F f R or O gin M g a T n H ew E p W ath EST
n the beginning, there was just one way. If you
were a quality western angler who wanted to fish
a national bass tour, you had to go east. Once you’d qualified and paid your entry fees, you
then had two choices. Either you lived on airplanes and
highways, or you moved eastward. Guys like Rich Tauber
and Mike Folkestad did the former and others like Gary
Klein and Jay Yelas did the latter.
Then B.A.S.S. came along with the Western Opens.
From 1997 through 2005, B.A.S.S. gave western
anglers a chance to qualify for the tour by fishing closer
to home. Shortly thereafter, FLW commenced their
Western Series events, which offered a path to the FLW
Through those two circuits, we saw one of the
greatest infusions of talent into pro fishing in decades,
as anglers including Brent Ehrler, Skeet Reese, Aaron
Martens, Ish Monroe imprinted their will upon the sport’s
collective consciousness. They still had to go (mostly)
east to compete on tour, but the road there was paved a
little more smoothly than in the past.
FLW still has a Costa Western Series, but B.A.S.S.
disbanded the Western Opens over a decade ago. Various
factions will dispute their rationale for doing so – some
say it made economic sense, while others claim it was an
act of disloyalty.
I’m not going to take a side here, but the fact is
that they’re gone, and show no sign of coming back.
Meanwhile, western anglers have continued to make the
sacrifice through the original routes.
Some, like Brandon Palaniuk and Josh Bertrand
continue to live in Idaho and Arizona, respectively, while
others like Justin Lucas and Mark Daniels Jr. have moved
closer to the “national” action.
Obviously, the west has been a proving ground and
launching pad for lots of top anglers and will continue to
be one. Even if the finances and logistics of competing
from 3,000 miles “away” from the “home office” continue
to be a slight to moderate impediment to long-term
success, it can be done.
If there are no changes in the way things operate,
we’ll still see top western talent make the leap. But it
doesn’t have to be that way.