“Entry” Into Controversy

The sweeping changes made by ESPN/BASS for the upcoming Tour season seem to have created a lot of concern among anglers with regard to the direction of professional fishing. A lot of questions have been raised, and a lot of speculation is being thrown around as “fact” with regard to the involvement of the PAA in the latest ESPN/BASS decision making process.

The new $5,000.00 entry fee for the Tour events has raised eyebrows from all corners of the bass fishing world. Is this what the PAA wanted? I posed that question to several PAA members on the Tour, and I generally received a unified answer. “Why would we ask to spend more of our own money” asked touring pro and PAA member Brent Chapman, “It don’t make any sense”, he said.

Long time touring pro Alton Jones expressed the same sentiment when asked if the PAA requested the entry fee increase. “Nothing could be further from the truth”, he answered. Jones explained that in fact the PAA expressed a great deal of concern over the increase.

The $55,000.00 entry into the 11 scheduled events may prove difficult for even veteran Tour pro’s. “I’m torn over what I’ll be able to fish now”, said Chapman, not knowing if he’ll be able to afford to fish more than one trail. “Reducing the field size was great”, stated Chapman, but the PAA did not ask for a higher entry fee to compensate for the reduced field size.

There is little question among many anglers that for most competing anglers, sponsor money will not jump up to cover the increase. Some anglers believe that the increase will inhibit new talent from even being able to dream about competing on the Tour. “For a new guy, that’s just a lot of money”, said Jimmy Mason, one of the upcoming young touring pro’s. “The fishing industry is driven by the dream, now many may lose that glimmer of hope”, said Mason.

When you include the many additional expenses along with the new $55,000.00 in entry fees, it’s easy to come up with a figure of near or over $80,000.00 to compete just one year on the Tour. Alton Jones said, “they told us we’d have an 11 million dollar payout, what they didn’t tell us is that we’d have to bring ? of it with us”. “Not all that long ago, $80,000.00 would have been good for 5 years on the Tour, you had more time to establish a name over a few years” continued Jones.

Many pro’s may only be able to come up with enough money to fish one year on the Tour, and even many older pro's may have to gamble retirement money just to stay in the game. “It’s going to be hard to establish a name in just one year”, said Jones. It may prove to be a one shot deal for many, if they can even afford one shot.

PAA members say that the meeting between the PAA and ESPN/BASS was not designed to be a cooperative effort between the two groups in order to establish the new policy. According to PAA sources, ESPN/BASS invited the PAA and laid out three different plans, then asked the PAA which one they preferred. Sources inside the PAA state that there was no negotiation.

Both Chapman and Jones were happy that ESPN/BASS at least considered the role of the PAA and invited them to the meeting. “At least we were invited, and many of the decisions were a step in the right direction”, said Jones, “but there are a lot of things we would like to see done differently”.

The reduction in field size was one welcome change by the PAA, as was the decision to allow Tour pro's to fish from their own boats on at least some of the TV days. But, according to PAA sources, the PAA did not play a direct "hands on" role in the creation or implementation of the new policy created by ESPN/BASS.