When reached by phone, Bassmaster Elite Series angler Fred Roumbanis hadn't heard the news: BASS' newly released 2008 schedule doesn't include any Major tournaments.
"That's a bummer, is my first reaction to that," he said. Roumbanis has a soft spot for the three Major tournaments — the American, the Memorial and the Legends — because last month he won the $250,000 first-prize in this year's American."Last year I didn't really make any money," he said. "By having a no entry fee three tournaments, it gives you something to look forward to. I really thought it was a cool thing, regardless if I won or not."
Other anglers reached Tuesday after the announcement were similarly disappointed to see the rich Majors, for which anglers did not have to pay entry fees, go by the wayside.
But they, like BASS, emphasized the changes for 2008 that stand to benefit anglers. For one, BASS will dole out an extra $400,000 among the top 50 finishers in the Angler of the Year standings, up from $601,000 now. And anglers next year will fish all tournament days with their own boats, whereas BASS now provides sponsored boats on the final day of competition.Given the option, said angler Chris Lane, "I would have taken the boat, no questions asked. In Majors, it's a crapshoot. With your boat, you can sell it and it's done and that money is there all year."
"Overall, I was very pleased," said 1998 Bassmaster Classic winner Denny Brauer. "Getting our boats back is a huge step. We shouldn't have ever lost them in the first place."Having their own boats on the final day of competition will save anglers who make final-12 tournament cuts the hassle of transferring gear to and piloting a BASS-owned boat. But more important, it will mean that top anglers are able to generate more exposure for their sponsors, as the final day of a tournament is undoubtedly the most heavily televised.
"We made a fairly serious concession in providing anglers their own boats," Tom Ricks, vice president and general manager of BASS, told ESPNOutdoors.com. "We got feedback from those anglers that it was very important thing for them to build their own brands and their careers. Giving them their boat back gives them the opportunity to build a brand around their boats and themselves."But without further additions to the Elite Series purses, the loss of the Majors will be felt. Each of the three events currently pay out $250,000 to the winner and a total of $601,400 to each field of 50 competitors.
Dropping those tournaments means a total of $1,804,200 in lost payouts for the 108 anglers participating in the tour. Less the increased Angler of the Year money, the $1.4 million deficit in payouts from 2007 to 2008 represents an average of about $13,000 per angler. Put another way, the 2008 Elite Series will pay out roughly 28 percent less than the $5,050,700 in purses available on the 2007 Elite Series tour, or 23 percent less if the $1.19 million payout at the Bassmaster Classic is taken into account."Fifty-five thousand dollars in entry fees made a lot more sense with the three Majors there, as a business move," Brauer said. "Having the extra money going to Angler of the Year helps, but it doesn't make up for losing the Majors. It's not a plus as far as payouts go."
The 2008 Angler of the Year will receive $250,000, up from $125,000. The second-place finisher will receive $100,000, up from $40,000, and third will receive $55,000, up from $30,000.The $55,000 entry fee for the 11-event Elite Series will remain unchanged."I hate that we're losing the Majors. I'm an angler, and I do," said Marty Stone. "With that said, I have so much confidence in Tom Ricks. Great leaders are respected not feared, and a lot of times they're seen and not heard. They don't have to be heard all the time to be great leaders. Tom is all of that, and he is going to make the best decisions."
Stone said the flaw in the Majors system now is that they have no bearing on the Angler of the Year standings nor do they help an angler qualify for the Classic. The advantage of the new system will be to reward the grueling task of winning Angler of the Year."Now we've got all the emphasis back on making the Classic and Angler of the Year," he said. "There are no standalone, tutti-frutti events."Ricks said that "the continued success of our Elite Series" would help determine whether BASS would expand the tournament schedule in the future.
The next Major, the Bassmaster American, will be held July 26-29 at Oneida Lake and Onondaga Lake near Syracuse, N.Y., and the final scheduled Major, the Bassmaster Legends, will be held August 23-26 on the Arkansas River in Little Rock, Ark.