Right now the two organizations have a tenuous coexistence. Neither B.A.S.S. nor FLW has attempted to pressure anglers into signing exclusive contracts. B.A.S.S. says that, with 600,000 members (that's one of every 400 Americans), it's primarily a conservation and advocacy group and has no reason to care much about Operation Bass, far less feud with it. Jacobs says, a lot more coyly, that he sees no reason the tours can't coexist (and they maintain an unwritten policy of accommodating each other on tournament dates). But the idea that there won't be a head-butting somewhere downriver is naive.
Still, Brauer, for one, hopes it doesn't happen. Standing on the docks at High Rock Lake, wearing an Evinrude cap and a cotton shirt bearing the logos of, among others, Piano tackle boxes, Mustad hooks, Daiwa rods and reels and Bo Hawg Pork Lures, he knows the two-tour system has helped turn that risky decision he made 18 years ago into a dream come true. "I just hope the two tours don't get into a war," says Brauer. "Right now, with the environment the way it is, is the best time in history for the pro bass angler. Believe me, not a day goes by that Shirley and I don't pinch ourselves.
"Retirement? Well, that's a lot of years off. There's no reason a man who stays on top of this game can't be doing it for a long time. Anyway, I know what I'm going to be doing when I retire. I'm goin' fishing. So I might as well do it for money."