A major shakeup in the world of competitive fishing will affect tournament anglers from the professional level all the way down to local high school tournaments.
Major League Fishing announced early Thursday morning it has reached an agreement to acquire Fishing League Worldwide, the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization. The deal is expected to close on Oct. 31.
“We’re thrilled about welcoming FLW to the MLF team,” said Jim Wilburn, president and CEO of Major League Fishing, in a news release. “FLW shares our commitment to creating tournaments and opportunities centered on the success of the angler. Through this acquisition, we are better positioned to support anglers and sponsors at all levels.”
Dubbed “the most significant brand merger in competitive bass fishing history” in the news release announcing the agreement, the move links the MLF — which features both a tour and original programming featuring the top professional anglers in the world — to an extensive grassroots organization that serves tens of thousands of competitive anglers from high school and college to weekenders and tour pros in the FLW, including in Kansas. A large chunk of high school anglers, as well as college anglers at Kansas State and Washburn, compete in FLW events during the season.
“Our business plan always included reaching all levels of grassroots fishing,” said Boyd Duckett, MLF co-founder and president of the Professional Bass Tour Anglers’ Association, in the release. “FLW does it best with the Tour and grassroots tournaments; their reputation in competitive bass fishing is remarkable and their culture has always been pro-angler, which makes this the perfect opportunity for both organizations. We couldn’t be more excited about FLW: their team, anglers and sponsors.”
FLW provides anglers of all skill levels the opportunity to compete in more than 290 bass fishing tournaments across five circuits, according to the release.
“This announcement marks a thrilling new chapter in FLW’s history as we join Major League Fishing and begin a new era in the sport of competitive bass fishing,” FLW President of Operations Kathy Fennel said in the release. “As part of the Major League Fishing team, we look forward to enhancing and expanding tournament offerings to our anglers and fans. Our teams have a very similar mission and vision — to support anglers at all levels, provide the industry with unmatched opportunities and grow the sport. The complementary strengths of our organizations make this a win for the entire sport.”
Under the leadership of Irwin Jacobs, FLW expanded the top level of competition to include the industry’s first seven-figure purse.
“It has been our mission since my father, Irwin Jacobs, purchased FLW in 1996 to bring the highest quality of tournaments to anglers, sponsors and fans around the world,” said Trish Blake, FLW president of marketing, in the release. “By joining forces with Major League Fishing, the sport of professional tournament fishing will be taken to new heights for anglers across the world at all levels.”
MLF was established in 2011 as a television product and has grown into a sports league with the launch of the Bass Pro Tour in January. It is a partnership between the PBTAA and Outdoor Sportsman Group (OSG), a division of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment.
MLF’s TV partners include the Outdoor Channel, Discovery, CBS, CBS Sports Network, World Fishing Network, Sportsman Channel and on-demand on MyOutdoorTV.
MLF notably uses a conservation-friendly catch, weigh and immediate-release format where every scorable bass counts and the winner is the angler with the highest cumulative weight.