Kayak Bass Series: Paid Exemption Problem – Payne’s Perspective

Payne's Perspective

Chris Payne sees a rules problem with the ambitious Kayak Bass Series. Chris Payne photo.

Chris Payne sees a rules problem with the ambitious Kayak Bass Series. Chris Payne photo.

By Chris Payne

Shortly after this story went live, Robert Field of the Kayak Bass Series announced an immediate rules change. All KBS competitors will qualify for the Classic if they fish three events, no discounts, no exemptions. The KBS statement:

“We originally had the rules set for four events necessary to qualify for the Classic. We immediately began to get feedback and complaints about the logistics and cost of fishing four events. So, Manley Rods decided to step up and offer the discount to help people out. We realize now that was a mistake and was taken the wrong way.

We figure the best way to eliminate all the confusion would be to just drop it down to three events across the board. We tinkered with the idea to create a new, unbranded discount feature but ultimately decided to drop that to eliminate the possibility of just making things more confusing. Any Team Manley Rods members who joined solely for the KBS benefits are being refunded their money, although none have come forth asking that. As far as we can tell, the only people who have joined Team Manley Rods did so because they want the discounts associated with it.” – Robert Field.

The Kayak Bass Series is attempting to do for kayak anglers what BASS did for power boat anglers decades ago. A unified, national trail to determine a true champion of kayak bass fishing has until now been a bit of a pipe dream. The logistics are difficult. The investment as well as the payout has to be right. KBS has taken a big step toward making this all a reality starting in 2015.

As with any new endeavor, situations will arise, decisions made and questions will bubble up. I fully understand nothing is perfect, especially in the first run but when looking through the rules and regulations, a red flag went up.

The main goal of an angler wanting to compete for the KBS Championship is to be a national trail champion and possibly first ever for freshwater bass fishing. Here is the breakdown of how that can happen from kayakbassseries.com:

Anglers only have to fish four (4) of the KBS Opens to qualify for the KBS Classic, no matter what the angler placed during the tournament, or if the participant is a Team Manley Rods Member they only need to fish three (3) of the KBS Opens to qualify for the KBS Classic.

Is this preferential treatment for pro staff? Apparently not. Anyone can be a member of Team Manley Rods. It is different than their pro staff group. It costs $50 to join the Team and allows you to skip an additional event. There are some discounts also afforded you when you join.

Don't I already have to be a KBS member to even fish? Yes. You have to pay the $50 membership as well to enter any of the tournaments.

Maybe it's just me. Paying to be on the Team to get a discount and an exemption feels wrong. I can't imagine the predicament anglers with rod sponsorships feel. It's almost as if they are being penalized. There is apparently an option to keep your payment and joining of the Team private but that feels even worse. Hiding your Team membership through a privacy option, um, no thanks.

The KBS website explains some of the reasoning:
Manley Rods will be paying the amount that would normally go to the KBS Classic for the angler that only fished three (3) KBS Opens (only for those that are a Team Manley Rods member, anyone can become a Team Manley Rods member), this was a great offer to help the angler that might be struggling with the fourth (4) tournament to qualify for the KBS Classic due to work, family or finances.

That's nice of them but seems unnecessary. If you want to make it easier, make the qualifying number three instead of four. If you want to subsidize tournament costs, raise the entry fee or the KBS membership fee or cut a bigger check from Manley Rods to KBS. Saying you're helping anglers save money while they contribute money directly to a sponsor of the tournament just feels off.

It doesn't feel right to have two memberships, an exemption you pay for, privacy options to hide advantages from other sponsors and the sponsor role in the trail rules.

If I were able to make changes, I would make it three events to qualify rather than four if the money worked out. I would not call the exemption (if it continued) anything to do with a sponsor's name that could be a potential conflict for any of the anglers. A name like the "Hardship Exemption" or some other benign term would cause much less grief for sponsored anglers. Additionally I would attach Manley Rod discounts to the KBS membership rather than the exemption.

I don't think the intention of the exemption was setup to staff a fishing team and sell more product but from an outsider's perspective it feels that way. We'll know more in the coming months as the Kayak Bass Series launches. Hopefully KBS will see this from the consumer lens and offer an alternative. If not this year, maybe it can be retooled for 2016.