With A rig

Tournament numbers appear static in the West.

While I don’t want to label the future of western tournament fishing as contracted, you don’t have to be a behavioral scientist to see some old patterns emerging in tournament participation.

Even with the extraordinary hype leading up to the 2016 season, the new flashy websites and the addition of television coverage, the only circuit (FLW Costa Series) with more than a regional end game is the one struggling to make a good showing.

We’ll know a bit more when that circuit hits the popular Clear Lake in mid April, but the tepid number of 125 pros that made the kick-off event at Lake Shasta, does not bode well for a strong finish at the Delta to close things out.

More telling was the meager 76 boats that made it to Clear Lake for the California Open last week, despite big fish and some pretty nice swag on the line.

Wild West debuted its California season with a promising 133 boats at Lake Shasta but dropped by 32 percent (to just 91 boats) for round 2 at Oroville. And what can I say about the Arizona edition of WWB? The kick-off drew 77 at Lake Pleasant, followed by 68 at Roosevelt. That 73-boat average sure sounds like the old WON BASS numbers everyone complained about back in the day.

Another interesting circuit that has skilled people running it and a nice presentation on the web is the California Tournament Trail. Yet, despite reasonable entry fees, it is averaging right in the 50’s for attendance.

I wonder, based on all we’re seeing, if there really is much growth that can be expected in the future? True, if FLW cuts and runs, then yes, the benefactors will likely be WWB and the stand-alones. B.A.S.S. can pull up the same numbers as I can so they aren’t rolling out West again. Forget that.

So, frankly, if the pool of Western tournament anglers were fish, I’d have to say they’re not biting that good.


14 Responses to “Numbers say Pro-Ams going nowhere”

George-as always, you have it right

Very interesting take George, and a fairly accurate one if I do say so. The West is guilty of two things; on the organization side, not remembering the past, causing a repeat of failures. Then, on the anglers side, not being willing to invest in the growth of the events in the area. There are some who do, but largely they wait for it to develop success before they waste their time and money. If they want something to fish in the future, they’ll need to step up, even if the payouts don’t exactly make money for them.

by Rich Holland

I really think it boils down to — over and over again — here in the West is the fact there are about 70 pros who think they can win on any given lake — the 50 who are the locals and the 20 who are the catch fish anywhere pros. Something new gets a quick blast and then everyone realizes there is nothing new. Each era features the same guys. As long as there are too many choices that offer exactly the same (albeit well run) experience and the same advantage to homeboy anglers, nothing will change.

George, when Mike Kennedy ran WON BASS the numbers were way up. He was definitely a different kind of person but he could bring the fishermen and women to the tournaments. He ran a very good circu├Čt. Wish he was still here. When he first started I was very skeptical of working with him. He was very organized and was hands on with everything. He was a joy to work with. Which I wouldn’t have thought possible at first.

George you know I’ve been there since the start and I watched it grow and I watched it fall. I remember at the first US open with 100% payback, you needed a truck to haul away manufacture product .
I watch the manufactures pull out of every organization for one reason or another and without the manufactures these organizations-expect to make a living off of the bass fisherman. I have even seen organizations Sell donated product from the manufactures to the contestants. The other problem is there’s no competition anymore you set up at terminal a lake with a few locals would never go anywhere else you expect them to win the old days we will go to Lakes nobody had even been on before that’s when the competition becomes good . where does the fault lie on the so-called pros that won’t travel outside the realm or on the organizations that only care about making the buck I don’t think there’s an answer anymore we have to go with what we have and suffer the consequences .course this is only my two cents worth of watching it for 40 years good luck trying to figure out an answer

Pretty simple math to me. You have 3 org’s out West with true trails. FLW, WWBT and CTT. Also you have one semi major event thrown in the mix, the Won Bass Clear Lake Open. Guess what? They are all in a 4 and a half month span! What is that, like 12-14 pro events from January to May. By all wanting to be on the best lakes at the best times all they have done is FORCE the anglers to make a choice. So they just split up the pie and nobody looks like a viable answer. Good news is next year at least FLW is back to a couple spring events and a final fall one. Next we need to get WWBT to have a true southern Colorado River Trail at the BEST Desert Lakes, Havasu, Mojave and Mead so the Calif anglers can just drive half way and that should help. Spread them out so the AVERAGE guy who wants to step up and try his hand on the bigger stage does not have to QUIT his job to do so. Also just my opinion, Won Bass should put all its major efforts into its biggest and best Western event the US Open at Lake Mead. 200 boats should be the goal not one less. Massive swag and boats to pro and co winners. Bring back the tigers that bring out the cheese at the awards or have Elephants tow the boats out there……..BIG TIME IT! my .02

Rick Grover hit the nail on the head!

by jerry Gusman

I have been out of the industry for a while now. But I still keep my finger on whats going on. When I was involved it was the sdame problems affecting the sport. I agree with Rick. The tournament circuits are all trying to compete for the same fishermen on the same weekend. Splitting up the field. When I was involved we had many conversations with circuits to try and get them to move events so that they dont compete against each other. And may circuits visit the same lakes all year. Why not make it a true test of talent that has to be consistant on any lakenhot just be the castaic pro. Plus I think the economy has alot to do with it. It has been this way in the past….it is expensive to run your boat at 50 gallons a day at mead at 350 a gallon. Or to take a week off of work. So when a circuit realizes and makes the events easier for the fishermen to attend and spaces them out more you will have better attendance. Right now the way the tournaments are scheduled, it has to be your job in order to participate. So all you get are the touring pros or self employed that can take the time and have the funds. I was at the first US Opens as my Friend Steve Pike speaks of. When you participated in the event…..you felt like a rowland martin and the sposors treated you like one.

Well RG took the words right out of most of our mouths. Too many circuits on top of each other. Word on the street WWB and WON had conflicts in the fall. WON should have been the only derby in the fall. US Open. Some of the guys had to drive from the WWB to fish the Clear Lake derby with no pre-fish. (Kerr, Hawk and a few others 16 hour drive) who has the time or the money to fish all these derbies. And of course there’s sponsor obligations, Fred Hall, boat shows, spring shows etc. I can only get so many weeks off.
GK you always have a way to speak about “the Buzz of Bass fishing”. Keep it coming.

I’m exhausted with the subject,.. Your words “Going nowhere’ is unfortunately currently accurate,.. But we’ll see what happens the rest of this year an next,.. Sustainability

by Vince Borrego


I think the issue has more to do with finances and when tournaments start, rather than overall participation. If you look at each of these circuits shortly after Christmas the seasons kick-off with some rather large entry fees during the time of year when most bass fishermen are tapped out from holiday expenses. There are a number of people who would fall into the category that would like to fish, but can’t afford it during that time of year are never taken into consideration from the tournament organizations.

Look at it from the perspective of used boats. If you’re going to buy a boat, what’s the best time of year to pick one up? Nov – Jan always seems to be the time of year when those selling NEED the cash and are more motivated to sell. By the time tax season rolls around most of us fishermen are flush with cash and if you’re selling a boat March – June is when you’re going to get top dollar. As an angler wishing to fish an entire circuit placing 3-4 tournament deposits up front is tough for the finances especially if the tournament dates are spread out throughout the entire year.

If the larger tournament organizations expecting 100-200 boat fields changed their entry deadlines and tournament schedule to time frames when anglers are more flush with cash, we would see larger numbers with the Pro-Am style tournaments.

Don’t forget every circuit has increased entries with less payout. In the WON events when Mike Kennedy was there we fished for Ranger boats. When BASS first came west 1st, 2nd and 3rd received Ranger boats. There is an inherent coolness to winning a boat, even though cash is nice. I know this all has to do with the economy and sponsor deals, but the boat dealers are the ones pushing boats that are like a second mortgage. I was blessed to fish the U.S. Open last year and had a blast. I think Billy Egan is doing a pretty good job of making the contestants feel appreciated and not just another number. Just some random thoughts.

by mark poulson

Rick Grover is right.
Here in the West, there are not enough anglers or lakes to have the number of competing circuits be successful.
The recession really drove a stake in the heart of Western tournament fishing, and it won’t recover with so many trails dividing the anglers between them.
Since there is a geographic divide, the Rockies, that isolates the West, for all practical purposes. If tournament angling is to thrive and grow here, there needs to be some kind of cooperation between the trails, and maybe even some kind of an umbrella organization to make sure the trails cooperate in creating an angler-friendly schedule on the few lakes we do have.
I know it’s a tough sell, trying to get the trails to cooperate, but, if they don’t, no one will ever be truly successful.

Mark Poulson right on as usual! I have been saying for years there needs to be a Tournament czar! Have him have control over the issue of PRO/AM permits from DFG. I vote for Kent Brown with George Kramer VP!