The concept is legitimacy. Legitimacy is simply ‘the act of being legitimate’ which in turn is defined by Miriam Webster as, among other things, “...conforming to recognized principles or accepted rules and standards”. This concept has permeated our society for many years. Most recently from the Atlanta Falcon’s ‘Too Legit to Quit’ chant in the 1990s to the current controversy over the legitimacy of our new POTUS, in our political discourse. For the sake of this piece, I am using the word legitimacy to refer to the trust and confidence one has in those in a position of authority. When authority figures take action without the confidence and trust of their people, no matter who they may be, this can be considered an ‘illegitimate action’.
OK with that said, I think we have had enough philosophy for one blog. Team FishDancer just returned from Madeira Beach, Florida where we attended one of the most legitimate season kickoff parties we have ever attended. The tournament series is called the Wild West, a three event series of 50 ‘elite’ fishing teams featuring a no cost ‘Showdown’ fourth event for the top 10. All events are held out of John’s Pass, with a simple point per pound scoring system. In an attempt to make the competition stronger the tournament committee has instituted a unique idea in KMTs, rolling western boundaries for the events (open for the first event, 60 miles for the 2nd event, 40 miles for the 3rd event and 60 miles for the Showdown). The north/south boundaries are 99 miles each. With the SKA PRO Circuit in 2015 being so poorly run and 2016’s attempt to revamp the PRO, completely illegitimate to the anglers, ‘THE’ FishDancer and I have been keeping an eye on the Wild West series for the past few years as a possible replacement on our tournament schedule. All we can say is after the kickoff party we are glad we signed up early to be part of the Wild West.
As I have written so many times, Team FishDancer LOVED competing along the traditional version of the SKA PRO circuit and fished it every year since qualifying in 2001. Teams had to finish in the top 10 in SKA divisional competition for the right to join the PRO circuit, so all teams competing had built in legitimacy from the shared accomplishment. Travel to new and yes sometimes distand waters, head-to-head competition and a simple scoring system of one point per pound of fish weighed added to the legitimacy of the PRO circuit. There was an ‘esprit de corps’ among the teams fishing this ‘travelling circus’ – and there was a buzz in each city- when 75 to 100 boats showed up in advance of the event to pre-fish and bait fish. It was, in our experience the best KMT time we have ever had and we still miss it.
We have always believed that even though the landscape of sponsors, economics and ownership of the SKA has dramatically changed, the demand for a series similar to the traditional PRO tour was still there. Many have indicated we are wrong and there is no longer a desire among teams to compete along an 'elite' series such as the PRO circuit. Despite many discussions, calls and emails, the SKA was no longer interested and let the PRO tour and PRO anglers suffer an ignominious demise with its apathy toward the circuit. Enter the Wild West Series.
While NOT a carbon copy of the PRO circuit, the Wild West series offers teams like ours enough of a challenge and enough of the benefits of the PRO circuit, to give them a try. The tournament director and his wife, James and Jenny Malz, are enthusiastic about their events and very focused on providing the anglers a fun and exciting experience. At the kickoff party, held at The Hut in Madeira Beach, all of the rules were explained and as a new team to the series, Nancy and I were made to feel welcome and at home. The limited field of 50 was filled during the kickoff party and with sponsors like Intrepid and Mercury, the payouts are similar to what the PRO circuit offered. In addition the SKA will sanction two of the three Wild West events as SKA division VI tournaments allowing the Wild West participants to earn more winnings for top placement and SKA points towards a trip to the Big Dance in October. What is not to like?
Team FishDancer made the 500 mile round-trip from Fernandina Beach to attend this event even though we were already registered. Why? To meet the teams, tournament directors, scout out the local area and add additional legitimacy to our team with the other competitors. Famous film director Woody Allen once notably said "....showing up is 80% of life..."!! Of note to us was; the lack of any SKA representation at this kickoff party – which was held some 40 miles from SKA headquarters? This lack of 'showing up' in their own back yard was even more egregious considering the SKA's recent sanctioning of two of the Wild West events as division VI events! Legitimate? We report you decide.
Effort is generally rewarded and as Peter Gallagher the actor once said “..to stay on the map you’ve got to keep showing up..”. Team FishDancer, having tournament fished for more than 20 years now, works hard at this and we continue to show up thereby keeping ourselves legitimate and somewhere on the kingfishing map. Hard work? You bet. But despite all of the protestations as to why the PRO circuit no longer works, James and Jenny have been proving my hypothesis (for several years now) that there is still demand for an elite series. You see teams will respond to legitimate leadership in the tournament arena and the Wild West, as Deon Sanders once said is ‘Too Legit to Quit”…..