By Joel Shangle - December 3, 2018
Monday, Dec. 3 was a landmark day for Major League Fishing as the inaugural MLF Bass Pro Tour event location – Kissimmee, Florida – was announced to the world at 8 a.m. EST. But in the Florida home office of MLF Senior Director of Events and Partnerships Michael Mulone, attention had already long since shifted to other time zones, other cities, and other lakes.
As the man tasked with securing competition sites for the 2019 MLF Bass Pro Tour, Mulone has been, in his words, “drinking from a fire hose while juggling steak knives” since he started the job on Oct. 1. That date is significant: Mulone and the MLF site-approval crew secured the Kissimmee location in two months, an unheard-of turnaround in the world of national-level fishing competitions.
“It usually takes nine to 15 months to work with destinations to host an event of this size, so we’ve been on a pretty intense timeline,” Mulone acknowledged.
Mulone’s job, in a nutshell, is to identify and formalize competition venues for eight 80-man MLF Bass Pro Tour regular-season events, the Bass Pro Tour Redcrest, the 2019 Summit, Challenge, Patriot and Heritage Cup events, and the 2020 General Tire World Championship (14 events in total).
Outside that simple nutshell, though, the mechanics, details and requirements of arranging an MLF Bass Pro Tour event are staggering: from formalizing simple competition permits and claiming ramp space to securing Internet connectivity on a scale never before seen in competitive bass fishing, Mulone and a handful of MLF staffers have had to redefine the process while operating inside an agonizingly small window of time.
“I can’t say enough about the job that Michael has done in just two months,” said MLF General Manager Don Rucks. “We gave him an almost-impossible task given the time restrictions, and he’s turned right around and built us an outstanding schedule. He’s just done a tremendous job.”
Working around time, space and the Internet
Mulone and MLF’s challenges in the process boil down to time, space and connectivity.
MLF’s September announcement of the 2019 Bass Pro Tour placed the organization well behind other sizable national and regional tournament organizations in the race for ramp space and venue availability in traditional host cities. It also translated into a late entry in the budgeting and scheduling process for most convention and visitors’ bureaus and chambers of commerce.
Consequently, Mulone has had to exercise some creativity (and dig deep into his encyclopedic list of contacts) to locate new venues, and to make sure that potential site hosts can cover the MLF Bass Pro Tour footprint.
“Our events require a television compound instead of a traditional weigh-in area, and we still have the requirements of a service yard and such,” Mulone said. “We’re also booking a lot more hotel rooms and conference space because we have an entire TV production staff on site, plus officials. We’re claiming literally hundreds of hotel rooms per trip, so we’re now working with more and bigger hotels. There are just several requirements at an MLF Bass Pro Tour event that nobody has ever had before.”
Dependable Internet at remote locations being one of them.
Because of the digital connectivity necessary to stream dozens of hours of competition live from multiple competitors’ boats, MLF’s Vice President of Broadcast Production Randy White has had to send league personnel to competition lakes in multiple states to conduct surveys to verify that MLF’s Cradlepoint streaming technology will be functional.
Those surveys require MLF Senior Director of Competitions Steve Core and MLF Manager of Competitions Mike McCormick to travel to potential competition waters and drive league boats around those waters with Cradlepoint units on board to measure connectivity.
“We have to make sure the connectivity is right,” White said. “As great as coverage maps are, you just can’t look at one of those maps and knew for sure that you’ll have the kind of connectivity you need to deliver a live-streamed show like we’re promising. You have to be on the water, check every little cove, and know that the live stream will work there.”
And Mulone happily points out that the process has picked up speed, and that more official site announcements are imminent.
“You combine all the different operational items needed plus the timing and it’s felt like slow-going to some people,” he said. “But everybody (at MLF) is pulling the rope the same direction and working hard to get it all done, and (the rest of the 2019 schedule) is not far off.”