By Joel Shangle - October 22, 2018
TULSA, Okla. – Off-season activity is a standard order of business in professional sports, and the newly formed Bass Pro Tour is no different.
As reported yesterday on MajorLeagueFishing.com, two anglers who had been scheduled to compete in the inaugural season of the league – Major League Fishing Select pros Gary Clouse and J.T. Kenney – are no longer part of the competition roster. And two anglers who had been planning on fishing elsewhere next season – FLW Tour veterans Anthony Gagliardi and Jeff Sprague – will fill out the final two spots on the 2019 80-man Bass Pro Tour roster.
Here’s how it all happened.
Clouse opts for Elites, Gagliardi steps in
Clouse, a four-year MLF Select competitor, originally accepted an invitation to participate as part of the Bass Pro Tour lineup announced on Oct. 3. But on Oct. 13, Clouse acknowledged on his social media that he had instead surrendered his spot in the Bass Pro Tour to compete on the Bassmaster Elite Series.
“Gary recognized that he had an opportunity to do something (in the Elites) that he always wanted to do,” said Bass Pro Tour Co-Founder Boyd Duckett. “He and I have a lot in common in that regard, we share kind of a similar history. I get it; that opportunity meant a lot to him. He called me, we talked about it at length, and I supported him.”
Clouse’s decision opened up a roster spot for Gagliardi, a 13-year veteran of the FLW Tour and the winner of the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup.
Gagliardi and league officials conferred shortly following Clouse’s departure, and after a series of quick phone calls and brief discussions with sponsors and family, Gagliardi committed to the Tour on Oct. 18.
“There’s so much opportunity (with the Bass Pro Tour) to be part of something that’s above and beyond anything we’ve ever seen in this sport,” Gagliardi said. “I’d fished with FLW since I was in college, so everything will be totally new to me. Just the basic format in and of itself will be new – it may take me back to when I started bass fishing for fun, when it was all about just catching fish. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Kenney moves to broadcast desk, Sprague takes final spot
Perhaps the surprise move of the month came Oct. 14, when Kenney – a 19-year tournament veteran with 260 FLW competitions on his resume – accepted an offer to exchange his flippin’ stick for a microphone and become part of the live-coverage team for the Bass Pro Tour.
Kenney, who has appeared on multiple television shows and appeared on MajorLeagueFishing.com as a “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” for the 2018 General Tire World Championship, will serve as an in-studio color analyst for the Bass Pro Tour’s eight regular-season events, plus the league’s championship.
“Broadcast was always something I thought I’d be good at, and I’ve always pictured my career morphing into that – it’s just come a little earlier in my career than I thought it might,” Kenney admitted. “At first, I wasn’t too hip on not fishing, but the more I thought about it, the more it came to me: this is something I really want to do, and I couldn’t have dreamt of a better situation for it to happen.”
Kenney’s exit vacated a roster spot for Sprague. The Texas-based FLW pro had already expressed a strong desire to fish the MLF Selects, so when league officials reached out to him with a Bass Pro Tour invite, Sprague verbally committed on the spot, and officially signed on with the Tour the next day.
“It’s super humbling to be invited because I think (the Bass Pro Tour) is the key to moving the sport in the direction we’d all like to go as professional anglers,” Sprague said. “I’m ready to embrace it all: a new format, new bodies of water, communities that may have never been privy to see an event like this before because of field sizes. It’s an exciting thing to be a part of.”