Nation: Change is just progress in the making

Originally published in the June issue of B.A.S.S. Times

Change is not something most of us enjoy. It can be unsettling, emotional, scary, exciting and intriguing, all at the same time.

It can come in the form of a family change, like your kids leaving for college or getting married.

It can be moving away from the place you grew up, switching jobs, getting a promotion or a demotion.

I truly believe that all change can be positive if you choose to make it so. Over the years, the B.A.S.S. Nation has had many changes, the name for one. Not such a bad change and certainly not the end of the world.

And now the B.A.S.S. Nation is experiencing some more change. Some of the changes have already begun, and some will be happening over the next couple of years.

We have two major changes underway. One is the extreme upward growth of the high school program, and the other is an overhaul in the divisionals format.

A couple of years ago, we changed the competition focus of our youth program from the Junior Bassmaster program to the High School program. We have more high school events, a bigger championship and more exposure. We have already had two high school opens this year — one with 205 boats and one with 120 boats — and another is taking place at the time of this writing. Plus, we have our high school championship and Classic each year. B.A.S.S. has more than 2,500 paid/affiliated high school students in more than 300 clubs, and the numbers are growing fast.

This year, we will add a Junior Championship to be held in conjunction with the high school championship. We have added the new Bassmaster High School All-State Fishing Team, which has culminated in 12 Bassmaster High School All-American.

These have been great changes.

Another change that is coming is the B.A.S.S. Nation divisional format. This change has been 10 years in the making. Almost every B.A.S.S. Nation member I’ve talked to loves going to a divisional and to the championship but dislikes the angler vs. angler, split-half-the-day format of the divisionals.

The members have long asked for a Bassmaster Open-style event, with individual payout and the boaters having control of their own destiny.

This change is finally coming to fruition. Along with it, more B.A.S.S. Nation members will have the opportunity to make a state team. Beginning in 2016 (states are qualifying teams now for 2016), state teams will be sending 10 boaters and 10 nonboaters to one of three regionals. Eight more members from each state will have an opportunity to make a state team, go to a regional and try to be one of two anglers from each state that will advance to the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship.

There will be individual payouts at the regionals, as requested, as well. The top boater and the top nonboater from each state at the regionals will advance to the Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship.

At the championship, after two days of competition, the nonboater champion will be crowned and awarded a boat and Bassmaster Opens entry fees. That angler will earn a spot to fish the final-day cut with the Top 10 boaters and the Top 2 boaters from each of the three regions, if they are not in the Top 10 already.

The Top 3 after that final day will earn berths into the world’s premier bass fishing tournament, the Bassmaster Classic. Each will also win a boat, Bassmaster Open entries into the division of his or her choice and a Nation’s Best prize package that includes a truck and boat to use for a year while fishing the Bassmaster Classic and the Bassmaster Opens.

The winner of the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship will also receive an invitation to fish the Elite Series.

To recap, at the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, the B.A.S.S. Nation will award four boats, plus cash and three Nation’s Best prize packages, making the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship one of the most lucrative amateur fishing championships in history, not to mention making the dream of fishing the greatest, most prestigious fishing tournament in the world come true for three B.A.S.S. Nation members.

I am excited about the future, and I love the fact that more of our members will have to opportunity of a lifetime.