What’s in a name, especially when it comes to the most important fishing tournament to be held in Texas each year?
As it turns out, with the annual Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest (TBTF) looming next week for its May 2-6, 2019 run at Lake Fork, there’s plenty in a name.
For starters, the predecessor to the 2019 Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest used to be known as the Toyota Texas Bass Classic before it was combined with the Bassmaster BASSfest event back in 2017.
Before that merger, the TTBC tournament, birthed more than a decade ago, was the brainchild of former Bassmaster Elite Series pro Kelly Jordon of Flint, Texas.
Jordon proposed the idea for the event — whose proceeds benefited the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department — to former Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioner Donato Ramos and Commission Chairman T. Dan Friedkin during a Lake Fork fishing trip.
For the better part of 10 years, the derby steadily grew, attracting mixed fields of top ranking anglers on the Elite Series, the FLW Tour, and from special invites. With previous stops at Fork and on Lake Conroe, fans delighted to see anglers like Jordon, Kevin VanDam, Mike Iaconelli, Brent Ehrler, and others catch, weigh, and release giant Texas largemouths, all with the goal of making fishing better and more accessible across the Lone Star State.
After the event was taken over by B.A.S.S. a couple of years ago — and merged with the Bassmaster Elite Series’ former BASSfest, an event last held on Lake Texoma in 2016 — the tournament is now known by the moniker the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest.
After being held on Lake Travis in 2017 and Sam Rayburn in 2018, the event returns to Lake Fork near Emory, Texas for next weekend’s four day fishing derby.
With a total prize purse of $1 million dollars, this year’s event is tailor-made to continue showcasing the superb bass fishing opportunities that exist across the Lone Star State, thanks in great part to the ongoing conservation work of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and its Inland Fisheries biologists.
It will also serve to showcase the new look Bassmaster Elite Series field of 75 anglers, one that will look a little bit different than it did during previous visits to Texas.
That comes on the heels of last fall’s landscape altering earthquake that caused a number of former Elite Series anglers - including Jordon, VanDam, and others — to head over to the upstart Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour.
While some of the angling names in the event’s past will be gone next week, there are plenty of familiar names remaining as well as exciting new B.A.S.S. stars whose careers are now blooming.
That 2019 mix of Elite Series new and old will combine the likes of Keith Combs, Jay Yelas, Clark Wendlandt, Rick Clunn, Stetson Blaylock, Brandon Card, and Seth Fieder among others, pro anglers who will take to Fork’s hallowed water during the “catch, weigh and immediate release” style fishing tournament.
In addition to seeing the Elite Series pros and a handful of legal big bass that will be brought to the stage each day, fans can visit with TPWD, which will be on site at the Sabine River Authority location from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 4-5.
Those TPWD officials will highlight the family-friendly fishing, hunting and camping opportunities that are available throughout the great state of Texas.
“On top of showcasing Texas’ world class bass fisheries and promoting the conservation-minded ‘catch, weigh, and immediate release’ tournament format; Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest provides TPWD with an exciting opportunity to engage directly with Texans to highlight all of the outdoor opportunities available in our state,” said Dave Terre, TPWD Chief of Inland Fisheries Management and Research, in an agency news release.
Visitors can also mingle with TPWD fisheries biologists, state park rangers, outdoor educators and game wardens, who will be manning more than 15 interactive outdoor booths at the event.
TPWD also notes in its news release that those booths include:
· Catch a Catfish: Catch a Texas-size catfish with the help of TPWD fisheries biologists and volunteers from the Texas High School Bass Association.
· Fly Casting and Tying: Learn how to tie flies and cast using a fly rod with volunteers like Van Alstyne’s Jerry Hamon, president of the Texas Council of Fly Fishers International.
· Texas State Fish Art: Youngsters can paint their favorite fish and learn how to enter the Texas State-Fish Art Contest.
· Fish FUNdamentals Aquarium: Learn about native fish from a TPWD biologist and find out where fish are biting.
· Rivers & Streams/ Texas Paddling Trails: Explore the living world of rivers and streams on Texas Paddling Trails.
· Toyota ShareLunker Trailer: Stop by the Toyota ShareLunker trailer to see how you can partner with TPWD to make “BIGGER BETTER BASS” in Texas.
· Making Fishing Better: Enjoy a meet and greet opportunity with Texas fisheries biologists in the “Making Fishing Better” area.
· Aquatic Invaders: Discover how invasive species impact aquatic environments, where they hide and how we all can help to control their spread across Texas.
The Austin-based agency also notes that other weekend activities at TBTF include various vendor booths, chances to purchase fishing merchandise and souvenirs, how-to seminars taught by Bassmaster Elite Series pros, the annual Bassmaster High School All-American Fishing Team Tournament and much, much more.
There is also Saturday’s lineup of attractions, which includes a live concert as part of the Mercury Concert Series, as well as Elite Series angler “meet and greets,” and several special TPWD ceremonies to honor anglers who have made an impact on fishing this year.
The first such ceremony will find TPWD honoring the five Toyota ShareLunker Legacy Anglers who caught and donated 13-pound or better largemouth bass to support TPWD’s selective breeding program in 2019.
TPWD says this presentation will also include an official announcement identifying the winner of the Legacy Class Prize Drawing for a $5,000 Bass Pro Shops shopping spree and an annual fishing license.
TPWD notes it will also recognize the lone 2019 inductee into the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall Of Fame, Alan Haynes of Tyler, who is the former C.E.O and President of The Sportster Inc. retail sporting goods chain and a lifelong sportsman.
TPWD also points out that proceeds from the tournament, donated by Gulf States Toyota, will once again benefit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s youth fishing and urban outreach programs.
Those include the Neighborhood Fishin’ Program, which TPWD says brings fishing to families at 19 community park lakes in 10 urban areas across the state.
It also includes the Texas Division of the Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art Contest, which seeks to interest youth in grades K-12 in angling along with growing the lifelong sport of fishing.
“Since 2007, Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest and the previous version of the tournament have raised more than $3 million for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s youth fishing and outreach programs in Texas,” said Terre in the news release.
“This has made a direct impact on increasing fishing participation in Texas – particularly in urban and suburban areas where access to fishing is limited.
“We are grateful for this support and look forward to continuing this work to bring fishing closer to Texans in the years ahead.”
No matter what the tournament’s official name might be, or who the anglers are that might be fishing in it.