All 80 Bass Pro Tour anglers will have an opportunity to fish in a 2021 Cup event. Photo by Garrick Dixon

With the 2020 Bass Pro Tour season officially in the books, it’s time to shift the focus toward the 2020-2021 MLF Cup season.

In a typical MLF season, 30 anglers apiece qualify to fish the Challenge, Heritage, Patriot and Summit cup events, based on their performances in regular-season Bass Pro Tour events. Stages One and Two qualify for the Challenge Cup, Stages Three and Four qualify for the Heritage Cup, Stages Five and Six feed the Patriot Cup, and the final two stages contribute to the field for the Summit Cup.

However, when the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the season, MLF instituted a new qualification plan for the 2021 Cup events (which are contested in the fall of 2020).

Under a temporary qualification structure, every one of the 80 anglers on the Bass Pro Tour will compete in at least one Cup event in 2020 – original programming from those competitions will air on Outdoor Channel in the first and second quarters of 2021.

Because the first two Stages were completed before the pandemic began, the Top 30 for the Challenge Cup had already been set. The remaining three Cup fields – 90 total anglers – have been filled through a seeding process that guarantees all 80 anglers one berth, with the final 10 spots going to the Top 10 point-earners of the 2020 Bass Pro Tour season.

“If an angler was in the Top 10 in points earned for the (2020) season, they will get to fish in three Cup events,” explained MLF analyst Marty Stone. “The Top 10 are going to get rewarded for their great seasons like they should, while the other anglers still all get to fish at least one Cup.”

The decision to shorten the 2020 Bass Pro Tour season by three events was made to ensure the health and safety of the MLF anglers, officials and staff. Many of the 80 MLF pros have taken advantage of the option to supplement those three cancelled events by fishing the FLW Pro Circuit Super Tournaments; guaranteed entry into the MLF Cup events represents one more prime opportunity to compete in a tour-level event.

“We came up with the solution that everyone gets to fish at least one Cup,” Stone said. “I think that’s completely fair and good for the anglers and MLF to come to this kind of solution in an abnormal year.”

Stone believes that the new qualification structure makes the best out of a difficult situation.

“This Cup qualification system is the league and anglers taking care of their own, and I applaud that,” Stone expressed. “Now, when we get back to a full season, Heavy Hitters and REDCREST, I think it will go back to the regular qualification system we’ve seen where only the Top 30 in points make each event. But for this year, I think we came up with a great short-term solution.”