Austin, Texas is no stranger to big time sporting events down through the years, something that even a casual glance at the daily sport’s page will show.
From high powered high school football teams to the tower lighting championships of the University of Texas’ various Longhorns sports teams to the high speed of Formula One auto racing to ESPN’s X Games to the Dell Match Play World Golf Championship event, there is plenty to see and do in ATX.
In recent months, you can now add championship bass fishing to that list, thanks to nearby Lake Travis which hosted an FLW Tour event a year ago along with next week’s 2018 Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest tournament.
Benefitting the inland fisheries work of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the May 17-20 Bassmaster Elite Series event is a four-day, $1 million dollar, 108-angler tournament featuring many of the sport’s biggest names.
Scheduled to be held in Jonestown - just outside of Austin - the event will be contested on nearby Lake Travis, the 18,622-acre water body on the Colorado River in Travis and Burnet counties.
A deep and relatively clear lake, Travis isn’t usually thought of as typical bass water in Texas, never being compared to Lake Fork, Toledo Bend, or Sam Rayburn, where the event was held last year.
For that matter, the long and winding lake with plenty of deep water, bluffs, and floating boat docks and marinas, isn’t like our own Lake Texoma, where the 2016 BASSfest event was held (an event which turned into the Texas Fest event last year).
As local readers might remember, Louisiana pro Greg Hackney flipped and pitched his way to the Texoma title in early June 2016 after surging pre-event floodwaters rolled down the Red River and caused Texoma to jump well above normal, flooding miles of vegetation and shoreline trees.
Interestingly enough, some of those same angling tactics could come into play next week on Travis. Why is that? After a number of years of drought and the lake being as much as 50-feet below normal, flooding rains in 2015 and 2016 brought Travis back to full pool level.
While the Hill Country lake is easing back into drought mode since it is now some 13.41-feet below normal, much of the ample brush, trees, and vegetation that grew on exposed lakebed for years remains inundated.
And with the latest fishing report from TPWD showing stained water, 74-78 degree water temperatures, and good fishing for largemouths and Guadalupe bass on smoke grubs and Baby Brush Hogs, expect plenty of good fishing next week.
With sharp drops on main lake points along with plenty of creek arms and coves, not to mention a wealth of floating docks, there should be several ways to catch Travis’ bass for the Bassmaster Elite Series pros rolling into Austin.
And who knows? With a good population of bass, the ability to produce largemouths in the four to eight-pound range - and occasionally upwards of 10-pounds (the lake record largemouth is a 14.21-pound ShareLunker caught back in 1993) - the stage is set for a great central Texas bass fishing derby.
Perhaps just like the one in the spring of 2017 when the FLW Tour visited Travis, providing the venue for Mark Rose to make history by winning his second consecutive FLW Tour event. He did so with a late bass weighing more than six-pounds, an exciting catch that held off runner-up Bryan Thrift for the second straight tournament last year.
Is the drive down busy Interstate 35 worth it for North Texas residents who also happen to be professional bass fishing fans?
In my opinion, yes. First, there is the almost mandatory stop in West for kolaches at either Czech Stop, Slovacek’s, or the Village Bakery. Or if Buccee’s is more your style, give that a try on the north side of Temple.
Next, there is the pull of some of the best barbecue in the world as pit masters like Aaron Franklin perfect melt-in-your-mouth brisket in the shadow of downtown Austin or in the nearby community of Lockhart. From Franklin’s to Black’s BBQ to Salt Lick to Louie Mueller’s, it’s hard to go wrong with Texas barbecue in the center of the Lone Star State.
Then there’s the actual bass fishing on Lake Travis, something that you can observe up close and personal. For starters, there is the daily launch at 6:15 a.m. each morning at Jones Brothers Park, located at 10301 Lakeside Drive in Jonestown.
Then there is the actual fishing itself out on the water, something that you can watch at a respectable distance if you trailer your own boat there or have a buddy in Central Texas.
If not, you can watch the tournament in real time on the exclusive Bassmaster LIVE program on Bassmaster.com and on the ESPN app as hosts Tommy Sanders, Mark Zona, and Davy Hite describe and comment on the competitive action.
And don’t forget the daily weigh-ins at 3 p.m. CT at Jones Brothers Park with B.A.S.S. emcee Dave Mercer and tournament director Trip Weldon.
Anglers will be able to bring in their heaviest bass of the day, if it’s longer than a predetermined minimum, to show off to the crowd. Fish weighed will be returned to Lake Travis and released alive. The angler who has the heaviest bass of the tournament will find that fish worth a new Toyota Tundra pick-up, by the way.
There are plenty of other activities associated with the annual event. Those include the Get Hooked on Fishing event for kids, which will include a kid’s fishing pond, a chance to meet the pros, and casting lessons. Sponsored by Shakespeare and Toyota, this runs from 12 noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Attendees will also have a chance to test out the latest boats and motors at the takeoff site with rides provided by Mercury, Nitro, Skeeter, Triton, and Yamaha. There will be booths showcasing a number of boating and angling companies including Power-Pole Shallow Water Anchors, Berkley, and T-H Marine.
Other can’t miss events include a celebration of the TPWD ShareLunker program on Saturday with this season’s six Toyota ShareLunker Legacy Anglers (who donated bass weighing 13 or more pounds to the ShareLunker selective breeding program in 2018) being honored. There will also be an induction ceremony for the newest members of the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.
Also on Saturday will be the annual Learn From a Pro seminar series where Elite Series anglers teach fishing techniques, gear usage, electronics expertise, and more.
Some of those B.A.S.S. pros will also serve as coaches and teammates in a tournament on Saturday where this year’s 12 Bassmaster High School All-American anglers will compete in a tournament and weigh-in on the main stage.
If you love the bass fishing that our great state of Texas offers, don’t miss the meet-and-greet activities that the event will feature with TPWD inland fisheries biologists in the “Making Fishing Better” booth manned by the Austin-based agency.
On Sunday, it’s Military and Public Safety Personnel Day as B.A.S.S. salutes our brave U.S. military troops, law enforcement officers, and first responders along with the valuable services that they provide. FYI, those who bring their I.D. will receive a free Bassmaster hat.
With local goods, food trucks, prizes, sponsor giveaways, souvenirs, and fishing tackle and merchandise for sale, there is plenty to see and do. What’s more, all events are free of charge and open to the public.
Interested in making a trip to the 2018 Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest tournament on the outskirts of Austin? It should be a lot of bass fishing fun done big and bold, the Lone Star State way.
And don’t be surprised if a Texas angler - I’m going with Jasper’s Todd Faircloth - actually wins the event when all is said and done.
For information, please visit www.bassmaster.com .