Autumn is usually a slow time for news in the bass fishing world, but this year is an aberration. Those of us who care about these things have been provided an embarrassingly rich news feed as the sport has undergone what appears likely to result in massive change. We’ve seen one tour emerge out of the ether to lure away major talent, and two others seek to reinforce (or possibly redefine) their product.
To the extent that there is ever an off-season, this year there was none.
Nevertheless, among all of the maneuvering and subsequent speculation (much of it from me), there has been very little news about individual anglers’ portfolios. Yes, we know that some of them won’t be fishing on the tours where they resided last year – or for the last 40 – but what does that mean?
They might be competing under different formats next year, and to attain slightly different honors, but that’s little more than old wine in new bottles. Even under the most optimistic short-term scenario, they are still largely dependent on sponsorship dollars, and we’ve heard very little about changes in specific anglers’ sponsorship levels or new deals.
Of course, part of that may be rectified after the end of the year, when some existing contracts expire. You can’t announce that you’ve joined Boat Company A, even if you’ve signed on the dotted line in pencil, until your agreement with Boat Company B formally ends. It may also reflect the lateness of the changes – anglers could not fully negotiate or renegotiate deals until it was clear what and where they’d be fishing next year. Additionally, some contracts may have been renegotiated up or down based on where someone will be fishing, but terms of those deals need not be announced – I have to assume that in times of flux, many anglers will cling to what they have to provide some level stability to their professional lives. All of those factors notwithstanding, I just kind of wonder if all of this hubbub about changing tour structures has sucked the wind out of the market for individual pros.
I have no firsthand knowledge of these matters, but I would fully expect that by the time the season starts early next year we will see several MLF pros move to BPS brands (including, but not limited to, White River Marine Group boats), and several Elite Series pros get semi-endemic title deals of the sort we’ve seen in the past from companies like Early Times, Evan Williams, and (for the non-drinkers among you) Purolator (unless you drink Purolator).
The smaller deals will come out in a trickle through outlets like BassFan, as well as on social media, but I suspect that we won’t see massive, earth-shifting deals until the dust settles on the overall landscape. Some pros may LOSE deals because of where they are fishing, or where they are NOT fishing, but that’s not the type of news they’re likely to post to their bragging board.