PAA goes to bat for anglers with BASS/ESPN
Three tiered network of tournaments planned
Yesterday, August 15, 2005, the PAA board and its executive director met with ESPN and BASS officials in Orlando, FL. The PAA board members in attendance included Gene Ellison, Kevin VanDam, Mike Auten, Brent Chapman, Alton Jones, Tim Horton, Edwin Evers, Shaw Grigsby, and Gary Klein. Others anglers in attendance included Randy Howell, Stephen Browning, and Davy Hite. ESPN and BASS officials in attendance included Mark Quenzel, Don Rucks, Dean Kessel, Terry Tesch, Jim Downs, Dave Precht, Amy Skiff, Christine Godleski, George McNeilly, Gary Jones and Trip Weldon and a representative of JM Associates also attended.
The first part of the meeting involved Don Rucks leading discussions with the PAA Board by outlining the changes to the 2006 Tour season. There will be a tiered network of tournaments pointing towards the Classic. The top level will consist of the existing 11 scheduled events plus three major events and will be called the "Elite Series" (formerly called the Bassmaster Tour). The "Elite Series" will consist of 100 anglers and "The majors" will consist of 50 anglers. There will also be two qualifying tours (North and South) that will replace the Opens.
ESPN's model consisted of 5 main variables: paybacks, entry fees, field size, number of events, and ESPN's financial contribution to the payout. Because ESPN was not willing to change 3 of the variables, our input was limited. The PAA was allowed to discuss (1) paybacks and (2) entry fees. The non-negotiable items were (1) field size (fixed at 100), (2) number of events (fixed at 11), and (3) ESPN's financial contribution to the payout. The PAA was shown three entry fee alternatives: $3,000, $3,800 and $5,000. The payout obviously increased in relationship to the entry fee. While $5,000 entry fee seems to provide the only reasonable payout opportunity, the PAA Board is deeply concerned about the financial burden that will fall on the anglers with a $55,000 commitment. Under this payout first place pays the same as last year ($100,000) but fiftieth place pays back $10,000. However, finishing second only pays back $30,000 a significant drop from the previous years' $38,000 for second place. PAA executive director Gene Ellison also stated "On top of the $55,000 in entry fees anglers could also be looking at an additional $25,000-$30,000 in expenses to fish the eleven event tour. Wow! That's a lot of money!"
Here is a brief sampling of the payout for the Elite Series events:
The payback is sweetened for anglers who qualify for the three major events, which are "no entry fee" events. Each major event boosts a first place prize of $250,000 and twenty-fifth place of $10,000. However, Places twenty-sixth through fiftieth receive nothing. Again, the entire payout is heavily consumed by first place. ESPN and BASS will require all "Elite Series" anglers to have their own boats wrapped in accordance with a template that is approved by BASS. Each angler will be allowed to use his own boat during the first 3 days of competition during the "Elite Series" events, and all four days of competition during the majors. BASS and ESPN have pledged to provide the anglers with marketing materials to assist them in acquiring potential sponsors.
The second part of the meeting consisted of Don Rucks asking the PAA Board to explain their plan. We obviously declined to share the details of our vision with him at this time. However, an interesting exchange did take place. Mark Quenzel explained that today he views the PAA as an "anglers advocacy group" and is somewhat supportive of the PAA. However, he explained further that if the PAA morphed into anything other than an advocacy group, ESPN and BASS would remove their recognition of the PAA. Mr. Quenzel made it clear that in his opinion the PAA Board should NOT get into the tournament business or acquire national sponsorships. "The minute you enter the tournament business you become just another competitor, and I will protect ESPN's business interests." He continued by saying "This is not a threat, but take it how you want it."
All PAA members should expect a call from a board member to review the details of the proposed BASS Tour within the next few days. YOUR association needs YOUR feedback now so we can convey YOUR views back to ESPN/BASS. If you wish to contact a Board member immediately, please feel free to do so. Rest assured that YOUR Board of Directors is working tirelessly on YOUR behalf. Announcements forthcoming.
Source: proanglersassociation.com (2005-08-17)