The unique format of Major League Fishing sets the league apart from other bass fishing tournaments, and also helps ensure the safety of our anglers, boat officials, and all those involved in the events.
“While the sport’s a great one, I understand all the danger points that are involved,” said MLF Commissioner Don Rucks. “When you’re dealing with high adrenaline… When you’re dealing with large horsepower engines and big waterways, it says to me, ‘You better be prepared because those things can cause trouble, unintentionally.’”
Rucks has been in the bass fishing business for more than 30 years. He designed the MLF format to extend the life of the sport, and to protect the participants.
MLF uses smaller boats than those used on other major tours. Those boats, approximately 18 feet long, also have smaller engines (150 horsepower). MLF events also take place on smaller bodies of water, which results in an overall reduction of speed, less wake, and less risk for everyone on board.
Lead Boat Official Aaron Beshears says MLF also has a medical emergency plan that outlines what MLF anglers, boat officials and staff are expected to do during a medical emergency.
“It was very imperative that we take our safety to another level,” Beshears said.
All boat officials go through medical training with a certified paramedic trainer near the MLF Headquarters in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The training lasts for an entire day and includes first aid, CPR, and defibrillator training. Beshears says the officials even learn how to remove hooks from skin.
“We hope for the best but we’re prepared for the worst,” he said.
When it comes to weather safety, Beshears says there is an official in charge at every competition that keeps a close eye on the forecast. If there’s a potentially dangerous storm rolling in, that official will shut down the competition and tell everyone on the boats to seek shelter. However, anyone on the water can make that call as well.
“Anyone in the boat—the angler, boat official, or the camera man, if any one of the three feels that their life is in danger, or the weather is too dangerous to compete in, they can shut down competition,” Beshears explained. “They can say, ‘Hey guys I don’t feel safe, let’s stop fishing.’ At that point, the boat official will contact the official in charge, the official in charge will get ahold of the rest of the competition, and everyone will cease fishing.”
Beshears says that’s important because sometimes there will be a serious storm on one side of the lake, while the weather at the boat ramp is clear.
The MLF SCORETRACKER system allows everyone to communicate, no matter where they are on the lake.
“Our SCORETRACKER system allows us to know the exact location of all the boats that are in that day’s competition at any time,” Rucks explained. “So that also helps us if there is an accident, or someone is in need of a paramedic, we can get there quicker and faster.”
When anglers are competing on the lake, there is always a certified paramedic waiting at the boat ramp in case something goes wrong.
“If an emergency happens out on the water and we can’t bring the injured to the launch ramp, we have a backup boat available with a driver that will take that medic to the site of the accident,” Beshears said.
Safety is a factor in every decision that MLF Officials make, even when it comes eyewear. MLF proudly partners with Wiley X to protect the eyes of anglers, boat officials and event staff.
“True eye protection is the foundation of what Wiley X was built on 30+ years ago when the company began providing ballistic eye protection to the U.S. Military,” said Wiley X Director of Outdoor Sales Ray Hill. “Those same core strengths and technologies go in to our premium polarized eyewear models today.”
Wiley X eyewear protects the eyes of MLF anglers, boat officials and photographers
Hill says in the world of fishing, there are numerous threats to anglers’ eyes, from intense sunlight and glare to high speed wind and flying objects like hooks, jigs or weights. That’s why all MLF personnel in the MLF boats are required to wear a provided pair of Wiley-X protective eye gear at all times during events.
“Polarized eyewear is a critical piece of equipment to help anglers perform at their best and with Wiley X premium polarized eyewear, you not only get 100% UV protection and polarization, but you also get safety rated frames and lenses to keep your eyes protected and performing at peak levels during long days on the water,” Hill said.
Hill says you only get one set of eyes, so it’s important to protect them with high quality, safety rated eye protection.