The tournament-fishing landscape changed dramatically on July 24, 1996, when Minneapolis businessman Irwin L. Jacobs purchased a little known bass-tournament organization in the small town of Gilbertsville, Ky., renamed it FLW after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, and signed major corporations as sponsors for the world’s most lucrative bass-tournament circuit — the FLW Tour.
Jacobs recognized that there was spectacular demand among enthusiastic bass anglers for well-organized tournaments with all-cash paybacks. His goal was to grow the sport and increase its participation base by supplying these anglers with opportunities to compete in professionally conducted events that would also engage the sport’s growing fan base through innovative print, online and television coverage.
Jacobs envisioned a complete hierarchy of tournament circuits that would accommodate everyone from the beginner to the full-time touring professional. The key to the hierarchy was a series of qualifying circuits that allowed anglers to advance to the next level of competition and correspondingly bigger payouts.
Since Jacobs first sought to change the tournament fishing landscape in 1996, FLW has become the only tournament organization to serve bass and walleye anglers of all skill levels from coast to coast. The company is the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, offering bass and walleye anglers the chance to compete and win millions of dollars through nearly 200 tournaments in 2011. FLW has consistently been at the forefront in purses and continues to reward anglers competing in various circuits and the fans that follow the sport.