B.A.S.S. announces angler-motivated rules changes

The original plan for the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series was to fish the first two days of every tournament with a full field of 75 pros before cutting to 20 during the semifinal round and 10 for the final round.

But the anglers asked for a change — and their request has been granted.

Instead of having only 20 anglers take part in the semifinal round, that day’s field will now be expanded to 35, giving more competitors a chance to improve their position in the standings — and perhaps even more importantly, allowing them to maximize the benefits of traveling to tournament venues.

“We’re there to fish,” said 2018 Elite Series Rookie of the Year Jake Whitaker. “A lot of movement happens in the standings on that third day — and we’ve all already made the trip there anyway. There’s no reason to limit it to 20 that day.”

Whitaker raised the issue in December during a meeting of the 2019 Elite Series field in Birmingham, Ala. The change was quickly given the go-ahead by B.A.S.S. officials, including CEO Bruce Akin.

“If that’s what the anglers want, we’re all for it,” Akin said. “We want to do whatever we can to help our competitors get the most out of the Elite Series tournament experience.”

In addition, a change in the format of the inaugural tournament of the season was made by B.A.S.S. after consultation with the Elite anglers.

In the past, the official practice days for a tournament that lasts Thursday through Sunday have been Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with Wednesday’s practice cut short for the pre-tournament meeting. But the anglers voted overwhelmingly to have three days of practice in the future, followed by an off day prior to the start of the event whenever it’s practical.

Because of that change, instead of holding the annual preseason tournament meeting on Sunday, Feb. 3, as originally planned, the meeting has now been moved to Wednesday, Feb. 6 — the day before the opening round of the Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River in Palatka, Fla.

“It’s easy to see why having that day off before the tournament is important,” said B.A.S.S. Tournament Director Trip Weldon. “Instead of going out, fishing all day, then going to a meeting and having to go sort through tackle, now they can be a little more relaxed the day before the competition starts.

“That should make things easier on everyone.”

Weldon said no decisions have been made regarding inserting a Wednesday break into future Elite events.

“It’s tricky to do with only seven days in the week, and especially with six of our tournaments scheduled back-to-back. Steve Bowman, our angler relations manager, and I will discuss this further with the pros at Palatka,” he said.