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Question: It seems like B.A.S.S. is planning to cut the Elite Series field in the near future. What are your thoughts about that? Does this mean threatening of security, stability and future of the current Elite Series pros?
This year, the schedule seemed to be so tight, especially for the final day qualifiers in each event to go to the next event after the final day. Could they really practice on Monday, the very next day after the final day of the previous event?
Currently the regular Elite Series consists of 8 events. Are only 8 events in only March to July enough? As the fan of the Elite Series, I would like to see 2 events a month (second and fourth week of every month except for December) the events spread between January to November from west to east and north to south in the country.
Early in my career, I really put a lot of thought into what BASS should do and how they should do it. It did not take long to figure out that was wasted time and energy. I came to the realization that if you are "catching 'em,” everything will take care of itself concerning BASS. That still holds true concerning this news.
The Florida events are a little far apart to be back to back but it is really the only time we know the distance. It is doable. Early in the year, everyone should have so much energy that it should be no problem. The mystery event is right behind the Wisconsin Elite. There is not much very close to that one. I hope it is not too far apart. The only problem would be if you made the top 12 in the first one. I hope I have that problem!
The problem becomes cost. If we doubled the number of events, my expenses for fishing full time would go from the $100k range to $200k. That is a HUGE gamble when sponsors are not going to pay any more than they are currently paying. In my opinion, more events is not the answer. Bringing more people to following the events and more sponsors is the way to be able to reduce entry fees. That will in turn allow BASS to have more events and a lesser entry fee. You also have to consider that BASS has to spend $75-100K per event to hold an Elite. Then they have TV production costs, which are steeper than event costs. It does not make business sense for them to increase events without a way to pay for them (current BASS contracts are for 8 events plus Classic).
Ideally, yes, we should fish 1 or 2 more events from February through October. Stretching the season for 8 months with 12-14 events would be ideal. The key is increased costs for BASS and the anglers versus increased revenue from sponsors.
When B.A.S.S. cuts the field for the Elite Series, I think it will make the series even more Elite than it is. I feel like this is the direction the Elite's need to go to make this truly a professional sport. Along with cutting the field size will also come a reduction, if not a total elimination, of entry fees. When we get to the point where the anglers do not have to pay to play, then we will have a truly Elite field. Sure it's a threat to some current pros, but we have to move to the next level to progress and if that level requires fewer players, then so be it. I'm all for it, even if it means that I'm one of those that is below the cut.
From a guy that has won an Elite event that had nothing scheduled behind it as well as winning an Elite that was followed by another event the next week, I can tell you that the guy who has to follow up a win - or even makes the Top 12 - with another event the very next week gets hosed. Particularly in the case of winning, you get almost nothing done on Monday. I've also been one of those who has followed up a Top 12 with another event the next week and it's tough. Not only is it tough on the anglers, but it's also tough on the B.A.S.S. staff having to tear everything down, pack it up, move it down the road, and immediately set it back up for the next week. Back to back events are good in the respect that they cut down on travel expenses, but they suck when you do well in several of them in a row. I promise you after 14 straight days of Elite practice and competition, you are one tired puppy.
Eight events is not very Elite, nor does it constitute a truly professional sport in my mind. The 2007 Elite schedule, when we had 11 Elite events, 3 Majors, and the Classic spread out from February to September, was probably one of the best schedules we have seen in quite some time. We went from border to border and coast to coast. We fished every season of the year, except the dead of winter. We fished smallmouth, largemouth, and spotted bass water. We fished shallow, we fished deep. Great Lakes and Tidal Potomac. Clear Lake, Cal Delta, Falcon, Toho - it was the most diverse schedule. I think February to October with 1.5 - 2 events per month average would be an awesome time span and number of events. I've always been a proponent of traveling to all regions of the US, too. The worst schedule's we've seen have been the past few years, when we rarely travelled further than 8 hours from Montgomery, AL. Hopefully, we're past that now.
A smaller field for the Elite series is a good idea, especially if you are in that group. I think it is a good idea only if it somehow frees more sponsor money and payout for those who are struggling to make it. It's always been the case that if you are doing well, you are doing quite well. Not that this isn't the way it should be, but in today's economic climate, there needs to be a better way for "up and comers" to survive until given an opportunity to show their stuff. It's a struggle to make ends meet especially nowadays that expenses are so outrageous. The problem is that many potential sponsors are not financially strong enough to confidently invest in new pro anglers to bolster sales. Tough economic times are here to stay awhile.
Scheduling is always a sticky point. On the one hand, you can never satisfy everyone, but I agree that in order to determine a true "Angler of the Year", the tour should encompass the YEAR! Not just half a year. As to scheduling back to back events, I believe it to be a good thing. It allows less travel time and miles for the competitors. Only the top 10 are forced to start practice the next day after the end of the competition.