Tackle Warehouse Invitationals - Major League Fishing

2023 Tackle Warehouse Invitational Rules

1. INTERPRETATION & ENFORCEMENT • Interpretation and enforcement of these rules will be left exclusively to MLF. Decisions of the tournament director are final in all matters and are not subject to appeal. Each pro agrees to report any rule violation to the tournament director immediately upon discovery of the violation. Failure to report violations may be cause for disqualification. The violation of a tournament rule may result in, but is not limited to, weight loss, the loss of weight up to a particular time in the tournament day, the loss of weight for the entire day, the loss of the heaviest one-day catch, the loss of the heaviest bass for the day, loss of fishing time, disqualification from the entire tournament, a fine of not less than $300 nor more than $5,000 or ineligibility to participate in future MLF tournaments. Protests and/or alleged rule violations are to be documented in writing by the witness within 30 minutes of the check-in time of the final flight of each tournament day. MLF reserves the right to consider rule violations reported or discovered after a tournament has ended and assess penalties for future events, including denying entry to compete. 

2. PAYBACK & PARTICIPATION • Payback is based on the number of paid entries. Participation is open only to MLF members who are 18 years of age or older and have qualified or otherwise received an invitation to compete. Any person’s participation in any tournament is at the sole discretion of MLF officials. Any pro who, in the judgment of the tournament director, is disabled or handicapped in such a manner as to compromise his or her safety or the safety of other competitors or the boating public may not be eligible to participate. All pros must have a valid fishing license for the waters they fish. Random checks will be conducted at each tournament. Failure to provide proof of a valid fishing license within a reasonable amount of time when requested by the tournament director will result in disqualification for that day and any preceding days in which the license was required for the tournament.  

ENTRY: The top 75 pros from the 2022 Pro Circuit Angler of the Year standings (round 1 qualifiers), top 15 pros from the 2022 Pro Circuit based on lifetime Angler of the Year rank average (excluding their worst year every four years) not included in round 1 qualification (round 2 qualifiers), top five pros from each U.S. division of the 2022 Toyota Series as defined in Toyota Series rules (round 3 qualifiers), 2022 All-American boater-division winner, 2022 TBF National Championship boater-division winner, and highest finishing pro from the International division at the 2021 Toyota Series Championship (round 4 qualifiers), Bass Pro Tour pros who did not requalify for the 2023 Bass Pro Tour season and five sponsor exemptions have until Nov. 7, 2022, to secure entry in all six (6) Invitationals. Round 1, 2, 3 and 4 qualifiers, Bass Pro Tour pros who did not requalify for the 2023 Bass Pro Tour and sponsor exemptions must enter all six (6) tournaments to secure their invitation. Entries from 2023 Bass Pro Tour anglers fishing all six (6) Invitationals will be accepted Nov. 8, 2022. If demand exceeds availability, entry will be awarded based on random drawing from the pool of Bass Pro Tour anglers entering. Entries from 2023 Bass Pro Tour anglers fishing five (5) or fewer Invitationals will be accepted Nov. 9, 2022, based on availability. If demand exceeds availability in any Invitational, entry will be awarded based on random drawing from the pool of Bass Pro Tour anglers entering the event. Entries from 2022 Pro Circuit anglers not included in round 1 and 2 fishing all six (6) Invitationals will be accepted Nov. 10, 2022, based on availability, starting with the highest-ranked angler in 2022 Angler of the Year standings. Entries from 2022 Pro Circuit anglers fishing five (5) or fewer Invitationals will be accepted Nov. 11, 2022, based on availability, starting with the highest-ranked angler in 2022 Angler of the Year standings. Any remaining spots will be filled by league invitation beginning Nov. 14, 2022. Anglers must enter and pay deposits by 5 p.m. Central time on their assigned entry date or the date an invitation is received. Entries must be made by calling MLF at 270.252.1000. Published payouts for each tournament are based on 150 entries. DEPOSITS AND ENTRY FEES ARE NONTRANSFERABLE AND NONREFUNDABLE ONCE ACCEPTED INTO A TOURNAMENT. Entries received after a tournament has filled will be placed on a waiting list. Those anglers placed on a waiting list and not accepted into the tournament will receive a full refund after the tournament. CONFIRMED ENTRIES ARE CONTINGENT UPON COMPLETE ENTRY FEE BEING PAID BY THE BALANCE DEADLINE DATE. Any entry balances not received by the balance deadline (except those called up from the waiting list) will be charged a $50 late fee. Entry balances not received within three (3) days of the balance deadline will result in forfeiture of the entry and the next eligible angler who followed the purchasing of information, no information and off-limits rules will be invited to compete. 

PAYMENT SCHEDULE: Entry fees are $5,000 per tournament with a $1,000 deposit per tournament due upon entry followed by payment for the balance of the entry fee according to the schedule outlined below:

  • Okeechobee: $1,000 due upon entry and $4,000 due by: Jan. 17, 2023
  • Clarks Hill: $1,000 due upon entry and $4,000 due by: Feb. 6, 2023
  • Eufaula: $1,000 due upon entry and $4,000 due by: Mar. 23, 2023
  • Lake of the Ozarks: $1,000 due upon entry and $4,000 due by: Apr. 12, 2023
  • Potomac River: $1,000 due upon entry and $4,000 due by: May 26, 2023
  • Mississippi River: $1,000 due upon entry and $4,000 due by: Jul. 3, 2023

A pro may be permitted to miss a tournament for proper cause with prior approval from the tournament director. Missing a tournament does not relieve a pro from his/her obligation to pay the full entry fee for the event. There are no refunds for missed events. Missing an event without prior approval will result in ineligibility to participate in future Tackle Warehouse Invitationals.

3. POINT STANDINGS, REQUALIFICATION & BASS PRO TOUR ADVANCEMENT • 200 points are awarded to the winner of each qualifying tournament, 199 to 2nd, 198 to 3rd, etc. All pros who receive weight credit receive points. The top pro from the point standings after six (6) tournaments wins the Tackle Warehouse Invitational Angler of the Year title. The top eight (8) pros based on Angler of the Year rank qualify for the 2024 Bass Pro Tour. The top 75 pros based on Angler of the Year rank requalify for the 2024 Tackle Warehouse Invitationals. All ties will be broken first by total weight for the season, then by total fish for the season and then by total live fish for the season.

4. PURCHASING OF INFORMATION • The purchasing of, or bartering for, information about locating or catching fish on tournament waters, including but not limited to GPS waypoints (other than through commercially available sources) and the hiring of fishing guide services is not permitted once the schedule is announced or a contestant becomes aware of a tournament location, whichever date is earliest. The sharing of tournament winnings with noncontestants in exchange for information about locating or catching fish on tournament waters is strictly prohibited and will be cause for disqualification from the entire tournament. The purchasing of, or bartering for, fishing locations from another contestant is strictly prohibited and will be cause for both contestants to be disqualified from the entire tournament. 

5. NO INFORMATION, OFF-LIMITS, PRACTICE & COMPETITION • Tournament waters will go off-limits thirty (30) days prior to the first practice day in all tournaments. Pros may not enter tournament waters to fish, test equipment, sightsee, or for any reason without MLF permission during the off-limits period. Pros may not purposely, knowingly or intentionally obtain information or advice from noncontestants about locating or catching fish on tournament waters once the off-limits period begins. Any pro who inadvertently receives information from a noncontestant about locating or catching fish on tournament waters must contact the tournament director as soon as practical and share the information. If the information is determined to be relevant, the tournament director will share it with the entire field. Pros are permitted to talk with other Tackle Warehouse Invitational pros about tournament waters and share tackle until they are eliminated from competition, at which time they are considered noncontestants. Pros are allowed to personally research public information such as maps, internet search engines, print material, etc. and to purchase charts and maps through commercially available sources. Pros are not permitted to view MLF live on-the-water coverage or archived MLF live on-the-water coverage from the current tournament after competition has begun until they are eliminated from competition. Viewing coverage from past tournaments is permissible. Beginning with practice and extending through competition, pros may not place markers, brush or other physical fish attractors, including chum of any kind, in tournament waters nor may they have someone do so on their behalf. Beginning with practice and extending through competition, pros may not participate in the practice of “hole sitting” by anyone. Pros eliminated after each round of competition are considered noncontestants. Tournament waters will reopen for practice three days prior to registration day. Tournament waters are off-limits on registration day. No practice is permitted at night during the designated practice period just before each tournament. Pros may only be on the water from 30 minutes before sunrise through 30 minutes after sunset. Pros may practice alone, with an approved media representative or a guest arranged by MLF. Media representatives and guests are not permitted to fish or assist in locating fish. Flights over tournament waters, including drones, are not permitted beginning with the start of the off-limits period, extending through practice and competition days. Drones are permitted by approved media representatives working on a pro’s behalf. Pros may not view drone video prior to or during a tournament unless the video is made public on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube and MLF is tagged. Quasi-public websites, blogs and/or social media pages, including but not limited to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope, set up for the specific purpose of sharing information with individuals or a small group of individuals are NOT public. Media representatives must get approval from the tournament director prior to flying a drone. Passenger flights that momentarily cross tournament waters enroute to the tournament location are permitted. 

                                           No Information/

Tournament                         Off-limits Starting Date          Practice Dates                    Registration/Off Day

Okeechobee                          Jan. 5, 2023                            Feb. 4-6, 2023                     Feb. 7, 2023

Clarks Hill                            Jan. 25, 2023                           Feb. 24-26, 2023                 Feb. 27, 2023

Eufaula                                 March 11, 2023                       Apr. 10-12, 2023                 Apr. 13, 2023

Lake of the Ozarks                 March 31, 2023                       Apr. 30-May 2, 2023           May 3, 2023

Potomac River                       May 14, 2023                          Jun. 13-15, 2023                  Jun. 16, 2023

Mississippi River                   June 21, 2023                          Jul. 21-23, 2023                  Jul. 24, 2023

6. REGISTRATION & PRETOURNAMENT MEETING • Each pro must participate in the online pretournament meeting held at 1 p.m. local time the day before each tournament begins. In an emergency or due to an MLF sponsor obligation, pros may request permission from the tournament director miss the meeting. It is the pro’s responsibility, however, to know takeoff times, check-in times, off-limits areas, size and creel limits, and any other relevant tournament information that may be presented in the meeting. Pros who fail to notify the tournament director and do not participate in the pretournament meeting may be fined $100 that will be donated to the MLF Foundation. In-person registrations and pretournament meetings may be held in place of online meetings at select tournaments, in which case the times and locations will be distributed to the field via text message. 

7. SAFETY • Safe boating must be observed at all times. The provisions of this rule apply during practice and from boat check until weigh-in each day of the tournament. Each pro and any person practicing with a pro is required to wear a fastened U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device anytime the combustion engine is running. All boats must be equipped with a factory-installed emergency ignition-shutoff device that must be securely attached to the driver’s body with a standard-length, factory tether whenever the combustion engine is running. Pros may fish and charge batteries using an onboard charger by letting the combustion engine idle in neutral only if the boat is equipped with a certified and functioning wireless ignition-shutoff device and everyone in the boat is wearing a fastened U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device. All persons must be seated and a driver must be behind the steering wheel in full control of the boat whenever it is on plane or the combustion engine is running and in gear. At the discretion of the tournament director, tournament days may be shortened, postponed or canceled due to unsafe weather or water conditions. Pros may leave their boat and seek shelter in bad weather or when danger is imminent. Pros involved in boating accidents and/or safety incidents may be required to complete a BoatUS Foundation boating safety course before participating in another MLF tournament. A free course for each state is available at boatus.org. 

8. SPORTSMANSHIP • All pros are required to follow high standards of sportsmanship, courtesy and conservation and to conduct themselves in a manner that will be a credit to themselves, to MLF, MLF’s sponsors, the sport of fishing and MLF’s efforts to promote the sport. Conduct not complying with these standards includes, but is not limited to, the following:

•     Violation of, or failure to comply with, any of the rules for the 2023 Tackle Warehouse Invitationals.

•     Consumption and/or possession of alcoholic beverages or any kind of mind-altering substance during registration or tournament hours extending through the weigh-in procedure.

•     Abuse of, or addiction to, mind-altering substances.

•     Conviction of a felony within the past 36 months.

•     Suspension/disqualification, probation or ban from any tournament or fishing organization.

•     Boat operation in an unsafe or unsportsmanlike manner.

•     Violation of a posted no-wake area.

•     Publicly criticizing or questioning the integrity of MLF and/or MLF officials, including but not limited to MLF rules, policies and procedures.

•     Dissemination of disparaging content or content that one should reasonably know would harm the reputation of MLF, MLF officials or MLF sponsors.

•     Any other words, conduct or actions reflecting unfavorably upon efforts to promote safety, sportsmanship, fair competition and compliance with tournament rules, or which fail to comply with the standards set forth in the first sentence of paragraph 8.

In case of any conduct not complying with the standards outlined above, MLF shall have the right to refuse an application to compete, to deny a confirmed application to compete by returning the entry fee (minus deposit), to disqualify a pro or impose any penalty outlined in paragraph 1.

9. BOAT OPERATION • Pros will have complete control of boat operation and waters to be fished. Pros may only use mobile communication devices, including but not limited to, cell phones, tablets, marine radios, walkie-talkies, CBs, etc., during tournament hours in response to an emergency, to communicate with lockmasters about locking, to communicate with the tournament director or to communicate with MLF editors or producers. Pros may use smart phones and/or tablets during tournament hours for GPS, mapping, weather, power generation, barge traffic updates, tidal charts, personal fishing notes and related data. At no time during tournament hours may pros place calls or texts except as outlined above. At no time during tournament hours may pros read or discuss social media posts from other pros. Pros are expected to compete every day for which they are qualified; failure to do so may result in ineligibility to compete in future MLF tournaments. If a special circumstance arises that inhibits a pro’s ability to compete, the tournament director may allow the pro to withdraw from competition and maintain the weight caught to that point. 

10. BOAT & HORSEPOWER REGULATION • All boats must be propeller-driven, a minimum of 18 feet in length and have a rear deck. All boats must be equipped with wheel steering; no other steering device will be permitted. All boats must be equipped with a functioning POV camera focused on the front deck so as to provide a clear view of the pro fishing. The camera must record throughout each tournament day. Each day’s recording must be preserved until the next Tackle Warehouse Invitational and must be turned over to MLF upon request. No barges or similarly cumbersome craft will be permitted. Each boat must have all required U.S. Coast Guard safety equipment. Boats must contain a properly aerated livewell space to maintain alive a limit catch of bass. Minimum horsepower for all outboards used in tournament competition will be 150 horsepower. Maximum horsepower for all outboards used in tournament competition will be 250 horsepower, not to exceed the horsepower capacity set forth on the “Maximum Capacities” placard described below. Each boat must have a clearly legible “Maximum Capacities” (or comparably titled) placard that includes a maximum horsepower rating affixed to the boat by the manufacturer. The horsepower of the outboard engine must not exceed the maximum horsepower capacity specified on this placard or the 250-horsepower maximum set by MLF. By signing the Release of Liability form, pros agree to submit their boat and/or motor to an inspection by MLF personnel. Falsifying information on entry forms or altering the horsepower numbers on the motor or rating placard will be cause for disqualification from the tournament and may result in ineligibility to compete in future MLF tournaments. Fishing platforms must be factory-installed equipment or commercially available aftermarket equipment that is permanently installed in the boat. No portable platforms may be used in tournament competition. Fuel may be carried only in factory-installed (built-in) fuel tanks. Any additional fuel used during the tournament day must be purchased from a retail facility open to the public and pumped through a hose with a nozzle. The use of generators, other than solar or wind-powered generators, is prohibited in pro boats during tournament hours on all competition days. 

11. PERMITTED FISHING METHODS • Fishing is defined as having a lure attached to a line and a rod and reel with the rod in hand. All bass must be caught alive in a conventional sporting manner. All lures must adhere to state regulations. Only artificial lures may be used, with the exception of pork trailers and biodegradable soft baits. Alabama rigs and similar umbrella-type rigs are limited to a maximum of five wires with a maximum of five spinners, five lures and three hooks (single or treble) unless state regulations are more restrictive, in which case state regulations prevail. Only ONE fishing rod may be used at a time. Trolling as a method of fishing is strictly prohibited. Trolling is defined as operating the combustion engine to extend a cast or lengthen a retrieve. All bass caught while sight-fishing must be hooked inside the mouth and immediately shown to your Marshal, MLF camera operator or remote POV camera for verification.

12. PERMITTED FISHING LOCATIONS • Pros may fish anywhere on tournament waters available to the public and accessible by boat except areas posted or otherwise designated as “off-limits,” “no boats,” “keep out,” “restricted,” “no trespassing” or “no fishing” (or similar language or markings intended to restrict public access for fishing or safety) by MLF, commercial property owners and/or local, state or federal officials, or within 50 yards of a pro’s boat that was first anchored. An anchored boat is a boat held in a stable position by a line attached to a weight or by a Power-Pole or similar shallow water anchor with the trolling motor in the up position. All fishing must be conducted from the boat. At no time may a pro leave the boat to land a fish or to make the boat more accessible to fishing waters. The cutting of trees, bushes and/or logs after the off-limits date and/or the removal of official commercial, local, state or federal barricades at any time to make an area more accessible by boat or gain access for fishing is strictly prohibited and may result in disqualification from the tournament. The use of cables, ropes, chains or any type of block and tackle system to maneuver a boat into fishing waters is strictly prohibited and will result in disqualification from the tournament. Pros must leave and return to the check-in by boat. The boat must remain in the tournament waters during the tournament day. No tournament boat may be loaded on a trailer before the weigh-in except with the permission of the tournament director. In the event of equipment failure or emergency, the tournament director must be notified as soon as it is safe to do so. There are then three permitted methods of returning to the check-in: (1) by remaining in your boat and being towed by water, (2) with permission from the tournament director, by entering the boat of another tournament pro or (3) with permission from the tournament director, sending fish back with another tournament pro provided that the fish are adequately marked or separated so as to provide clear distinction of each pro’s catch to the tournament director. Under these three conditions the pros catch may be counted without a penalty (except for late penalties, dead-fish penalties or other penalties pertaining to other tournament rules). Pros who elect to return to the check-in by any other means than cited above will forfeit their day’s catch to that point in time of the tournament day. Abandoning a boat and leaving it adrift without proper tie-off or anchoring after a mechanical failure may result in disqualification of that day’s weight. Any pro returning to the check-in point will be eligible to restart and resume competition under the supervision of the tournament director or his designated tournament official. It is the sole responsibility of pros to locate the tournament director to request a restart.

13. CHECKPOINTS • There will be only one checkpoint for boat check in the morning and one check-in point in the afternoon. Failure to go through boat check and checkout in the morning or failure to check in at the check-in point will result in disqualification. All fishing must cease upon check-in.

14. LATE PENALTY • Pros who are not at the check-in area at the appointed time will be penalized 1 pound per minute, deducted from the total weight, including any weight to be counted toward the Big Bass Award. Any pro more than 15 minutes late will lose credit for that day’s weight.

15. LIVE FISH • Every effort must be made to keep bass alive through the use of a properly aerated livewell. Four ounces will be deducted from the total weight for each dead bass presented for weigh-in. 

16. SCORING • Scoring is determined by the pounds and ounces of each pro’s catch during each tournament. Only largemouth, spotted, redeye, smallmouth or shoal bass, where permitted, are accepted species. No regurgitated forage or other foreign matter may be placed in a bass. The daily limit in each tournament will be five bass unless conditions dictate a reduced limit for conservation purposes or the state or lake limit is less than five, in which case the reduced limits will prevail. After possessing the daily limit, pros must cull immediately upon their next catch. Pros possessing more than the daily limit must notify the tournament director immediately upon discovery of the infraction and reduce his/her catch to the daily limit by releasing live bass. Pros possessing more than the daily limit will be penalized 2 pounds for each bass over the limit. Bass are considered in possession once placed in the boat and fishing or travel has resumed. The minimum length limit for bass will be 12 inches unless the state or lake limit is more than 12 inches or MLF sets a longer limit for a specific tournament, in which case, the state or lake limit or longer limit set by MLF for the tournament will prevail. Bass presented for weigh-in that fail to measure the prescribed length limit will be penalized at the rate of 1 pound for each short bass presented. Bass presented for weigh-in with weight clips attached will be penalized at the rate of 4 ounces for each clip. Once bass are presented for weigh-in, no one may return to a boat to retrieve a bass mistakenly left behind. Each pro’s catch must be presented in an official weigh-in bag. After a pro’s catch is weighed, it must be turned over to MLF or officials designated by MLF for release unless otherwise instructed by the tournament director. On day 3, the top 50 pros based on combined weight from days 1 and 2 compete, and the winner is determined by the combined weight from days 1, 2 and 3. 

17. TIES • The heaviest one-day catch for the tournament will break ties on day 2. If a tie remains, it will be broken by total number of fish for the tournament, then by total number of live fish for the tournament and then by Angler of the Year standings. If a tie remains, pros will remain tied with pros tied below the cut position awarded points equally based on the tied position. For ties in money positions, awards will be combined and split equally among the tied pros. For ties in the cut position, each tied pro will advance to day 3. Ties for first place on day 3 will be broken by a one-hour fish-off. All other ties will be resolved by day-2 standings. If a tie remains, it will be broken first by the heaviest one-day catch for the tournament, then by second heaviest one-day catch for the tournament, then by total number of fish for the tournament, then by total number of live fish for the tournament and then by Angler of the Year standings. If a tie remains below first place, the pros will remain tied with awards combined and split equally among the tied pros and points awarded equally based on the tied position. 

18. LOGO DISPLAY & MEDIA COVERAGE • During all days of competition any and all tobacco logos and logos of bass tournament organizations other than MLF are prohibited and may not be worn or displayed. Vaping, CBD and hemp product logos are not considered tobacco logos. Pros are expected to participate in media opportunities requested by MLF editors and producers during any day of competition. Pros will run their own boats every day of competition unless prior approval to run a replacement boat is received from the tournament director. Each boat must be wrapped or have sufficient promotional decals applied so as to reasonably resemble a wrap. Any pro using decals in lieu of a full wrap must submit the design to the tournament director for approval prior to their first tournament. Each wrap or decal set must include a minimum 4-inch tall MLF logo on both sides of the boat above the rub rail and behind the seating area. MLF will provide logo files. The boat must also include the pro’s name on both sides of the boat above the rub rail and adjacent to the seating area. Pros must wear their own apparel with a minimum 2-inch tall MLF logo on the upper chest above their name and on the upper back above their name. A minimum 2-inch tall Tackle Warehouse Invitational logo must be displayed on the upper left shoulder/sleeve. Apparel as outlined above must be worn from takeoff through weigh-in. MLF reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to prohibit any pro’s apparel or boat wrap/decal set that it finds to be offensive. Any pro wearing a noncompliant jersey or running an unwrapped boat or a boat with a nonapproved decal set is subject to a fine of $500 per tournament. Multiple violations or failure to pay fines may result in ineligibility to compete in future Invitationals. Temporary use of a nonwrapped boat is permitted with prior approval from the tournament director. An engine cowling band or temporary decal will be provided to identify the boat as a contestant’s boat. Pros may not fish while smoking or vaping if an MLF camera is covering the pro. Smoking and vaping are not allowed in the weigh-in line during all days of competition. MLF may, at its sole discretion, place a camera operator or camera equipment in a tournament boat on any day of competition.

19. TRUTH VERIFICATION TEST • Each pro agrees to submit, by signature on the Release of Liability form, to a polygraph or voice stress analysis examination and to abide by its conclusion. Failure to pass an examination will result in disqualification from the tournament. Truth verification tests will be used at MLF’s sole discretion, and the determination of the meaning of the results will be made solely by MLF.

20. INSURANCE • Liability insurance with coverage of not less than $300,000 per occurrence is required of all pros in Tackle Warehouse Invitationals. Proof of insurance must be with the boat being used and must cover all passengers in the boat. Random checks will be conducted. Failure to provide proof of insurance when requested by the tournament director may result in disqualification. 

21. CAPTIONS • The captions at the beginning of each paragraph are intended to facilitate convenience in referring to the various rules. The captions are not part of the substance of the paragraph and should not be used in construction of any paragraph or of this overall set of rules.