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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mike Bleech: Chautauqua Lake is now Major League Fishing

Following a visit that soon will be televised, Chautauqua Lake has become one of the lakes deemed worthy to be part of a new type of competitive bass fishing designed specifically to be viewer-friendly.

It is called Major League Fishing.

Major League Fishing involves two dozen of the more familiar names in competitive bass fishing, the likes of Gary Klein, Kevin VanDam, Shaw Grigsby, Michael Iaconelli, Denny Brauer and Mike McClelland. They team with the Outdoor Channel to bring a revolutionary change in the way people can look at competitive bass fishing.

"In order for us to grow our sport, we've got to get outside the outdoor group," Gary Klein, operating executive of Major League Fishing, said Aug. 29 from the porch of the Athenaeum at Chautauqua Institution.

Fishing, Klein said, has never been called a sport. He wants that to change by the way this new venture is presented. Major League Fishing is intended to be entertaining to people who do not necessarily fish.

"We're trying to create a sport out of fishing," Klein said.

Accomplishing this necessitated a change from the old format of boats blasting off at the tournament start, classically with fog lifting off the water in the background, then competitors weighing in their catches at the end of the event, hopefully with a cheering crowd to liven things up.

The problem is, there is not much for spectators to see in between. Fishing tournaments in various forms were planned for the entertainment of participants. Other than watching blast off and weigh in, people who did not take part as competitors did not have much of an idea of what was happening. Organizers of Major League Fishing realized that a new format was needed in order to reach an audience.

Hence, the changes Major League Fishing brings.

"We're a made-for-TV product," Klein said.

With Major League Fishing, the television audience is in the boat with every competitor. Viewers follow the bass anglers through their high points and their low points. The intensity of competitive bass fishing, something most people have never imagined, is seen in a personalized way. The format reveals the anguish, anxiety, excitement and emotions the public has never understood about fishing competition.

So how did those big-name bass anglers fare at Chautauqua Lake?

For that, you will have to wait until the event is televised. Based on some of the experiences of others at the time of the event, it should be exciting. For details go to the websites or

MIKE BLEECH can be reached by e-mail at Read more of his columns at

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