The 2024 Bass Pro Tour season is about to begin, and with it comes the biggest reset to any professional fishing season I’ve ever competed in. To me, it’s a universal reset on many levels. From the seasonal weather to the technology we use to compete to the Bass Pro Tour as a league, it’s all being reset.
This past fall, many of the lakes across the Southeast were pretty stable. Some were a little warmer for that time of year, maybe a little lower and clearer than normal as well. During that time, I was out on the water tweaking a few things in my game and pre-practicing a couple of the lakes in the hopes that conditions would stay seasonally warmer and stable during the winter.
Well, those hopes and dreams have just been dashed by recent and forecasted weather, which has shaken up the snow globe – literally in some cases. Lots of rain, snow and cold have swept across the lower half of the country since Christmas. In addition, more fronts are supposed to dump rain in Texas over the next couple weeks.
A complete reset from the weather is now occurring, and the Bass Pro Tour doesn’t have Florida to save it. The BPT is starting in Texas at Toledo Bend and then going to Santee Cooper in South Carolina. Both lakes are more volatile fisheries in terms of water level, temperature and color when big rains come than the usual Florida starting point.
The current long-term forecast for Toledo Bend has already erased a lot of my great ideas for the season opener. When I was there for pre-practice, the water was nearly 3 feet low and fairly clear. Now we could possibly be looking at full pool and a healthy stain in the water by tournament time. Talk about a reset; Toledo Bend will be completely different if that happens, and starting from scratch will be in order for me.
From the looks of the water level charts at Santee Cooper, January rainfall just brought a couple big slugs of water through the system compared to November and December. If that continues, we could be looking at a mud bath at Santee.
Since the Bass Pro Tour started in 2019, we’ve yet to have a true flooded, muddy fishing season. I’m not talking about a tournament or two where it rained during practice and got muddied upriver. I’m talking about complete washouts for weeks before we arrive. I’m talking about flooded fishing with water color you could plow for four or five events in row — the kind of water where you have to launch in the parking lot and then go fish where squirrels live to find fishable water; the type of rising water where you would trade your forward-facing sonar for some heavy-duty loppers.
That’s the kind of season it’s going to take to soften the domination of forward-facing sonar. For the last five years, we’ve seen mostly stable water in reservoirs, making conditions suitable for forward-facing sonar. We’re way overdue for a muddy fishing season, and this might be the kind of heavy-rain winter and spring that will reset the ‘Scoping craze.
With the changes to the Bass Pro Tour requalification criteria this season, we’re going to see a big reset in the amount of effort put forth in competing in this league. I’m not going to sugarcoat it – complacency has come to an end. The years of fishing for par and getting a check are over. With 15 anglers getting cut after this season and 15 getting cut after next season, nearly 40% of Bass Pro Tour anglers will get cut by 2026.
I consider the next two seasons to be the Knockout Round of the Bass Pro Tour as a whole. I’m betting more BPT pros already put more effort into this past offseason than any other. Every cast this year will be more important than the casts of years past. With that, stress and emotions will be running higher than ever before. In addition, we have 13 Bass Pro Tour rookies who are coming in hot in 2024. These guys are super talented and hungry for a full-time pro fishing career.
The rains are coming, and the waters might get high and muddy – literally and figuratively. The great reset is upon us.