense it is, the more fun it is.  For somebody like me, who has two kids and bought a small starter home, I can take that nearly $50,000 in entry fees and save $40,000 a year towards my kids education or pay my house off.

“Now we get to go fishing and just fish.  A lot of us started fishing for the joy of the sport.  I think that you’ll see a lot more personalities emerge on the Bass Pro Tour because these guys won’t have the financial weight on them.   If you think my jokes were funny before, just wait until next year because I was carrying around a lot of weight and now there’s no weight.”     

Gerald Spohrer
“I was good either way with or without entry fees.  I had a conversation with an advisory board member and I really just wanted to do what was best for the majority of the anglers. Since I started fishing professionally, I have built into my business plan a designated amount of money for entry fees and I always pay my entry fees in full at the start of the year.   

“It didn’t really affect me because I already had designated money for the BPT entry fees.  Part of me wants to fish for more money with angler entry fees and more money is available when the anglers are contributing to the pot.  That being said, the most important thing to me is legitimizing the sport by having a professional league without entry fees.  

“When you have a significant entry fee at the top level, it’s really hard to give advice to kids who want to be a professional bass fishermen when they grow up.   When you’re paying $50,000 a year just to enter the tournaments, I really struggled with telling kids that they needed to work hard and try to reach the top level because it was just so unbalanced and stupid from a financial standpoint.”