THERE HAS BEEN PLENTY of speculation circulating about the future of pro bass fishing since last September. That’s when Major League Fishing announced a significant expansion to its popular, made-for-television platform with the creation of the Bass Pro Tour.
The new circuit, built largely around strong financial support from Bass Pro Shops, Outdoor Sportsman Group and other sponsors, will feature an 80-angler field comprised of some of the top fishing talent the world has ever seen. It is set to debut this spring with the first-ever no entry fee format in pro bass fishing.
The BPT will consist of eight regular season events and a championship. Regular season tournaments will last for six days and follow the same “catch, weigh and release” format used by MLF.
Organizers believe the new tour will take pro tournament fishing to a new level and hopefully grow a fan base comparable to other big league sports.
The verdict is still out on that one, but there is little doubt that the birth of a new tour rattled some cages within the sport like they haven’t been rattled in a very long time.
Early on, much of the uncertainty centered around the Bassmaster Elite Series and how the Alabama-based tour would cope with the mass exodus of dozens of veteran pros who announced their departure from the circuit to compete on the new-formed BPT in 2019.
There were 68 in all, including four time Bassmaster Classic winner and seven-time Angler of the Year, Kevin VanDam.
VanDam has won more big league events (25) than anyone on tour and is BASS’s all-time leading money winner by a long shot. In 30 years on tour, VanDam has weighed in nearly 12,000 pounds of bass and reeled in more than $6.4 million in earnings, more than twice that of the circuit’s No. 2 money winner, Skeet Reese.
It’s no wonder they call him “The Great One.”
Like many bass junkies, Tom Harkman of Eufaula, Alabama, has been following the BLT transition closely. Hartman is a mechanical engineer with Johnson Outdoors and founded a website called tacklescout.com a few years ago.
“The BASS/MLF pro tour shake-up for 2019 is huge news, and I think we all agree 2019 will be interesting to watch,” he said.
Harkman says an interesting twist that seems to be overlooked is that it will bring to an end an era that saw many of the sport’s biggest names hatched beneath the BASS umbrella.
Among them is 51-year-old VanDam. The veteran Michigan pro is regarded by many as the greatest angler of all time.
Harkman pointed to the March 2019 Bassmaster Classic (a pinnacle event for which many of the BASS defectors had already qualified when word of new tour came down the pike) as potentially the last BASS event that poster boys like VanDam, Reese, Aaron Martens, Gerald Swindle, etc.…. may ever compete in.
“It’s crazy to think about,” he said.
Harkman’s interest in the situation compelled him to dig deeper into VanDam’s storied career and compile
a state-by-state breakdown of where the majority of his $6.4 million in winnings have come from. The stats are just as interesting as they are impressive.
“I probably spent four to five hours organizing and formatting the data,” Harkman said. “It was an interesting little project.”
According to Hartman’s findings:
KVD has won money in 25 of the 50 states.
More than half of those earnings have come from three states. KVD has won more money in Alabama ($1.6 million) than any other state, followed by Louisiana ($800,000) and New York ($745,000).
KVD has earned $200,000 or more on 10 different lakes, including the Louisiana Delta, Lay Lake, Alabama River, Oneida Lake, Kentucky Lake, Lake Guntersville, Grand Lake, St. Lawrence River, Wheeler Lake and Three Rivers.
VanDam has won more money on the Louisiana Delta ($633,000) than any other single water body. Two of his Classic wins came on the Delta. The first came with a $100,000 payday in 2001. Ten years later he banked $500,000 on the Delta with a win in the 2011 Bassmaster Classic.
More than $5.3 million of KVD’s lifetime BASS winnings of $6.4 million have come over the last 15 years.
KVD has earned $365,000 on Texas waters. Two of his 25 wins have come on Texas reservoirs and one on Toledo Bend, an 181,000-acre impoundment Texas shares with Louisiana. He won the 1999
Texas Central Division Invitational on Sam Ray-burn; the 2005 Elite 50 on Lake Lewisville; and the 2016 Bass-master Elite on Toledo Bend.
To see full details of Harkman’s analysis, check out the website tacklescout.com.
Email Matt Williams at [email protected]