After two years away, professional angler Mark Davis is officially returning to the BASS tour he called home for the first 20 years of his career.
"I deliberated on whether or not to make this change for about three weeks and have come the decision to go back," Davis said on Tuesday, stating that as a professional, he will be fishing only BASS tournaments in 2008.
"The number one reason is my sponsors: My sponsors want me back fishing BASS again."
Davis, who qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series by finishing fourth in the BASS Southern Opens, said his sponsors were excited about BASS's new rule allowing anglers to fish out of their own boat all four days of a tournament.
"Now that I can fish out of my own boat and wear my clothes every day, my sponsors feel like they can get the most out of sponsoring me as an angler," Davis said. "It is a huge step for the professionalism of bass fishing — it's a shame it hasn't been this way before now."
When Davis left BASS for the FLW Tour in 2005, he took with him three Angler of the Year titles (1995, 1998, and 2001) and one Bassmaster Classic victory (1995). He decided to fish the BASS Opens this season so he could qualify for the Classic and because it's "always good to have options" for the 2008 season.
He finished one spot out of the Classic in the Southern Open standings (only the top three qualify for the Classic), but the "option" remained.
"I just wanted to keep my foot in the door," Davis said. "I didn't know for sure if I would take this opportunity."
But the argument for a switch just kept gaining momentum. Along with the urging of his sponsors, Davis was both impressed and excited about the Elite Series schedule in 2008.
"I love fishing the post-spawn and the schedule next year is basically a post-spawn tour," he said. "That's not to say that I expect to go out there and win a bunch of tournaments, but I like fishing good lakes, and I like fishing them during the post-spawn — and that also factored in my decision."
Davis, 44, said the idea of catching the larger bass gives him something that is hard to come by when you've been chasing fish professionally for 25 years: motivation.
"One of the hardest things for me anymore is motivation, and motivation is important in any sport," Davis said. "I have to look for way to motivate myself, and fishing a post-spawn schedule can help me do that."
Davis was quick to point to the schedule and his sponsors as the sole reasons for his departure, and wanted to make it very clear he has no disdain for the FLW tour.
"Those guys [FLW] have done nothing wrong — they are good people," he said. "They create a lot of great opportunity for fisherman, so I have no distaste or dislike there."
As for his hopes for the 2008 season, Davis said his expectations are always the same, no matter which tour he is fishing.
"My goal is to win Angler of the Year," Davis said. "I just want to be consistent. To go out and say, 'Oh, I want to win X number of events,' — that's not a goal. That sort of stuff takes care of itself."