The Last World Championship

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In a few short days, bass fishing is going to have a very bittersweet moment. For all intents and purposes, fans of the sport will see the last “real” Bassmaster Classic. This is the last time “The Super Bowl of Bass Fishing” will consist of the best of the best. The sad truth is, BASS’s field is just to watered down after the mass migration to Major League Fishing, and in 2020, The Bassmaster Classic will likely be a novelty.

. There has always been something romantic about The Classic, and it is the one bass tournament in the world that is allowed to be dramatic. What could be more exciting than the 60ish best Pros in the World trying to find the 15 biggest bass in a lake for three days? The Classic gave fans the best moments in the Sport. Takahiro Omori winning on the final day with only minutes left, Mike Iaconelli’s “Never Give Up!” speech, Kevin VanDam stunning Jeff Kriet on Lay Lake, and more recently Jordan Lee’s almost impossible comeback on final day. What made these moments special is they happened on the grandest stage of them all, on a weekend where the whole realm of outdoor sports stops to take note.

At least for the foreseeable future, bass fishing only gets to have that weekend one more time. Only one more time will the best in the best compete under the simple rule of “15 biggest wins”. By next year, it’ll just be another tournament. It will have a ton of talent, but it won’t have THE Talent. The 2020 winner’s dreams will have come true, but in the back of his mind, the only thing that would have made it sweeter is beating the cast of the former Bassmaster Elite Series. Fans will pay attention, but not like they will this year, or in years past. The Bassmaster Classic is about to become very watered down.

Of course, the elephant in the room is the New MLF Bass Pro Tour’s world championship. If it’s anything like the first couple of events of the new MLF trail, in my opinion it’s likely to be fairly lackluster. Call me old-fashioned, but the every fish counts format is not nearly as exciting. Though the MLF has without a doubt the best of the best, and so will the Championship, you don’t have to best to win it. I’ll probably take some flack for saying this, but we can all go out and catch 14 inch line burners. For the first time ever, the eventual world champion has the chance of winning on the backs of small fish. The format in the MLF has always had a way of making pros look surprisingly more average than a traditional 5-fish limit format. The shotgun and elimination rounds make it interesting, but they still don’t obligate great fisherman to catch great fish. A check that large and a title that significant should not hinge on catching more skinny 1 pound rails than everyone else. You don’t necessarily have to out-prepare or out-talent the like of Kevin VanDam, Skeet Reese, or Jordan Lee. You don’t have to force yourself to target bigger fish. You don’t have to grind. You can be in a position to win by just getting more mediocre bites.

I haven’t forgotten about the Forrest Wood Cup either. I’ve been one round from it twice and the thought of making it made FLW College National Championship appearances seem like a qualifier more than a league title. But it isn’t, and never has been The Classic. Even when it was paying out a million dollars it wasn’t The Classic. Careers are born in the Forrest Wood Cup, but legends get born in The Classic. The MLF Championship, The Bassmaster Classic, and the Forrest Wood Cup in 2020 could have us wondering which is the most significant, and who really was the world champion that year.

That’s why what’s about to happen next month is so significant, and it might end up being the greatest bass tournament we’ve ever seen. Even though they would never admit it, the contestants fishing the Tennessee River next month know it could be the last time The Bassmaster Classic means everything for the winner. Cream is going to rise to the top, and the best of the best will try harder than we’ve ever seen to hoist that trophy and have the confetti fall in the sport’s most pinnacle moment. If you can make the trip to Knoxville, by all means do it, especially if you have never been to a Bassmaster Classic. Because at least until the winds of change blow in the world of pro bass fishing again, we’re likely about to witness the end of an era, and the last great World Championship.

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