The President Talks Pro Bass Fishing

Category: article

 Oct 15th, 2012 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Oct 15th, 2012 at 12:00 AM

Okay, okay, this is not an article featuring our current POTUS talking flipping sticks and crankbaits. Nope, this is an article featuring one of the most respected pros in all of the tournament bass fishing world, Gary Klein.

Gary Klein (Photo Gary klein)

Klein is currently the President of the Pro Bass Tour (PBT), the company that produces the Major League Fishing (MLF) program that broadcasts on the Outdoor Channel and will be seen this winter on NBC.

He is also a 33-year veteran of the Bassmaster Tour in its various forms. Klein has won events and been Angler of the Year. Also on his resume are 29 trips to the Bassmaster Classic.

Therefore, when the President of PBT, speaks, it is worth a listen.

“I have had a very unique career,” said Klein. “I was a high school kid who loved to fish and hunt; do all of the outdoor things. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school. I didn’t know what competitive bass angling was at the time.

“I was raised in northern California, so most of the fish I chased were salmon, trout and pretty much whatever was biting. Then, in 1973, I checked out my first competitive bass angling event. It sparked an interest in me that I have been pursuing since then.”

The story has been told many times over. Klein left California in 1979 to pursue a career as a pro bass angler on the Bassmaster trail and has been there ever since.

Klein feels the reason he has stayed active so long in the sport is due to the reason he initially got involved.

“I got involved in professional bass fishing for what I believe to be the right reason, I truly love to fish,” said Klein. “I love the outdoors, hunting and fishing. I mean I truly love fishing.

“I’ll sit around the campfire with some of the other guys like Shaw (Grigsby) and Alton (Jones) after a day of fishing a tournament or practicing and what do we talk about? Fishing. I mean that is just who I am, who we are. I truly love it.

“I guess for me the only monkey left on my shoulder is not winning the Classic yet. I really had it won three times only to let it slip away due to little things. That drive is still there to win the Classic because I love fishing.”

At this point in his career, Klein is focused on improving the acceptance of the sport among the mainstream and growing the number of fans and opportunities for anglers to thrive.

“We have a very unique sport,” said Klein. “No matter what any organization wants to do to change tournaments we all need to cast to catch the fish, so that part is something that will always need to be there.

“In my opinion though, I don’t believe competitive bass fishing has ever been recognized as a true sport. In the years, ESPN owned B.A.S.S.; they never recognized us as pro athletes. Our great challenge is how do we present what we do as a pro sport to the public and the advertisers and sponsors?

“As the president of the PBT I am proud we struck out and created the MLF to be a made-for-TV fishing format. MLF is not intended to be a tournament organization. We support both B.A.S.S. and the FLW.

“But in my mind we need to get past that 500,000 number B.A.S.S. always speaks about regarding their number of members or people watching the Bassmaster TV shows if we are ever to change the perspective from potential fans and those who may want to sponsor or advertise with pro fishing.

“We want to attract the sports-minded fan who may be intrigued by our show, not unlike how people who never played poker became intrigued with the World Series of Poker.”

When asked if the often-trotted out comparison between the PGA and professional bass angling is fair Klein had this to say.

“The current tournament organizations promote having the fans come out and check out the events while they are in progress,” said Klein. “No guy ever was on the same green as Tiger Wood telling him that the green breaks right and how he should play the hole.

“We have people doing that to us all of the time on the water. Then the next day only to have them at the areas we were fishing when we arrive to have them tell us we should do great because they have been catching them good for the last couple of hours. So no, I don’t think it is a fair comparison.”

After the sophomore season of ownership of B.A.S.S. by the McKinnis, Copeland and Logan group, Klein is not seeing any major changes in the business yet.

“When they bought B.A.S.S. from ESPN, they essentially purchased a business model,” said Klein. “The tournaments, the magazine, the TV show, etc. Nothing has really changed in how any of those things is presented or run.

“I just received my booklet from them and when looking over the payouts, etc., nothing has changed for the 2013 season. I just don’t know how the young guys are going to be able to fish the Elites unless they have some heavy financial backing to help weather the storm.

“With all of the money they need to have just to be able to fish, its going to be very difficult. I think we all keep coming back because this is the best place to fish pro tournaments and the hook is we all love to compete and fish.

“One sad thing is that we only have 8 events to fish now during the regular season. When they raised the entry fees way up years ago we came onboard because we would have 14 tournaments to fish and earn money. There were 11 regular season events plus the 3 big money majors. With the opportunities only at eight events, it’s not enough for most to try to make a living at it.”

So is B.A.S.S. where you’ll see Klein fishing in 2013? You bet it is.

“There are great challenges in front of us,” said Klein. “I’ve been involved with them so long I feel like I’ve taken some ownership. B.A.S.S. is still, in my opinion, the place to make your career as a pro angler and still the best opportunity out there for tournament fishing.”

Look for the Major League fishing program to air February 9, 2013 at 1 PM Eastern Time on NBC.

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