In 2012, two of the most popular bass anglers (Boyd Duckett & Gary Klein) in the country, with the help from executives from the Outdoor Channel, developed the most cutting-edge, high-intensity bass tournament the fishing industry has ever seen. Major League Fishing (MLF) has changed the way competitive bass fishing has been played for more than 40 years. From what I have gathered Gary and Boyd designed many of the concepts that make MLF so exciting for the anglers and equally as exciting for fans at home to watch. Bringing viewers at home an exciting tournament was the ultimate goal, which in return will help grow the sport.
In a typical professional bass tournament, anglers are allowed to study maps, use Google Earth, travel to lakes in advance to become more acquainted with them, get GPS waypoints from local anglers and even go out on the water with local anglers to learn exactly how they fish their local body of water. If you’re willing to take advantage, there can actually be a tremendous amount of work that goes into getting ready for a bass tournament. MLF is completely opposite of what I just described. The anglers who participate in MLF don’t even know what region of the country they are going to compete in until three days before they compete. The idea, which I totally agree with, was to create the purest bass tournament possible, which will create raw excitement for viewers. Those involved with MLF pretty much nailed it, in my opinion.
MLF first began with an original group of 24 anglers that have competed in a total of five Cup events. The first one, which took place on Texas’s Lake Amistad, was filmed in late 2011 and aired in 2012. Since then, MLF has staged events in New York, Florida, Michigan, and again in Texas. Five events in less than three years doesn’t seem like a lot, but it actually is when your goal is to produce a television show. I’m not totally up to speed on the original MLF Cup’s format, but I do know that the original 24 anglers were divided into three groups of eight to compete in one-day tournaments, with the top four advancing onto a second round of competition. The top three anglers during the second round of a Cup event advance to the championship round, where a winner captures the title. With one Cup event, producers can actually make up to seven television shows: six competition shows and a “how to” show called Major League Lessons.
MLF has grown and exceeded everybody’s wildest dreams. It’s already the Outdoor Channel’s No. 1-rated program. It became so popular that the Outdoor Channel and MLF creators decided it was time to expand. This past February, MLF announced a new group of MLF competitors to participate in MLF Select Events. I was lucky enough to be invited to compete as part of the new 24 anglers.
Less than two weeks ago, I participated in my first MLF Select Event. During the Friday of my last Elite event on Lake Dardenelle in Arkansas, I received a text message stating that I needed to be at a hotel in Muskogee, Oklahoma on Sunday. Select events follow the same general concepts as the original Cup events as far as getting information about lakes and rivers in the vicinity of the host city.
I arrived at the hotel a little before 4:30 p.m. and quickly checked into my room, talked with a few of the other anglers that were arriving and then went to a mandatory meeting. Television producers, tournament officials, boat officials, and media members were there to pretty much give us the lowdown on what was going to happen the entire week. Also at this meeting, I found out that my competition day wasn’t until Wednesday.
Although I was very excited about competing, I was kind of freaking out about what I was going to do with my time until Wednesday. As it turns out, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. On Monday, I worked on my tackle and got more rods ready than I ever have because I didn’t know where I was going to be fishing. I had crankbaits, jigs, a variety of soft plastics, shakey heads, pretty much anything you could imagine. I had over twenty rods rigged up, because I wanted to be ready. On Tuesday, I had a photo shoot, which was kind of interesting. This photo shoot was the real thing. They had a green screen set up on one side,where we would film introduction videos for the TV show. On the other side, they were shooting still photos for the website and magazine. It was full of backlights and large reflecting mirrors,which they said would produce a cool-looking shadow in the photos. I figured they were trying to keep me from looking like the village idiot that was allowed out of the house for the first time.
Tuesday night before my competition day, I had a brief meeting I needed to attend. It was just to go over odds and ends and tell us what time we were all leaving for our destination. That time was 5 a.m. After the meeting, I took all my rods and gear I would need and put it into the boat that they supplied us. I was in bed sleeping around 9 Tuesday night.
This is the part of the blog where a lot of details are going to be left out on purpose. I’m actually not allowed to tell the body of water I was on and how I finished in the tournament, because the producers want everything confidential to make the show as successful as possible.
Wednesday morning finally came. We were in the truck heading somewhere.
After driving about 40 minutes, I started seeing names of a body of water I briefly had heard about from guys I met on tour who lived in Oklahoma. When we pulled in the parking lot, I was allowed a half hour to look at the mapping system on my electronics and get my gear ready. As I’m doing this, I’ve got cameras in my face asking me questions, which is really intensifying everything.
At the end of the half hour, myself and the other competitors launched our boats and the competition was finally ready to begin. We all sat in our boats around the ramp, each of us with a boat official and cameraman in our boat, waiting for the MLF Commissioner to give us the signal to go. I really can’t remember how we all started off, but I think to start Period 1 we all took off at the same time. It was kind of chaotic. My first spot I wanted to try was about a six-mile run toward the river section of the lake. The main river channel swung right next to a decent size creek with a bay next to it or at least that’s what I remember. Now, before the actual fishing portion of the competition begins, we are allowed only fifteen minutes to scope out the lake with our boats. I was satisfied with the spot I found on the map beforehand and decided that’s where I’ll start period one.
Our competition day was going to be broken down into three periods, with two half-hour breaks between the first and second period. Let me jump ahead to say that, at the end of the day,I had just completed the most intense fishing tournament I had ever competed in. The lows were extremely low, and the highs were great. I had a boat official watching every move I made to see if I had violated any rules, and I had a camera operator asking me questions, trying to get me to talk about what was going through my head. Meanwhile, all I wanted to do was concentrate on how I was going to catch my next bass on a lake I’ve never been to. To top it all off, during every minute of every period I knew how far ahead or far behind I was from my competition,because my boat official kept updating me with fish catches from the other competitors. This January on the Outdoor Channel, you’ll have a chance to watch what happened! And if you want an even more in depth version, this fall MLF will offer a more-than-two-hour web-based version of the event.
I can’t wait to see it.
On a side note, for everyone in the Sandusky, Ohio area, below you’ll find information for my fishing camp. Thanks for reading.
Join local Pro Bass Angler Michael Simonton for this three day fishing camp. Michael Simonton has always had a passion for the outdoors, especially fishing. Michael spent eight years teaching special education for Sandusky City Schools. In 2012, he joined the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament trail. This camp will feature basic fishing skills such as casting, not tying, lures used to catch bass and panfish, lure building, and choosing the correct rod and reel. If you’re looking to improve your basic fishing skills or become more proficient using lures, this camp is for you. Rods and reels are not provided but will be available to lease for the camp from Erie Metro Parks and Sandusky Recreation.
Location: BGSU Firelands Arboretum – 1 University Drive,
Huron, OH 44839 (behind Firelands College)
Fee: Residents $15.00, Non-residents $20.00
Dates: June 30th to July 2nd
Time: 9:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
Ages: 9 to 13
Victoria J. Kurt