Don’t look now, but the professional bass fishing world is about to change. As many as 80 anglers have signed up to be part of the new Major League Fishing (MLF) trail. This trail is definitely a “made for TV” kind of fishing league.
For those of you that may not be familiar with the MLF format, let me break it down for you. It starts off with four qualifying rounds of six anglers competing against one another. Weight is determined by bass caught that are considered scorable — at least one pound in weight.
The top four anglers advance. The first-place finishers go right to the MLF cup event. Those who finish in second, third and fourth place overall in the qualifying rounds will compete in the survival round. These 12 anglers will be split into two groups of six. Each group fishes, and only one angler from each group — the one with the top weight — will advance to the main tournament.
Than narrows our field from 24 anglers down to six. And that’s just the qualifying process to get you into the actual tournament fishing. It’s almost like pool play in baseball and soccer tournaments. Only the top few come out and advance.
What makes this such a fun event to watch is that anglers get to weigh in every scorable bass they catch. They are not regulated by how many bass they can bring to the scale because they get weighed and released immediately after they are caught.
However, there are rules. If you let a fish touch the boat carpet, you get a two-minute penalty. If you release a bass by dropping or tossing it back into the lake, that’s another violation that gets you penalized. This may not be the greatest parallel, but it’s a little like hockey. You do something wrong, you get two minutes in the box to sit and feel shame. And while you’re penalized, you can’t touch or do anything.
Also like hockey, the rules allow for three periods of equal time to fish. What’s really fun is they let the competitors get to the place they want to start and then let them start fishing at a specified time. There is no advantage for being first to start. Each angler gets the exact same amount of time to fish. Also, they fish in 18-foot boats with 150-horse motors — all rigged exactly the same, so there is no advantage from boat to boat.
Adding to the challenge, anglers don’t know where they will be fishing when they get towed to the lake. They have an idea based on the area that they are staying, but as far as the specific lake that they will be on, that’s kept secret. Since they don’t know where they’re going, they don’t have anything rigged when they get there. Lure selection is based on what they see when they do their initial ride around the lake. How cool is that? Nothing like taking a bunch of pros and sending them out blind to the lake.
This event will definitely gain a lot of traction with the TV audience. You aren’t trying to follow 250 anglers in one event, but rather six anglers doing their thing with nonstop catching along the way. It really makes for a very fun event. The Outdoor Channel has been lucky enough to score the coverage for this new league, and I do believe the action this format provides will set the fishing world on its ear.
The anglers and their personalities really come out in this event. They are all mic’d for sound throughout the competition. The fact that they go head-to-head and get real-time updates to let them know exactly where they stand in the field makes it very entertaining to watch. If you have not had a chance to tune into the MLF, do yourself a favor and give it a go. It is literally two hours of nonstop bass catching at its finest.
I have a feeling that this made-for-TV format will be a huge hit with fishing viewers of all types. I for one pray that they place it in the perfect time slot so I can watch all the action right away. The only thing that will make this an even better format is if they take it to live coverage. That would be awesome.
Greg Bartz is a tournament bass fisherman based in Lakeland. Greg fishes lakes throughout Florida’s Heartland with his wife and tournament partner, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com.