Havasu’s top anglers take aim at new tour

January 29, 2019

You may not have been paying attention, but there was a major shakeup in the world of pro bass fishing this winter.

Major League Fishing, an outfit founded eight years ago in part by Lake Havasu angler Dean Rojas and a group of the country’s top fishermen, expanded its field this year in an attempt to raise the profile of pro bass fishing. Sponsored by Bass Pro Shops and backed by big television networks, the MLF Bass Pro Tour was able to lure some of the top anglers away from the Bassmaster Elite Series and FLW Tour with a promise of avoiding tournaments on major holidays and allowing anglers a voice in all league decisions, including Rojas and Havasu’s Roy Hawk, the runner-up for Rookie of the Year on the Elite Series last season.

The new tour kicks off today in Kissimmee, Florida and will feature eight stops and 80 of the world’s top anglers in a format different from the other top tours. Instead of a five-bass limit and weigh-ins at the close of the round, standings will be tabulated on a live scoreboard during the round and according to total weight instead of a limit.

The first event is a six-day tournament with two days of shotgun rounds, followed by two days of elimination rounds, after which the field will be pared down to 40 for Saturday’s knockout round. The fifth day starts with every angler back at zero, with the top 10 advancing to the championship round.

A camera in every boat will livestream the action on MajorLeagueFishing.com. Today’s event will take off at 4 a.m. local time with lines in from 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. A postgame show will be held from 3-5 p.m. daily.

“We’re excited about it,” Rojas said.

“For me, I’ve been doing this a long time. This is for the new generation of anglers coming up. It’s for them and the aspiring pro that wants to become professional.”

The tour will start on Lake Toho in central Florida, a site Rojas has history with. In 2001, while fishing on the BASS series, Rojas caught the heaviest five-bass limit in history on the lake, hauling in a weight of 45 pounds, 2 ounces on his way to a tournament victory.

In addition to the two local anglers, the new inaugural lineup on the new tour will also feature San Tan Valley’s Josh Bertrand, Phoenix’s Brett Hite and some of the top names in the sport, like Kevin Van Dam and two-time defending Bassmaster Classic champion Jordan Lee.

Laughlin’s Chris Zaldain chose to remain on the Elite Series this season with a smaller lineup along with Payson’s Cliff Pirch. The Elite season begins next weekend on the St. Johns River in Florida.

Both Rojas and Hawk qualified for the Bassmaster Classic, and both plan to attend despite being on a new tour. The event will be held on the Tennessee River from March 15-17.

Update hourly