As many parts of the nation move towards reopening in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, a number of signs are out there that life is heading towards—or trying to, at least—some kind of normalcy.
That includes the reboot of 2020 professional bass fishing derbies, all of them cancelled or postponed since mid-March.
A few days ago, officials with the Birmingham, Ala. based B.A.S.S. organization announced the updated schedule of their Bassmaster Elite Series events for the remainder of 2020.
The reboot of the Elite Series is scheduled for a June 10-13 event on Alabama’s Lake Eufaula. With other stops scheduled for several northern waters this summer, the revamped schedule will conclude with the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest on Lake Fork from Nov. 5-8 this fall. That tournament, which benefits the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, had been previously scheduled for June 5-9 before the COVID-19 outbreak.
B.A.S.S. officials also announced several other rescheduled events with Texas and Oklahoma ties in their early week announcement. The B.A.S.S. Central Division circuit opens back up with a June 18-20 stop on the Arkansas River near Muskogee, Okla. That circuit will also see a Sept. 10-12 stop at East Texas’ Sam Rayburn Reservoir along with the Central Division’s season finale at Lake Lewisville from Nov. 19-21.
Of interest to many amateur anglers in the Texas and Oklahoma area, officials with B.A.S.S. also announced that the TNT Fireworks Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Series event will be staged from Oct. 14-16 at Toledo Bend Reservoir.
Meanwhile, officials with the Tulsa-based Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour have trimmed their schedule down considerably for the remainder of 2020, planning to restart a limited schedule next month in central Florida.
That derby will be the BPT Heavy Hitter’s event from June 7-12 on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes near Orlando. Previously intended for this season's Top 30 BPT pros, the event is now open to all 80 of the circuit's anglers and will feature some bigtime money for those fortunate enough to catch each round's biggest bass.
After the Heavy Hitter’s event, the BPT circuit plans only one other derby in 2020, the
the Stage Five event at Vermont's Lake Champlain from July 10-15. Incidentally, the last couple of those derby dates became available after the recent cancellation of the 2020 ICAST fishing trade show, an annual event previously scheduled in Orlando for July 14-17.
Also trimming back its schedule for the remainder of 2020 is the FLW Pro Circuit, which is owned by Major League Fishing. The only other regular pro-level tournament to be held this year by FLW officials is the tour’s TITLE Championship event on the St. Lawrence River from Aug. 24-29.
But in a move that caused a lot of social media and Internet message board stir, FLW officials also announced late last week the creation of three "Super Tournaments" for the remainder of 2020. Those Super Tourneys are slated for Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga from June 23-26; on the Mississippi River near Lacrosse, Wis. from July 29-Aug. 1; and on Michigan’s Detroit River from Aug. 11-14.
What’s so unique about these new Super derbies? In addition to higher payouts, the potential tournament fields could be as high as 200 boats. Why is that? Because invitations to participate in the events have been extended not only to the current FLW Pro Circuit angling field, but also to the MLF’s 80 anglers who compete on the BPT circuit.
While there’s no word just yet on how many of the BPT pros — which includes the likes of Kevin VanDam, Shaw Grigsby, Kelly Jordon, Randy Howell, Jordan Lee, Mike Iaconelli, and others — will actually compete in these three new events, those pros reportedly have until today to make their decisions about participating.
Since the three new weigh-in style events are all entry fee tournaments — events on the BPT circuit are all no-entry fee derbies — there’s been speculation this week about who will and who will not participate in these three new Super Tourneys. According to some observers, by early next week, that should be apparent. And the guess here is that with limited tournament money making options remaining in 2020, participation levels will likely be high.
It should be noted that in many ways, the nation continues to be held at bay by the coronavirus crisis and the efforts to slow its spread. The situation and news surrounding the pandemic is fluid, changing almost by the hour. And with some of the states where future tournaments are scheduled for later this year still having business lockdowns and shelter in place orders in effect, it isn’t clear how many of these derbies will actually be able to take place as scheduled.
But in a professional bass fishing season that was put on hold in mid-March, the news about season restart plans and the three new Super Tournaments has certainly given the sport a new buzz in a year all but lost so far to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hopefully, these revamped tournament plans will go off without a hitch as much of the nation tries to start moving forward from the public health crisis that has engulfed the world over the last several weeks.
Only time will tell if that actually happens. But for now, at least, there’s the hope from amateur and pro anglers alike of simply getting back onto the water, feeling a big bass pulling at the end of the line, and experiencing a big smile in a year dominated so far by frowns and sadness.
Anglers and fishing fans can all hope for that, can’t we?