Fishing & Boating News

Open Letter from Irwin Jacobs

FLW Outdoors aspirations and intentions

by: Irwin L. Jacobs, chairman of FLW Outdoors,

(Oct. 20, 2005 - Benton, KY.) These are exciting times for our company and for anglers everywhere. In order to give anglers the information needed to make good decisions about the opportunities that are available to them, I felt it necessary to give my perspective on the sport and set the record straight concerning the aspirations and intentions of FLW Outdoors. I've said publicly on many occasions that FLW Outdoors does not, in any way, view BASS or any other tournament organization as competition. We exist solely to grow the family-friendly sport of fishing at all levels. The announcement of the Wal-Mart FLW Series was a direct result of phone calls, e-mails, letters and visits from anglers expressing their deep concern about recent decisions by BASS to raise entry fees, limit field sizes and restrict logos, making it difficult, if not impossible, for many of them to continue their professional fishing careers. We decided then that FLW Outdoors would step up and provide an opportunity for these anglers to remain in the sport while further enhancing opportunities for anglers already fishing FLW Outdoors events. At a meeting in my office on Oct. 3, I told two professional anglers on the spot that I would personally finance and announce within 10 days that FLW Outdoors would offer an alternative to BASS in order to keep their friends from quitting professional angling. The hundreds of visits, phone calls and e-mails that we've received from anglers expressing support for our actions since the introduction of the Wal-Mart FLW Series on Oct. 11 clearly indicate that we have made the right decision. And I am pleased to say that the FLW Outdoors sponsor family immediately stepped up to support this new series. FLW Outdoors and BASS have significantly contrasting views about what "growing the sport" means. BASS' vision of growing the sport includes raising entry fees and limiting field sizes. Under this format, many anglers who proudly supported the organization for years are left without a place to fish. In addition, BASS has completely pulled out of the West, and the organization's new Northern and Southern Tours - which are comparable to FLW's Stren Series in paybacks, only with double the entry fees - have excluded many anglers who have traditionally competed in BASS Open divisions. Growing a sport, any sport, means allowing people to compete based on their abilities as an athlete. What would happen to the PGA, NFL or NBA if fewer athletes were allowed to compete even though they have demonstrated an ability to perform at their sport's highest level? Many athletes - some of whom could potentially become the best in their chosen sport - would not be given an opportunity to succeed. There are currently at least 265 players on the PGA Tour, 223 players on the Champions Tour and 360 on the Nationwide Tour, yet the superstars of golf consistently rise to the top based solely on their performance on the course. Would golf be more exciting and rewarding if the field, and thereby the level of competition, were artificially reduced to just 100 competitors? I don't believe so. The same is true in fishing. If you give people with the skills to compete an opportunity to shine, the best will always rise to the top. Consistent with our desire to grow the sport at all levels, FLW Outdoors is proud to highlight the accomplishments of anglers in not only our own tournaments but also tournaments held by other organizations. Anglers work hard for these honors, and they deserve to be recognized on stage, in print and on television whenever the opportunity presents itself. It is my understanding that BASS' new rules expressly prohibit anglers from displaying the logos or names of other tournament organizations on their clothing or boats on any day of competition. This stance effectively prohibits many anglers from participating due to existing personal sponsorship contracts. The new Wal-Mart FLW Series has no such rule. Other than alcohol and tobacco logos, anglers fishing the Wal-Mart FLW Series can display any logo desired on their boats, which will be used on all four days of competition in every qualifying event. We are thrilled that the new Wal-Mart FLW Series will be part of next year's expanded lineup of "FLW Outdoors" programming on FSN, which will feature more than 40 original shows. "FLW Outdoors" is televised nationwide every Sunday and is one of the highest rated daytime shows on FSN, which reaches a universe of approximately 80 million homes. As I'm sure most sports fans already know, FSN also serves as the cable-television home to 60 of the 81 MLB, NHL and NBA teams based in the United States. Additionally, "FLW Outdoors" is also televised on the American Forces Network, which reaches more than 800,000 servicemen and women stationed around the world in 177 countries and aboard naval ships, and select broadcasts are shown live on the Wal-Mart Television Network reaching a potential audience of more than 100 million Wal-Mart customers each week. FLW Outdoors will also be making a formal announcement very soon detailing an agreement we have reached with Matchroom to broadcast "FLW Outdoors" internationally. This partnership will provide an additional 200 million households - 100 million in Asia and 100 million in Europe. FLW Outdoors anglers are fortunate to have the backing of Wal-Mart and 45 of America's premier brands. This impressive lineup illustrates FLW Outdoors' financial stability and commitment to competitive fishing. I would like to reiterate my belief that fishing is a wholesome, family-oriented activity. Therefore, we do not accept money from alcohol, tobacco and other companies whose products we feel are inappropriate for young fans. We feel it is our responsibility to uphold high standards of integrity and morals for our children and grandchildren. In summary, FLW Outdoors is not only stable, but rapidly growing. Payouts are increasing at an impressive rate. Media exposure is at an all-time high and expanding, with some of the best television ratings in the industry. Our sponsor lineup continues to grow, and their commitment to the sport continues to accelerate. In 2006, with the addition of the Wal-Mart FLW Series, the expansion of our newly launched saltwater circuits and the addition of Ranger and Stratos owners' tournaments, FLW Outdoors will conduct 244 events with over 93,000 entries, while offering over $35 million in prize money. Our tournament trails continue to expand and provide more opportunities for more anglers, while our standards remain high and unwavering. In short, anglers participating in FLW Outdoors events will have more opportunities than ever in the coming years. With the opening of registration for the Wal-Mart FLW Series on Friday, Oct. 21, we look forward to ushering in a new era in FLW Outdoors history. Yours very truly, [i]Irwin Jacobs[/i]