If you’ve followed this column for awhile, you know my thoughts on “coliseum” bass tourneys.
Those are tournaments that fish bounce around in livewells for hours prior to being released miles away from their habitat with possible high mortality after thrilling crowds for ego and a big, fat check.
Several walleye tourney circuits now employ catch/measure/photo/release on site formats resulting in minimum impact on the fish resource. The popular TV show “Major League Fishing” employs “score tracker technology” in which an official in every boat weighs fish, updates other contestants by smart phone and releases the fish on-site.
Bass fishing legend and entrepreneur Boyd Duckett is a driving force behind “Major League Fishing.”
In a recent phone interview, Duckett told me he has been working on a product that will bring score-tracker technology to bass tourneys big and small at minimal expense without requiring an official in every boat.
Duckett said he has invested over $1.5 million in this project so far, with only a few tech details that need to be worked out before it is ready to launch “hopefully in mid-2020.”
Serious work on this project began just more than three years ago with discussion among serious bassers concerned about the future of bass tournaments.
They were in total agreement than the Championship Fishing format is much more exciting that a participant being carted into an arena in his expensive boat hoisting his finny conquest for all to see at the weigh-in.
Bass tournaments skyrocketed in popularity back in the early 1970s, spreading northward from a genesis on lakes deep in the American south.
Duckett said he fished his first major tourney in 1977, modestly saying his tourney winnings allowed him to “pass economic barriers years ago.
“Getting older you learn there is great responsibility to manage fisheries for future generations” Duckett said. “If bass tourney popularity continues to trend upward there simply won’t be many quality bass out there for folks to catch.
“Just about everybody agrees the MLF concept is 10 times more thrilling than the old-school way of conducting bass tourneys,” the fishing legend said. “My major focus now is getting to the grass roots of bass tournament circuit folks and convincing them of the need for more responsible fishing practices. Five years from now, I would like to see the practice of ‘coliseum’ events archaic and rare.”
Wes Higgins, CEO of Bill Lewis Lures based out of Louisiana, is watching this progress.
“We are excited about incorporating this concept into our Rat-L-Trap Classic events,” Higgins said.
One of these Rat-L-Trap classic tourneys is held every February on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville, which was recently named the No. 1 bass lake in the USA by Bassmaster magazine. “Big G” is Duckett’s “home lake,” with the area around this marvelous fishery also home to Duckett’s considerable real estate and fishing tackle development enterprises.
Higgins and Duckett are working diligently to bring the release on site MLF format to the 2021 Rat-L-Trap classic event on Guntersville Lake.
I’m eager to participate in this event, hopefully partnering with my ol’ pal Mike Carter, one of the top guides on Big G.
Carter and I placed 14th out of more than 200 boats in the 2017 Classic held here. It was the first bass tourney I have fished in for more than 20 years and will be the last bass tourney I fish from this point forward until a release-on-site format is adopted.
Frankly, I don’t have the wiring to be a tournament angler—especially a bass tourney angler. Teaching others how to catch fish and learn proper stewardship for the resource is why I’m in my fourth decade as a fishing guide.
Praising a driving force of that “Nascar on the Water” bunch is a tough pill to swallow, but in the case of Boyd Duckett, thanks, Mr. Boyd. Keep up the good work.