TULSA, Okla. — Next week, anglers from across the country will arrive in Oklahoma to fish the REDCREST Bass Pro Tour Championship on Grand Lake.
Competitive fishing is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country with a lot of money on the line for the winners. Starting next Wednesday, 41 anglers will spend two days fishing REDCREST's qualifying rounds.
The top 20 will move to the knockout rounds, then the top ten will move on to the championship. In traditional bass fishing competitions, anglers only weigh their five largest fish at the end of the day but in Major League Fishing it’s different.
“The main difference in that format and major league fishing format, in MLF is every fish counts," says Lance Lewis, competition crew chief.
In MLF there’s also a different process when catching, and weighing the fish. Once an angler catches a fish, an MLF official weighs it, records the weight, then releases the fish back into the water. The official on the boat enters the weight into an iPad and it’s added to the scoreboard.
Lewis says weighing the fish, as they are caught and giving anglers real-time scores adds to the excitement of the competition. "His decision-making a lot of the time throughout the day is based on what’s going on on that score tracker."
And just like every other sport, there are rules. Lewis says MLF has about 15 major rules that carry penalties. If an angler receives a penalty, they have to sit and “do nothing” for a set period of time.
"I would say 95% of our penalties are fish landing violations. And all that is when the fish comes into the boat, it can't touch anything, in the boat, including the angler."
Since tournaments are streamed online, Lewis says officials aren’t just a part of the game, they’re also part of the production.
"Basically for the official, not only do they have to learn rules, and procedures, and everything, and conduct the game in the boat while competition is going on, they also have to have the thought process of, 'OK I have to have a camera in this boat and I need to be thinking that way as well.'"
You have two hats, you’re an official calling a game, but you’re also part of the production process."
REDCREST begins next Wednesday with anglers launching from Wolfe Creek on Grand lake. You can watch the live stream on MLF now at majorleaguefishing.com. There will also be an Outdoor Sports Expo at Tulsa’s Expo Square next weekend where fans can meet the anglers including Oklahomans Edwin Evers and James Elam.
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