No more Cinderella stories!
If B.A.S.S. and their Elite Series were a politician they'd be accused of being a flip-flopper. Why you may ask? Pretty simple, rules baby, rules. In particular, changing them with frequency. The most recent is the elimination of the "win and you're in" rule at the Elite Series level. No longer is an angler guaranteed a berth into the Bassmaster Classic with a victory. It is now based solely on Angler of the Year (AOY) points. Eh, fine, really has been that way regardless of "win and you're in".
However, the rule of winning a single event and qualifying for the Classic still applies to the Open events, aka minor leagues. That is foolishness. The financial commitment the Elite anglers need to make to fish that circuit is steep, think $75,000 or more per season. Plus, it is supposed to be the best anglers fishing in the Elites, not some minor-leaguer who had one terrific event. Funny thing though, many of the Elite pros fish the Opens so they can get a shot at a guaranteed Classic spot. Hmm? Seems a bit fishy to me, but I digress, back to the Elite Series.
Over the last decade we've seen the Elite Series formed. The entry fees skyrocket. We've seen a post-season deal that cost Skeet Reese a couple of AOY titles. We've seen the All-Star event. We've seen the brand new and oh so boring AOY Championship this year. Here's hoping that it doesn't bore the fan base to near death again next season. Now, we've seen the elimination of "win and you're in". Again so what, right? I'm not so sure.
First, fans like to see those who compete and win events go toe-to-toe at the top single event of the season, the Classic. Second, "win and you're in" creates drama that the AOY points race can't. Just think, the old pro who doesn't have the ability to stay in the Top 35 every year, but is still good enough to stay in the Elites has a terrific event and wins. That pro is now back at the Classic, performing on the biggest stage in competitive bass fishing. Or perhaps the rookie who is sucking wind, but has one magical tournament and makes it. Great drama, great stories, interesting to a fan base hungry for something other than some boring "TV making moment" garbage that we are too often bombarded with as fans of competitive angling.
Finally, Brandon Palaniuk. This season, Palaniuk qualified for the Classic via his AOY points. However, the last two seasons he made it to the big show via the "win and you're in" rule. The excitement and drama that created, particularly last year where he was disqualified from an event and then in dramatic fashion destroys the competition in the following tourney to win and make it to the Classic was epic. If the "win and you're in" rule didn't exist all of that interest is gone. All of the drama, intrigue, etc. Brandon Palaniuk isn't the big star he is today. He's a guy who's won a couple of events. There are plenty of those already in the Elite Series. Guess what, fans don't know who they are.