bass vs. mlf

B.A.S.S. vs. MLF: Understanding the Dichotomy of Pro Bass Fishing

The world of professional bass fishing can be confusing to newcomers.

No, this isn't a prize fight (well, depending on who you ask), but perhaps the biggest hindrance in attracting new fans to competitive bass fishing is the confusing nature of the sport's current state.

The first thing any curious consumer needs to understand is that pro bass fishing isn't like any other professional sport, in that it actually has two premiere leagues: B.A.S.S. and Major League Fishing. 

Despite bass fishing being arguably America's most popular outdoor pastime, the split at the professional level has possibly created a ceiling atop the sport's overall potential.

Professional Bass Fishing

In the beginning, there was B.A.S.S., and then came the Red Man Tournament Trail, which turned into the FLW (Fishing League Worldwide) in 1996. It wasn't long until both sides were competing for dates and locations, forcing pro bass anglers to make a difficult choice.

Now, with the onset of the MLF Bass Pro Tour, the competition in the bass fishing industry has become fierce, which could be considered a positive in that it gives us more to watch, but it also splits the best anglers into leagues that don't compete against each other.

While the competition may suffer some from the broader landscape, it does arguably serve anglers better in the current format by providing more data regarding what fishing gear and tactics work best.


Ever since Ray Scott developed, marketed and launched the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society back in 1967, the world of bass fishing has never been the same.

The impact of B.A.S.S. has had a profound effect on the way we view tournament and membership organization, and has revolutionized the way we view bass fishing in today's outdoor industry.

There are a number of Bassmaster tournament circuits, including the Bassmaster Opens and TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation, just to name a couple, but it's the Bassmaster Elite Series that garners the most attention.

The Elite Series, consists of 10 events, including the Bassmaster Classic—largely known as "the Super Bowl of bass fishing."


Major League Fishing was founded in 2011 and launched in 2012 to do as their slogan says: "extend the life of the sport." The MLF has since become the top-rated show on the Outdoor Channel with millions of bass fishing fans watching every week.

With a great following comes some great sponsorship, and obviously a lot of exposure for advertisers.

In 2018, the MLF created the Bass Pro Tour, which hosts 80 of the world's top anglers who compete in an eight-stage season, and includes the REDCREST event, which is MLF's equivalent of the Bassmaster Classic.

B.A.S.S. vs. MLF

Issues between the two, such as anglers leaving B.A.S.S. for the newer MLF or vice versa have left the pro fishing community in a bit of a stalemate.

The original promise of the MLF was to reduce entry fees and provide higher payouts and better exposure, while the lure of the Bassmaster Elite Series is one of fame and fortune at the highest level. So is there a clear winner?

A new tour offers a new beginning, but B.A.S.S. has been around this long for a reason.

Both championship events have had tremendous success, each crowning its own world champion of bass fishing.

But ultimately, if you look at each field of anglers, an argument can be made for either league, which makes bass fishing an especially unique sport, regardless of how consumers' opinions about the divide.

The Best Way to Follow Along

You essentially have three options: pick a league, try to follow both or tune in for the biggest events.

For you die-hard bass fishing fans, it's worth it to follow both B.A.S.S. and MLF. Each league is defined by its own, unique culture, both of which add undeniable value to the sport. It's not like trying to watch all 162 games of a Major League Baseball season; there are less than 20 total events collectively.

While it would be nice to consolidate the world's best anglers into one, ultra-competitive field, wouldn't it be kind of cool if there was a second NFL?

Trying to pick a league could prove difficult, but it's a lot easier if you find yourself rooting for a particular angler, so perhaps try watching each and see who's out on the water. Pro bass fishing is littered with exciting storylines.

And then there's the popular route. If you don't have the time to tune in for events but you're still interested in professional bass fishing, there are easy ways to stay tuned in without watching everything. Follow the leaderboards on the Bassmaster and MLF websites (MLF has an app, too), and just keep an eye on how the season's going.

However, every bass fisherman should tune into the Bassmaster Classic if they don't already, and REDCREST has become just as worthy of a watch. Additionally, if you do follow the leaderboards all year, do yourself of watching those final events, as the competition gets downright heated as anglers make their final pushes for Angler of the Year honors.

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