I guess it doesn’t take a national opinion pollster or professional statistician to recognize the tenuous nature of “draw” or professional fishing in the West. Despite the fact there are some career possibilities to move “up” in the pro ranks, the reality of the matter is, the sport is shrinking–and rapidly.

In my discussions with current participants in the pro ranks, there is the haunting feeling that, rather than a hopeful outcome, this year could mark the demise of at least two circuits. And while that demise could hold off one final year beyond, the fact is, the patient (draw tournament market) is dying and there is nothing anyone can do about it. One prominent angler, in particular, was deeply disappointed, saying just, “It’s sad.”

While many anglers like to think that the West is the great proving grounds for the pros, pointing to the successes of Skeet Reese, Brent Ehrler and a handful of other former westerners. But the fact is, those who have ascended to tour level performances, are already on tour.

The pinnacle anglers ride very high, but the next level is an homogenous cadre of good, but not truly “exceptional” fishermen vying for regional superiority. These are truly fine fishermen, but most are specialists or site-specific anglers who can look unbeatable one day, but surprisingly uninspired when they get out of their element.

It has mostly to do with inexperience. Gathering the needed experience, cataloging and correlating new information on widely differing waters is what it takes to catapult a pro fisherman to (as trite as it sounds) “the next level.”

True, this low ebb we find ourselves in may be cyclical. Perhaps Mothers will let their kids grow up to be cowboys (bass pros). But it’s not looking that way. Participation is down: people find other outlets of interest and the pool of existing players who can afford to fish gets older every year. We can see the deterioration.

And if it is, as some pro anglers are now admitting, that circuits are going away due to lack of participation, then the new bass tournament reality will have to be something else. A few showcase events, more regional “draws” or maybe the sport will just be “de-emphasized.”

In any event, something is going down.


3 Responses to “Say good-bye to western tournaments?”

As the technology advances and equipment improves, the cost of equipment to be competitive becomes a more challenging obstacle for serious bass “gamers”. Higher horsepower, GPS/side scan/ mapping / sonar amplifiers, bigger hulls, dual power poles. Upgrades to the “old school” bass boat, that was state of the art, are harder to justify for the casual competitor. An angler who’s confidence is compromised by perceived competitive disadvantage is more likely to sit out the next game in a shaky economic environment.

Justin (Kerr) and Roy (Hawk) are fishing the FLW Tour full-time this year, Justin (Lucas) is in his sophmore season as I recall, so the Western progression certainly does continue sir.

I think some thinning of the herd has been long-time coming and far overdue. Especially in light of the economic conditions. Much like many other industries, there is a lag between the economic trends and the tournament bass fishing industry.

Hopefully out of the ashes the Phoenix will rise, or at least the strongest will prevail and we will all be better for it!


I’ve seen this com’in for years. Being here at Russo’s Marina I see all the Participant that enter various Organizations. Payout is a concern with all, but that isn’t the demizer here. What is hurting the Pro-Am curcuits and the Pro-Teams is when organizations started the Semi-Pro level. Organization(s) saw the Dollar sign and went for it.

Sure, there memberships went up and their having 100 boat fields. BUT, their participation in higher levels of competition is like 20% of what it was years ago. Some parts of this sport is hurt by the economy But I see alot of teams in the Semi-pro level that shouldn’t even be fishing it…Especially when their running a $50-60,000 rig that any top-notch pro would love to have in his garage.

Theirs other factors like getting your feet wet going against local Pro’s…most wont because they can shine on the Semi-Pro level and don’t have to lock horns with the Pros. What I see know with 20 boat field on the Pro-team level is the pro’s against the pro’s and I think have the time their just doing it for the exposure in paper and the internet because of their sponsorships with whoever.

Take the Pro-Am’s their is alway Co-anglers waiting for a Pro to sign-up.

The best that I’ve seen come along in the last 15 yrs is the California Bass Championship Curcuit run by Tom Leogrande, Rich Toby and Gary Dobyns. Its setup like Golf with a 100% Payback. You have to qualify like golf too get too the Championship. The field is limited too 50 boats where you have to qualify in the top 10% to advance. Great concept and I can see (Mark my Word) that other orgs will be copy’in the idea.

Sorry for so long (George you can handle it)LOL!!!

Rich Thiel