Pro bass angler west coast to pros

Going pro from the west bass fishing


F f R or O gin M g a T n H ew E p W ath EST

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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.