An unknown number of MLF Bass Pro Tour pros have gotten together to make their thoughts known on the MLF's recent announcement that it will significantly shrink the size of the BPT field in 2025. Bassin'Fan did a good post on it – here's a some excerpts and a little 2c from me:
Statement from the group, called the Angler Protection Committee:
> The anglers, passionate about the growth and success of the league, agree that adjustments in the business model are necessary and are eager to work towards an agreement that assures everyone's continued prosperity.
> Having built their careers within the league, the majority of the anglers are original founding members who possess a genuine commitment to the continual advancement of the MLF platform. As we embark on this review process, our primary goal is to establish a stronger and more fruitful relationship with the league that can endure for years to come.
BassFan talked to one of 'em (not named)...
> "The goal is to sit down at the table and find a viable solution for both sides.... What they have proposed doesn't work for our side."
...and to Boyd Duckett:
> ...he had no comment on the formation of the APC and didn't plan to participate in negotiations with the group. He said angler issues are routinely addressed through the MLF Anglers Association....
> Duckett said he empathizes with anglers who'll no longer have a place on the BPT after next year, but he believes that the reduction is necessary in order for the league to achieve its goal of increased online viewership by non-traditional fans.
> "For us to be successful, the model doesn't work with 80 – we need 50. It's going to be good for professional fishing in the long run, but the downside is it's hard on those who can't make it. Everyone is still going to have a fair chance to make it. I wish we could feed 400 of them, but we can't right now."
1 guy's 2c
The part I gotta question is chasing "non-traditional fans." In my experience and observation, that has never worked – not for any sport, other than a little with physical, smaller-venue, arena-type sports.
I recently was talking to a guy involved in professional lacrosse, which is trying to do the same thing as bass fishing has tried in the past: Changing formats and rules to try to get a bigger TV audience outside of lacrosse fans. I gave bass fishing as an example: Those changes haven't worked to get loads of non-bass-fishing fans, they start to alienate the core fans, and eventually the formats come back to the "traditional" format because that's what the core folks want.
I know for a fact that a lot of actual lacrosse players don't watch or follow pro lacrosse, but they do follow college lacrosse. To me, the low-hanging fruit would be to find out why that is and go after those peeps – to get them to watch it and talk about it.
I think folks in pro lax and pro bass fishing have to ask: How far are we willing to change what the sport is just to get more eyeballs? And are we cool with the athletes primarily being vehicles for media consumption?
So am I saying Boyd is wrong? No. I actually think that in some ways a smaller field would be good and interesting. I'm just saying I've never seen changes to chase people outside of bass fishermen actually work. If MLF can make it happen, great – I'll learn something. All I'm saying is take care of the core. Are 100% of bass fishermen watching and following MLF? If not, why? That's the low-hanging stuff in my 2c.
Beyond that, if $$ is the issue here, in my 2c there's a lot more of it to be had in bassin' outside of the traditional tournament + media model, and B.A.S.S. is the 800-lb gorilla there anyhow. (Ask Tommy Sanders for his silverback gorilla impression – it's good! 🤣)
Lastly, I hope MLF does everything it can to bring back no entry fees. That was the jewel in their crown. I understand covid messing it up and all that, but I hope that's a goal...for B.A.S.S. as well.