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.
FLW Fantasy Fishing changed the era of fantasy sports in its inaugural season in 2008 by awarding the largest prizes in fantasy sports history. FLW Fantasy Fishing continues to captivate players throughout the world by offering some of the richest prizes in fantasy sports. The 2015 Fantasy Fishing season consists of seven tournaments held in conjunction with the Walmart FLW Tour. At each event of the Tour season – six regular-season tournaments and the Forrest Wood Cup – more than $7,000 in cash and prizes are awarded to the top 50 Fantasy Fishing teams. There will even be cash prizes awarded to the top 10 teams at the end of the season based on cumulative point totals, including a $10,000 top prize.
To register for Fantasy Fishing, get a complete list of prizes or view the full set of rules, visit FantasyFishing.com
As chairman and chief executive officer of the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, Irwin L. Jacobs serves as the leader of FLW and visionary founder of FLW Fantasy Fishing.
FLW is, without question, the purveyor of America’s largest and most prestigious fishing tournaments, including the FLW Tour, FLW Series, Bass Fishing League, College Fishing and High School Fishing. Jacobs heads an organization that offers the biggest awards in the sport.
FLW’s tournament portfolio includes the world championship of bass fishing: the Forrest Wood Cup – a no-entry-fee event that offers the sport’s biggest payday. No one has contributed more than Jacobs to putting the sport on the fast track.
As founder of FLW Fantasy Fishing, Jacobs has taken the popularity of professional angling to the next level. Launched in 2007, this series of fantasy tournaments complements Jacobs’ vision to grow fishing beyond the estimated 60 million anglers who participate in the sport annually and build it into a sport that is as much a part of the American psyche as Monday Night Football and NASCAR.
Jacobs has received recognition for his efforts and contributions to the sport of competitive fishing throughout his career and in 2010 was inducted into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame and the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. Jacobs saw the organization he started honored as well with FLW being inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.
Today Jacobs continues to tap into the buying power of the nation’s fishing enthusiasts through new ventures in business and sports. Throughout his career, Jacobs has owned and/or controlled multiple large, small and start-up companies. He is a passionate and relentless innovator, linking sports and business for the benefit of sponsors, fans and anglers alike.
Serving as the president of the marketing division for FLW since 2010, Trisha Blake has been a key contributor to the success and growth of the organization in her tenure with the company. Blake was named senior vice president and chief marketing officer of FLW in 2004 and served as vice president of corporate affairs prior to that.
Blake oversees the sponsorship, creative, interactive and communications departments as well as the marketing and strategic plans for FLW. Blake also works closely with the operations division to maximize activation and exposure for the organization and its partners.
Blake has been instrumental in the development and growth of FLW Fantasy Fishing, which was launched in 2007 with a $1 million award to the player with the top fantasy team. FLW Fantasy Fishing allows anyone, regardless of ability, to compete, follow the sport and win great prizes. This phenomenon continues to increase exposure for fishing beyond the 60 million-plus anglers that participate annually and has attracted fantasy sports competitors from 123 countries.
Blake has two children with her husband, Robert.
Kathy Fennel was appointed president of the FLW operations division in 2010. Fennel oversees day-to-day operations, making sure FLW continues to provide prestigious, well-organized tournaments of which participants, fans and sponsors are proud to be a part.
Fennel has been a key figure in the organization since 1982 and has become one of the most influential people in the fishing industry. Her strength and experience was recognized in 1996 when she was promoted to operations manager. The following year she was appointed vice president of operations, and in 2004 she was promoted to executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Fishing has been a major component of Fennel’s personal and professional life. She grew up in western Kentucky, where fishing plays a major role in the local economy, and she has played a pivotal role in numerous tournament innovations such as improved live-release techniques, automated weigh-in procedures and establishing tournament formats for television broadcast.
The growth of FLW has Fennel overseeing and working directly with tournament directors, site solicitation, logistics, information technology, FLW Bass Fishing magazine, “FLW” television, angler management and numerous other daily responsibilities.
She also works with the marketing division to ensure exposure for the organization and its partners.
FLW continues to stand by its motto that the organization must remain committed to "give back and improve each community we visit." As such, FLW and its angling staff continue to donate significant time and resources toward enriching our communities and tournament venue sites.
Outreach initiatives include school visits by our angler teams to foster environmental education and valuable natural resource education. In addition, the FLW staff regularly schedules hospital visits to boost the morale of sick and handicapped children in our communities.
In addition, the organization participates in a wide variety of partnerships, which help to enrich inner-city youth programs while providing disadvantaged children within educational opportunities focusing on the great outdoors. Community outreach has, and always will be, an integral part of the FLW tradition of valued community service