Kevin Short

Who pays the payouts?

by Kevin Short

I don’t really know what careened me off down this twisting path that I’m about to drag all you down. It had something to do with one of my buds asking me if I was going to miss the first Elite derby of 2016. This was shortly after all of my ex-compadres had to pony up that first $8,375 payment back in October.

The very same day that I sent several of my former competitors this text “Hey sucka, guess what I didn’t miss paying today?” I received several pics telling me I was Number 1 in their book. At least that’s what the hand language looked like.

Somehow, that led me down the path of money and bass fishin’. Specifically wow much we as the “pro” anglers pay into the pot in relation to how much the tours pay into the kitty. A side street  I ricocheted down was just how much does it cost to play the game, which we will delve into at a later time. For now, I’m trying to focus my brain cells on figuring how much of any given published payout is put up by the anglers, and how much is put up by the tour organizations.

After some research through my own personal files, some flittering through, and the Wonderful World of Fishing League WorldWide (FLW), here’s what I came up with – and I was shocked. Shocked for a guy that had been in the trenches. Shocked at the numbers. Shocked that 45+ years later, the Big Leagues still seem to be fruit jar derbies with cool websites. Okay, that might be a little harsh, but after you look at the numbers, maybe not so much:

Kevin-Short-graphs-bass-fishing-160216 Don’t focus on the actual numbers yet. Just keep in mind in every one of the above charts that angler contribution is the slice on the left side, and the tour contribution is the slice on the right.

With this in mind, what do you see at first glance? What I saw was the anglers putting in a bigger slice of the pie over time, which is something that I’ve suspected for a long time but never actually ran the numbers.

In case you were wondering, these charts are calculated based on full fields as listed in each Tour’s payout schedule. They include all AOY awards, Classic or FLW Cup payouts, Elite events, Tour events, and FLW Invitationals. I tried as closely as possible to compare apples to apples.

FLW Tour comments

How about that 2016 FLW Tour chart? No wonder those guys were so upset when the payback and schedule came out last fall. I’m pretty sure I would’ve been pissed too. This one took me the longest time to get the numbers on because I kept checking and rechecking them to make sure they were correct.

Bassmaster Tour comments

How about that 2004 Bassmaster Tour payout. That was the first year that I fished the Bassmaster Tour. I never understood why many of the Tour regulars were so upset in late 2005 when the Elite Series was announced, with its higher paybacks and higher entry fees. Looking at the numbers on a pie chart, it paints a different picture. Sure, the payback went up drastically from ’04 to ’06, but look at who was footing over half the payback? The anglers.

What it all means

Great Scott, K-Pink! What does it all mean? What it means is the Anglers are the tours’ biggest sponsor, in terms of payout dollars. The anglers largely support the anglers, which is sad on several levels after 45+ years of what we know as Pro Bass Fishing. Can we truly define this as a “Professional Sport”, if the players are paying each other’s bills?

Hey, I’m in no way trying to tear anything down here. I’m just asking the hard questions that few others want to ask let alone answer. I don’t think it’s a good idea to hide your head in the sand so you don’t see the world falling down around your ears.

Is there not some way to make this pro bassin’ thing better than this?

From Jay: Kevin Short is not me. Kevin has opinions that are not necessarily mine…because, you know — we’re different people. K-Pink has interesting things to say and ain’t afraid to shake the trees, and many times I agree with him. But not necessarily. So don’t contact me being all angry-like about whatever. Take it up with him, or hold it in and maybe get a stomach ache.

To read’s perspective on this, click here.



  1. Rich Moses

    February 16, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    You are an awesome writer Kevin. Glad you are back!

  2. Wacko

    February 16, 2016 at 3:52 pm


  3. Dean Coleman

    February 16, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    Does this analysis really surprise anyone?

  4. Capt. Steve Chaconas

    February 16, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    Kevin is so right. Even at the 2004 numbers, it’s still ridiculous to call bass fishing a sport when the players are playing with each other’s money. In the entire fishing industry, tournaments are the most lucrative. If they had the ability to sell, market and promote the sport, they could make lot more and anglers could make a living, and fans would have a reliable field to follow. Instead, they have slots filled by some poor sucker financing with their credit card to “LIVE THE DREAM” until they lose their boat, house and family. Some of the best anglers are out there competing, but some of the best also ran out of other people’s money.

  5. Rob Shaw

    February 16, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    I love pie charts. I think most of us knew it was bad…but this is (find a new job) bad.

  6. John

    February 16, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    We want to get bass fishing to be a mainstream sport like NFL,MLB,NHL, and NASCAR. Does Peyton pay Cams salary, how about Dale Jr. paying Tony Stewart’s? This is a big problem and BASS andFLW should be ashamed. Put some of that money in the pot!! These organizations are lining their pockets from promoting the anglers. Y’all leave a lot of room for someone to start a tournament trail that could make y’all close your doors!

  7. Jake

    February 16, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    On a percentage basis club tournaments have a lot better payouts than this. BASS and FLW are now both actively recruiting high school and college kids to mortgage their futures since so many of the grown ups have figured out the scam. Shameful.

    • Chris

      February 17, 2016 at 2:59 pm

      But aren’t most clubs 100% based on angler contribution? That would be a much, much worse percentage payout than any of the pie charts above.

      • Roger

        February 18, 2016 at 9:27 am

        Club Fishing Is Not FOR A career, Wrong comparison

  8. chuck cregger

    February 16, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    Where is the money? Is there any money? How will bass fishing ever become any more than a throw your money in the hat deal. Is this why ESPN bailed. If they (BASS–FLW) havent been able to up the prize money to an affordable living for pros in 45 years, will it ever happen?

    I have often looked at prize money for individual anglers. They could have made more money working at Burger King. Maybe this is why angler profiles are no longer available at BASS. Just saying bass fishing very well could remain a SPLINTER SPORT along with bowling. SAD!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Mike Bush

    February 16, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    I thought 10 events, 112 Anglers and 8375 an event equals 9,380,000. I’m sure Kevin knows more than I do on how the money goes. Just did basic math. Doesn’t take away the fact the guys are playing for each other’s money. It’s like poker tournaments. Pay the rake to have someone set up a venue.

    • Nathan

      February 18, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      $8375 isn’t per event. They pay in installments.

  10. monte

    February 16, 2016 at 11:35 pm

    No question. I have said it for years. its just a poker game. Don’t know how this to get bass fishing a TRUE sport because how hard it is to get tv or spectators during the event. How can you cover it. Fishing as we all know is slow and not a watching tv sport. Yes when it is over and they just give us the fish catches it looks great but as we all know its a long day for 5 or 6 bites. I would like to see it to where pros qualified and make it to the top 100 max. Then no entry fee fields that would be free. All payouts to be made by sponsors and organizers. How do we get the $$ to do it? Golf in a bad year as a pro you make over 100k. Crazy. I love to fish and I love a jackpot to fish a tournament every now and then but really its just gambling and the top 3 win and rest lose basically. still cant believe how bad it is. Its just wrong

  11. Coy Greathouse

    February 16, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    I think it’s just like any other sport where there is an entry fee. Poker is the same way. It’s typically 100% funded by other players with the casino “adding” some money sometimes. If it’s going to be different, you’d have to completely restructure it. If you want to compare it to other sports, it would be comparing apples to oranges. Compare it to football. They make money in football by selling tickets and merchandise. That can’t be the case in professional bass fishing. There is neither enough interest in the sport to justify charging for tickets and merchandise in the same way, nor would it make logistical sense to do it that way. If It were like football, sponsors would have pay their anglers based on how valuable they are and the winnings would go to their sponsors. In the end, it’s not, nor can it be like every other sport until there is a broader market and they can close off the lake unless you pay to watch. It’s a sport where you pit your money against my money and see who is better. We are in essence the owners of the franchise and we get our winnings when we win. Again, the only way it could be different would be if the shows, expos, weigh-ins, spectating on the lake, etc all had a fee and cost money to participate. As it stands, BASS is paying out over 150% of what it takes in from the anglers. Find another sport with the same structure that offers the same amount of return to their competitors.

    Kevin Pink, what are you hoping to accomplish here? Read the comments. All you’re doing is turning people away from the sport. It’s not “opening their eyes”, but rather skewing the truth and twisting it to be a bad thing. 150+% payout. Think about that. Then add all the help you received from sponsors. That’s certainly added into that figure. I hope you don’t shatter some young angler’s dream because of the bitterness you’re harboring for whatever reason.

  12. Earl malone

    February 17, 2016 at 12:22 am

    Very thoughtful. Curious if Major League Fishing is built on the same fiscal model, or have they created a better mouse trap? Not just the format but the ” pie chart”

  13. Dave

    February 17, 2016 at 4:33 am

    I wonder how the payouts go in the PGA?

    They pay entry fees and there are sponsors as well.

    It’s probably done the RIGHT way

  14. JP

    February 17, 2016 at 10:16 am

    I see what KP is saying, but these guys make their living off sponsorships. if they get one top 52 out of all those tournaments, they have now paid off all their entry fees. All their tackle/equipment is mostly free. Their only expense is gas/travel. It is definitely a more strenuous way to make a living, but if you are telling me I could make a decent salary, travel the nation fishing, and I just had to make ONE top 52- I’d do it….we’d all do it. We need to STOP comparing fishing to NFL, PGA, and any mainstream sport. Also, I am not including FLW in this conversation, because anyone (yes anyone) can sign up to fish that tour. With the exception of 15-20 guys, that’s just our peers with more time and money.

    • CC

      February 17, 2016 at 10:40 pm

      They have to make a Top 52 cut each tournament. I believe each tournament is $5,000 to enter. They have mortgages, cell phones, insurance, maintenance on their vehicles, a place to sleep, families to feed and the list goes on. A small percentage have cash sponsors most are product only and sometimes it’s only a discount on the products. So instead of being able to “enjoy the dream” and fish they’re having to think about how they’re going to get to the next tournament or make the next deposit or pay last months mortgage because they haven’t made a cut…the majority of their boats are financed. It’s very unfair to say their living the dream when they are paying for the dream.

    • JPZ

      February 18, 2016 at 1:19 pm

      JP you obviously don’t do much reading on the sport. How can you say their only expense is travel and gas? Don’t they need money money to support themselves and their families? Far less than 1/2 get their entry fee and the about the same percentage get free tackle. You didn’t mention boats so you must be one of those that think the boats are free. They are not free even for most of the top pros.

  15. Matt Mahle

    February 17, 2016 at 10:43 am

    K-pink is telling it like it is.Notice he said “deposits” on entry fees,the other part of the deposit is due before the events,and deposits and balances are due as the season progresses,unless you are able to pay it all upfront in a lump some.That is why you see each season several anglers bow out mid or late season because they didn’t cash enough checks to finish.Until anglers stop fishing for each other’s money,it is going nowhere.

  16. Dave Hopkins

    February 17, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    Now I know why some of FLW’s best have bolted for the Elite Series. Now you also see why and how some of the best of the best, have built their brand, with other interests outside of fishing on a weekly basis. KVD is the perfect example with his line of tackle with Strike King. Ike and some fellas have started the Bassmaster University. Others like Timmy Horton and Shaw Grigsby have their own TV shows. As we all know, the major sports are sponsor driven and get a big bag of money from TV contracts. Obviously, this is not the case when talking about TV contracts for bass fishing. People want to see these events live, not a week later and not on their PC, smartphone or laptop. It’s nice to follow B.A.S.S. events thru their website. It’s still missing something that we get from watching football, baseball or whatever, while it happens. I don’t know of another sport that where the fan can get the kind of interaction with his or her favorite anglers. Over the years I’ve met some of the greatest bass anglers on the planet and they could have not have been nicer and accommodating. I can’t say that for any other sport. Despite all of that and me buying most anything that KVD endorses, Kevin Short is saying the anglers are getting the dirty end of the stick. What I’d like to know, where is B.A.S.S and the FLW getting their funds for their piece of the pie? Does it come from sponsors and TV contracts. Do they get audited and if not, can it be done? Despite all of what the pie chart shows, I still love this sport.

  17. chuck cregger

    February 17, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    Coy—-when you compared poker to bass fishing that concludes bass fishing is no more than a GAME and not a SPORT. I am not sure about the 150% you threw out there. Dont you have to win or place to get the 150%? Some poor sap is going to play just as hard as the winner and goes home with nothing–no paycheck, 150% of nothing is NOTHING. Kevin is doing nothing wrong here, he is stating the facts, any kid out there that sees the classic confetti flying and bright lights, deserves the truth. Then if he or she still wants to roll the dice, its up to them. Like you said its a game.

    • Coy Greathouse

      February 17, 2016 at 7:25 pm

      Many would argue that Poker is a sport, but that’s not the point. The point is that the payout is similar. You’ve misunderstood where I’m getting 150%. If BASS paid out 100%, that would mean that they pay back exactly what they collect in entry fees. But since they are contributing an additional $3M dollars that the angler’s did not invest, they are paying more than 100%. I just picked 150% because it was a safe round number. It’s actually more than 100%, I’m just lazy and don’t want to do the math.

  18. Matt Mahle

    February 17, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    Like an onion,there are many layers to this.From Bass/Flw a good bit of the money is put up by the places they hold tournaments.These places want the revenue the circuits bring,so whoever puts up the cash gets the events.You also see title sponsors for the events,so really the anglers are footing a large portion,along with the towns that host the events.
    What most people don’t realize is that the lions share of sponsorship dollars goes to about 20% of the anglers,the rest are paying for a good bit of their own way.Now ask yourself how are you going to beat the likes of KVD,Skeet etc. when you slept in the bed of your truck on a piece of memory foam and have been eating peanut butter on bread folded over.I know for a fact one of the top performers on the elite series unwrapped his boat at the end of the season to sell it,it didn’t sell and had to have the same wrap reapplied (5,000.00) so he could use it again the next season.Not using names,but he makes the classic every year.”All that glitters is not gold”folks.

  19. Matt Mahle

    February 17, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    Footnote-this boat was used two seasons instead of one a couple years ago.It was not trashed or overpriced either.

  20. Dave Reault

    February 17, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    All of the consolidation in the fishing industry has really hurt the payouts and growth of tournament angling. All the industry marketing people who tried to measure the return to product sales did not realize they’re sponsorship money created the market.

  21. Chris

    February 17, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Can you imagine getting drafted into the NFL and right after shaking the commissioner’s hand on stage, you had to pay a $10,000 deposit just to attend training camp? The idea is laughable, yet it’s on par with what goes on in the pro fishing world.

    • JP

      February 17, 2016 at 3:21 pm

      Chris, you are comparing two totally different things. Not sure where to start, but I will leave you with this.. 3 out of 4 Americans watch football every weekend… what percentage of Americans do you think watch professional bass fishing? Football is also a sport that generates billions of dollars in multiple markets. We have to stop pretending that Bass Fishing (a competitive hobby) is popular and important to the general public.

      • Chris

        February 17, 2016 at 3:48 pm

        I understand it’s apples to oranges in terms of the total revenue of each sport, but I was trying to make the apples to apples point that both are professional sports.

      • monte

        February 17, 2016 at 10:37 pm

        I agree. Bass fishing is a hobbie not a sport and it is not popular in the general public

  22. Jon Simpson

    February 18, 2016 at 4:37 am

    Coy hit the nail on the head with his analysis. Due to the nature of the sport (the fact that there are no seats around the lake), there is no way to pull in the money that football, baseball or golf bring in from ticket sales. Another piece of information that we are missing is that some (not all) of the anglers on your have their entry fees paid by their own sponsors. Also, from the organization’s prospective, it costs them hundreds of thousands of dollars to operate. They have staff to work shows, vehicles to handle the logistics of it all, and all of the equipment to weigh fish and keep them alive during the show. I do understand the thought process that sparked Kevin’s article, but at the end of the day, Kevin has made a great living doing what he loves to do. I would take that chance any day of the week in hopes of doing the same. As for the question of fishing not being a sport…I challenge anyone to get up at 3 or 4 am, drive an hour or so to an event, fish from safelight until 3pm and then say that this is not both a physically and mentally challenging SPORT. Thanks for reading.

  23. Steve

    February 18, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    I would like to see the co angler side of things.
    Have heard 70-80% pay back on flw tour, vs pro side that is 130-150%

  24. chuck cregger

    February 18, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    My questions remains unanswered–where is the money? Is there money at the top? If there is no money–thats not a company (BASS/FLW) you want to work (fish) for. Make no mistake about it–at this level of fishing its no longer fun fishing–its a business–its how you make a living. If you have talents, you have a choice. You can work for a successful company and prosper or you can work for a struggling company and struggle with them.

  25. Butch Derickson

    February 18, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    I am glad Kevin brought to light what has been whispered about till now. Now that he is not beholden to BASS anymore he can say what others have been afraid to. Thanks Kevin, Hurray!

  26. AO

    February 18, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    The math is simple…. In 2004, ESPN promoted BASS….not anymore. Irwin Jacobs used FLW to sell boats…not anymore. What does NASCAR, the NFL, and all the rest have in common? Major networks shell out billions for rights to televise them! Until something similar happens in bass fishing, nothing is going to change….. and until bass fishing changes, that has zero chance of happening.

    • chuck cregger

      February 19, 2016 at 1:58 pm

      AO–thanks for answering my question. Where is the money? The cash cows died–looks like we are back to throwing money in the hat. It is reported that Zell Rowland and his sponsors paid over 1.5 million in entry fees over a 30 year B.A.S.S. career which is now defunct. That’s a lot of beans to participate in a sport you eat, sleep, and love. I would be interested how Bassfans and Jay pulled off a no entry fee tourney with a payout of six figures? If the participating anglers didn’t see this as the way to the promised land perhaps they never will.

  27. Jojo Norwood

    February 27, 2016 at 6:44 am

    LOL…….I always thought PRO Bass derbys were more like the Rodeo ….Hope’n you last for 8 seconds just so you can get the APM to make the next show. But several Pro’s figured that they can “act-up” and get more TV time that the dude that catches 20#. Me?…I just want to know what they bite’n on…GOFISHIT

  28. Jim

    March 6, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    I’m not surprised by this. Professional Bass fishing is not a big money sport like one of the obvious ones out there. But you have to wonder is it really the anglers that are footing the bill or their sponsors?
    The sponsors need the fandom and exposure to sell baits, boats and gear. If Professional fishing didn’t exist they would still have to pump the money into advertising somewhere else (and less effectively). Having a pro sport gives a central location to promote their products. Other sports are about general ad dollars and TV revenue. Fishing isn’t big enough as a watchable sport to capture market share in that arena. It is unlikely Pro fishing will ever follow a model like other pro sports.

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