The holiday season is about wishes and dreams. Although we are running through a rough patch with bickering and partisanship in our daily lives, fishing and fishing people give me hope that we are about to turn the corner.
We call the postseason in fishing the silly season. Changes are the rule and what we once knew is the exception. This year is no different both locally and nationally, but it, too, will simmer down at the beginning of 2023. At least I hope so.
What we have seen and what I believe we will see next year is to put it mildly still up in the air. Keeping up with the changes as well as speculating what it actually means is anyone’s guess but as a half full guy I am hoping for the best. Below is my best guess on what just may shake out.
Bass Angler Sportsman Society (BASS)
Although more stable traditionally, BASS made some significant changes to their Open schedules and qualifying for the Elite Series at the end of this year. Before, top points leaders were given the invitation to fish the Elite Series and there will be several new qualifiers this year as a result. Legendary angler Larry Nixon will be fishing the Elites, qualifying through a Legends exemption. Kyoya Fujita, Cooper Gallant, Bryant Smith, Joey Cifuentes, Kyle Norsetter, David Gaston, Logan Latuso, Will Davis, John Soukup, Keith Poche and Bradley Hallman will all be part of the 104 angler field for 2024. Hallman and Poche requalified for the Elites after leaving them in 2011.
In 2023, anglers will have to fish all nine of the Opens for a chance to qualify. Many of the FLW Pro Tour anglers whose league was discontinued at the conclusion of the season also will be vying for spots through the Opens. Stay tuned for who and how many as it is still a moving target for 2024.
Major League Fishing (MLF)
The changes in this group of trails have been significant and, as mentioned above, the FLW Pro Tour is no more but was replaced with an Invitational Series that is near full. This new trail will allow for anglers fishing it to qualify for their top tour called the Bass Pro Shops Tour. How many anglers will qualify is still a bit up in the air as it is based on field size and attrition at the BPT level.
The Bass Pro Tour had some changes as well with many of their events now going to a largest five format. They will still catch, weigh and release for those totals, and some of their Cup events will remain with the catch and weigh all fish over two pounds format. We will hopefully see some stabilization on this top trail moving forward and only time will tell if it is received well by the fans.
MLF remains steady in their conservation direction of getting fish back into the water quickly after being caught.
National Professional Fishing League (NPFL)
Many changes, including a year-end championship, will greet anglers fishing the NPFL moving forward. Having a championship after cancelling the last two years should be a shot in the arm to this league. Local angler Taylor Umland from Carlock will again be competing at the NPFL in 2024 after finishing ninth in the Angler of the Year race in 2022. I believe more top name anglers will be moving to the NPFL this year.
Illinois tournaments update
It's still up in the air, but we are seeing a glimmer of light that the 10% tax to tournaments in Illinois may be adjusted or discontinued in 2023. We are staying on top of this and hopefully will see good changes in 2023. Although it was called a fee, it was really a tax that did not go through legislative channels, and a de minimis amount of money was collected.
Not sure how this will shake out, but Illinois was in the unfavorable limelight as a result. Just about every national media outlet felt it was unjust and unfair and shed a negative light on fishing in our state. We are all in favor of working with the IDNR as anglers, but revisiting this makes good sense.
The timing is right to work together on a solution that benefits our lakes, parks and anglers equally. Time will tell.
I am sure that even more changes are in the offing in 2023, but hopefully they aren't as interruptive as those we had this year. We all could use a little stabilization in both our daily and fishing lives, and believe we are all speaking in a unified voice. I am excited to see how it all shakes out.