TULSA, Okla. — Major League Fishing (MLF) has announced plans to acquire professional bass fishing circuit rival Fishing League Worldwide (FLW). According to an official statement from both parties, a letter of intent has been signed.
If completed, the move would instantly add a membership organization with an estimated 200,000 members to MLF’s lineup, including a magazine, popular website, youth programs and numerous tournament circuits (including the FLW Tour) which MLF would likely use as a pipeline to its premier events. MLF launched its Bass Pro Tour in 2019 with 80 top bass anglers recruited from the FLW Tour and Bassmaster Elite Series.
“We’re thrilled about welcoming FLW to the MLF team,” said Jim Wilburn, President and CEO of Major League Fishing. “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.”
“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,” said FLW President of Operations Kathy Fennel. “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.”
FLW was created in 1996, when the late Minneapolis businessman Irwin L. Jacobs purchased and renamed Operation Bass in honor of Ranger Boats founder Forrest L. Wood. Under Jacobs leadership, FLW raised tournament entry fees and payouts and brought numerous non-endemic sponsors into the tournament world. Today, FLW offers more tournaments than any other organization in the world, with circuits in the United States, Canada, China, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, and South Africa.
These tournaments function at every level of fishing from high school to college, semi-pro to pro. The company carries with it major sponsorships from brands like Costa, YETI, Mercury, Bass Pro Shops, GoPro, Rapala, Abu Garcia, Berkley, Strike King, Zoom, AFTCO and Lew’s.
Changes to FLW
According to a Bassfan.com report, the deal would also signal significant changes for FLW. Its top-flight FLW Tour series would be slotted beneath MLF’s Bass Pro Tour in tournament hierarchy, and undergo a rebranding as the FLW Pro Circuit. Each year, the top 10 anglers in the FLW Pro Circuit would earn the opportunity to move up to MLF’s Bass Pro Tour. In addition, FLW’s $300,000 signature event, the FLW Cup—one of the most storied tournaments in all of bass fishing—would be phased out in favor of a new Angler of the Year finale.
Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed.