History - Major League Fishing


MLF History, Brand and Vision

The advent of Major League Fishing can’t be described with one story from one group of people. It’s actually interwoven stories within two professional groups of people, each with a similar goal: Present the sport of competitive professional bass fishing in a way that the viewing public has never seen it.

The anglers and Outdoor Channel, independently, had similar ideas and a like-minded goal of televising competitive bass fishing at its highest level in a new and compelling format. The new made-for-television tournament series had to be more exciting, more dramatic and highlight the fierce competition found in professional bass fishing.

While Outdoor Channel was seeking options to carve a share in the competitive professional fishing market, a group of anglers was in the early stages of developing something truly innovative. They wanted fishing fans – and sports fans overall – to view professional competitive fishing in the same manner that they see in other sports organizations, such as the NFL, MLB, PGA, NASCAR, etc. The anglers wanted fans to see the very real challenges that exist when pros try to outwit and outlast their competitors. They wanted to create a whole new game.

The first Major League Fishing event was filmed at Lake Amistad, Texas, in 2011 and aired on the Outdoor Channel in 2012. It was an instant success. MLF now earns the highest ratings on Outdoor Channel in the first two quarters of the year. With the success of MLF on the Outdoor Channel, the anglers and MLF leaders were ready to expand the league.

Major League Fishing pro Brent Ehrler
MLF pro Brent Ehrler won the first-ever MLF event on Lake Amistad.

Enter the MLF Bass Pro Tour. In 2018, the founders and leaders of MLF created the Bass Pro Tour and 80 of the world’s best anglers made the commitment to compete in the eight-Stage season, with hopes of qualifying for the Redcrest, the Bass Pro Tour Championship. The Bass Pro Tour is broadcast via the MLF NOW! live stream on MajorLeagueFishing.com and on the MLF App.

The Anglers Who Started It All

Professional bass angler Boyd Duckett and a few of his fellow competitors toyed for years with many concepts and ideas. However, the idea to create a new television product didn’t surface until the summer of 2009. That’s when a coalition of the world’s best anglers came together to discuss the future of their sport.

The anglers’ initial meeting started with a group of 14. Along with Duckett, the angler focus group included bass fishing household names such as Kevin VanDam, Skeet Reese, Gary Klein, Alton Jones, Denny Brauer and many more. Every recent Bassmaster Classic Champion and Bassmaster Angler of the Year was among this group.

The group first selected two fellow anglers to lead their effort: Gary Klein, one of the top anglers in the business for the past three decades, and 2007 Bassmaster Classic Champion Boyd Duckett, owner and mastermind behind several successful businesses.

After some lengthy discussions, the angler group came to a few conclusions. They agreed the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) and FLW Outdoors have created many positive outlets for competitive bass fishing. These organizations provide anglers with a place to compete and bring recognition to themselves and their sport. There would be no reason to compete with either of the well-established organizations. The formation of MLF should be geared to only strengthen the sport by playing a complementary role to B.A.S.S., FLW and more importantly, the anglers.

The angler group still felt the sport of professional bass fishing needed to be enhanced, since the fan base didn’t seem to be growing. The anglers also determined the fans do not always get to witness the competitors’ intelligence and diverse personalities. And, they rarely get to see the behind-the-scenes drama and off-the-water competitiveness that usually play a part in determining the champion for each event. This needed to change in order to appeal to a broader audience and grow the fan base.

Boyd Duckett, Jordan Lee and Gary Klein celebrate Lee’s historic win. Photo by Josh Gassmann

The second phase of the anglers’ vision was focused on the way fans would view the competition. The group was looking for less emphasis on the fish caught, with more emphasis on personalities, the struggles, the strategies, the conflicts and the emotions of the anglers.

In short, the anglers decided they want to take fans inside competitor boats for an up-close examination of how a professional bass tournament truly looks and feels.

In the spring of 2010, the anglers held their first few meetings with Outdoor Channel representatives. At those early meetings, Klein and Duckett shared their vision for the future of televised bass fishing. After nearly a year of discussions, the anglers and Outdoor Channel formed a partnership.

The MLF Bass Pro Tour

MLF made history in the bass fishing industry in September 2018 when the league announced the creation of the Bass Pro Tour. Then, on October 30, 2018, the MLF anglers made history again when they voted against paying entry fees for the Bass Pro Tour, something never-before-seen in professional bass fishing.

The inaugural season of the MLF Bass Pro Tour started with Stage One in Kissimmee, Florida on January 29, 2019. The brainchild and months of work by the MLF anglers and staff dawned a new era of professional bass fishing. For the first time ever, professional anglers would not have to pay entry fees to fish in big-time tournaments while still competing for a $100,000 grand prize.

Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris makes the ceremonial first cast at the 2019 Bass Pro Tour Stage One. Photo by Garrick Dixon

The Bass Pro Tour also signaled the launch of the MLF NOW! live stream, giving fans live coverage of bass fishing in a way they have never seen before. With over eight hours of live fishing during each day of competition and interviews with the pros at the end of each day, MLF NOW! gives a unique glimpse into the strategy of a professional angler and the intensity the MLF format creates in real-time.