FLW BFL Series – 2019
2019 was my first-year fishing in the FLW TH-Marine BFL Series as a pro. I say pro angler, because that’s what you’re called if you pay to enter as a boater. And also, because it might be good for my website’s SEO, who knows. If you don’t have a boat, you enter as a co-angler. But I think a true pro has to earn their title, and money can’t really buy that.
I learned a lot from just one year of fishing the FLW BFL series. I decided that even though I call Texas home, that I should enter the Okie division. I live so close to Oklahoma that it’s actually closer for me to fish there. Most of the lakes in Oklahoma are just as far from me as I am from Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend. I didn’t want to fish the same two lakes the entire season, so I decided against the Cowboy Division. If you’re not a local on those two lakes, which geographically speaking, sit side-by-side – may the odds forever be in your favor. If the Cowboy Division ever comes to Lake Tawakoni, sign me up.
Organization is Key
The first thing I learned about fishing the FLW BFL’s is that preparation, keeping an organized calendar, and planning ahead is key. Each tournament has its own registration date. The fee is higher if you register late. If you are a boater, you better find a committed co-angler who will register with you each time – on time. This is called “linking up”. If you’re linked up you never have to feel the panic I did on my first tournament at the Arkansas River. I was new to the whole deal, didn’t know anybody and went in without a link. If you don’t link ahead with a co-angler and there isn’t enough co-anglers for every boater, you might get randomly drawn to share the wheel with another boater on your boat. I don’t know anybody that really prefers to do that. Luckily, it all worked out for me in that tournament and I fished with a co-angler on my boat.
NOTE: If you are fortunate enough to have a wife or significant other who can manage your calendar, book all of your hotels for you, and make sure you don’t miss your registration dates – you better keep them around. My wife does all of this for me. Let’s be honest – I’d probably forget to pack my underwear if she also didn’t pack my suitcase for every tournament. I’m not ashamed to admit that and I’m thankful for her help.
Hotel Parking Lots Suck & Oklahoma doesn’t have Uber
The second thing I learned from fishing the FLW BFL this year is that hotel parking lots are not boater friendly, and Oklahoma doesn’t have Uber. If you’re like me, and you don’t trust leaving your boat and trailer parked without your truck hitched to it, then, prepare yourselves. You’ll be driving around the tiny, narrow street, mini-parking-lot-having little towns with it attached.
The perfect hotels for boaters often don’t come with a 5-star rating. The nice hotels rarely seem to have parking lots big enough. So, if you’re not towing your boat with a mini coop, forget it. For that reason, Google satellite is my new best friend. I can look ahead of time and see what’s going on. Sometimes you have to book the hotel for the parking lot, not the amenities. My wife tries to get the best of both worlds when it comes to that, though. Airbnb is also another great option that we’ve found success with in booking our tournament accommodations.
Fishing is Expensive
The third thing I learned this year, is that fishing is expensive. I already knew that, but now I know that even more-so. Save your money, people. I bet you can easily spend around $1,500 – $2,000 per BFL tournament and that’s if you’re conservative. You’ll need money for tournament entry fees, gas – which adds up quickly, hotels, food, new rods and lures – which you will convince yourself you need to buy, and SURPRISES. I’ll give you an example of a surprise. I was fishing Grand Lake on the last day of my tournament in the middle of the afternoon, in the middle of the lake, when–SURPRISE–my boat broke down! My lower unit went out while I was going about 50 mph. The boat dropped off pad into the water leaving me sitting there like a duck. I called and paid for a tow boat to come get me just so I could make it back to weigh in my single, solitary fish on time. But every fish counts, and I needed all the points I could get. So that surprise right there cost me a few extra Benjamins. But that experience led me to the next thing I learned: winning isn’t always everything but points definitely matter.
Points /point/ noun: what anglers fish for when they don’t win, but still hope to advance. This is the fourth lesson I learned. I didn’t win a single tournament all season in the FLW BFL and I didn’t honestly expect to. I’m a rookie. I had never fished a single Oklahoma lake in my life prior to this, unless you can count Lake Texoma. On average, I was getting in one day of practice before each tournament depending on how much time-off I took from work. I did the best I could with what I put together the day before the tournament. But thanks to the points system, and the fact that I managed to scrounge up at least one good fish or more in every tournament, I was still able to make the cut for regionals. You need to have enough total points in the season to finish 45th or better. I finished my first regular season in 36th. There were guys above me who never won any money at all, but there were guys below me who didn’t make the 45 cut who won thousands of dollars. Winning doesn’t mean you move on. Consistency does. But, once you advance to regionals, you better start winning.
FLW BFL = Money-Maker
One of the last things I learned is that the BFL series is basically just a money-maker for the FLW. With the MLF acquisition of FLW this year, it’s even more obvious. If your goal is to start out fishing the BFL level to advance up the ranks and make it to the Bass Pro Tour, there is one more level of hoops you have to jump through now that you didn’t used to. I’m not saying don’t go for it, good luck to you if you do. Even though they decreased the entry fees, they’ve made it more difficult and more expensive for the average person to advance. More people will be able to enter now because of the lower entry fees to participate, but the payouts are staying the same. I’d rather go pay the higher entry fee to fish the BASS Opens and increase my odds of moving up the ladder if by some chance I hit a winning streak.
My 2020 Season
Because of everything I learned in 2019, for my 2020 season I am going to fish Media Bass Central Teams, Big Bass Tour, and the McKinney Bass Club. I am looking forward to getting started and seeing what this year brings. Good luck to y’all out there fishing the tournament trails.
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If you’re interested in seeing the results and recaps from any of my 2019 tournaments, visit this link.
Keep on rippin’!
Texas Bass Angler