AUSTIN – The inaugural Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest (TBTF) scheduled for May 17-21 on Sam Rayburn Reservoir may be replacing the Toyota Texas Bass Classic (TTBC), but the support for youth fishing outreach initiatives in Texas and the fish-friendly catch, weigh and immediate release tournament format lives on.
“We now have Gulf States Toyota, Toyota Motor Corporation and B.A.S.S. all coming together to provide this new tournament to benefit Texas Parks and Wildlife Department,” said Dave Terre, chief of Inland Fisheries Management and Research. “The tournament is under a new sponsorship arrangement – and a new name – but the funds that are generated out of this event will continue to build and continue to support youth fishing outreach initiatives in the state.”
The programs supported by the TTBC (which generated more than $2 million in 10 years) will continue to be supported by the TBTF, including the Neighborhood Fishin’ Program, which brings fishing to families in 18 urban areas, and the Texas Division of the Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art Contest, which seeks to interest youth in grades K-12 in fishing.
The TBTF is the first regular-season Bassmaster Elite Series tournament to use the catch, weigh and immediate release format that the TTBC pioneered more than a decade ago. The new partnership with B.A.S.S. provides TPWD with a unique opportunity to showcase it to a much larger audience of bass anglers across the country, Terre said.
Trained judges will be on each angler’s boat during the tournament to measure, weigh, record and report each fish before it is released from the boat. Terre said this format maximizes the survival of tournament-caught fish by eliminating the delayed mortality associated with catching, handling and keeping the fish in live wells.
“This is a big deal for tournament bass fishing, no doubt,” Terre said. “We did it in the TTBC for 10 years and it really has its feet now. It presents an alternative format to the world of professional bass fishing and has moved the needle in the direction of fish care and conservation.”
At the end of each fishing day the anglers will bring one fish over 21 inches to the George H. Henderson Jr. Expo Center in Lufkin for fans and spectators to see at the 4:30 p.m. tournament weigh-in. TPWD inland fisheries staff will provide fish care during the weigh-in process and transport the fish back to the lake.
Saturday and Sunday starting at 10 a.m. families can visit the TPWD Outdoor Adventures Area, which is part of the Bassmaster Elite Series Outdoors Expo, and explore the fish fundamentals aquarium, Silvercloud Photo Booth Trailer, Take Me Fishing Trailer, Toyota ShareLunker Trailer, Operation Game Thief trailer and wall of shame, Water U Doing Roadtrip exhibit, Track N Scat exhibit and help create Texas State Fish Art. Experts will also be teaching kids and parents about archery, casting, coastal fisheries, Daisy air guns, invasive species awareness, Texas Paddling Trails, Texas State Parks and bass management.
The list of vendor booths has greatly expanded this year to include dozens of tackle and fishing gear manufacturers and boat companies. Toyota Ride and Drive will also be on-site giving free rides to qualified drivers at the event.
Sunday will be Military and Public Safety Personnel Day and some vendors will offer discounts. (Bring your official I.D. to receive a Bassmaster hat.)
Although the tournament will not feature a concert as the TTBC did in years past, fishing fans will have a unique opportunity to meet their favorite pros Saturday as the anglers take a day off to participate in seminars at Bassmaster University and mingle at the expo.
A free shuttle will be available at the expo Saturday and Sunday to take fans and spectators to Cassels-Boykin Park for free boat and motor demo rides on Sam Rayburn Reservoir, which has been rated by Bassmaster Magazine as one of the Top 100 Best Bass Lakes in the nation for several years.
“Sam Rayburn Reservoir is a huge achievement in fisheries management success,” Terre said. “It’s one of Texas’ great bass fisheries – it’s produced 26 ShareLunker bass in the past, it’s hosted huge tournaments in the past that were very successful, and we’ve stocked Florida bass there for years. The anglers are going to catch them, big time.”
Full schedule for the event:
Wednesday, May 17, first tournament day full 109 angler field
Thursday, May 18, second tournament day full 109 angler field
Friday, May 19, third tournament day field cut to Top 51
Saturday, May 20, TBTF Fan Appreciation day (off day)
Sunday, May 21, Championship Sunday Field cut to Top 12