Million Dollar Bass Tourney Comes to Top Texas Lake – Lake Mohave

LINDALE, Texas — Lake Fork is undisputedly the top largemouth bass lake
in Texas, maybe in the world. But until this year it has been notably
absent from the national bass fishing tournament schedule due to
stringent slot limits.

– Lake Mohave

April 13-15, the Toyota Texas Bass Classic brings to these waters
160 professional anglers and a $1 million purse. The three-day event
will feature activities for the entire family and $250,000 in proceeds
will benefit Texas Parks and Wildlife Department youth fishing and
outreach programs.

As is true elsewhere in Texas, on Lake Fork anglers can keep five
bass per day. But while much of the rest of the state requires only
that bass be a minimum of 14 inches, on Lake Fork anglers may retain
only bass under 16 inches, or one fish per day over 24 inches as part
of their total bag.

Other tournaments have requested variances to the lake’s slot —
currently 16-24 inches — and been denied. The Toyota Texas Bass Classic
instead worked with TPWD officials to design a tournament that worked
with the existing slot limits but was more than a “paper” event like
the ones popular with local bass clubs.

In the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, all fish above 14 inches will be
weighed and the top five caught each day credited to each angler. Fish
falling within a 14-24-inch size range will be weighed in the boat by a
certified and independent observer, then returned to the lake
immediately.

Each contestant will be allowed to keep one fish larger than 24
inches, which will be weighed at lakeside weigh-in scales, then turned
over to TPWD for proper handling.

Fish over 24 inches that are brought in on the pro boats will be met
at the dock by a specially equipped Toyota Tundra pickup with a
purpose-built, aerated tank installed in the bed.

The fish will be transported to the live weigh-in under the watchful
eye of a TPWD fisheries technician, and after weighing either returned
to the lake using a large, live release boat provided by the Lake Fork
Sportsman’s Association and restocked immediately following each
weigh-in event or placed in a special tank for monitoring and
rehabilitation.

Fish over 13 pounds — those qualifying for the Budweiser ShareLunker
program — will go into one of two special trucks and be taken to the
Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens to spawn and help pass on
their superior genes to a new generation of Lake Fork fish.

In addition to adding their weight to team totals and being
contenders for the tournament big bass prize, fish donated to the
ShareLunker program also earn anglers the usual prizes, including a
Budweiser ShareLunker jacket and a fiberglass replica of the fish.

“If you take 160 of the world’s best bass anglers and put them on
the world’s best bass lake when we know the bass will be in all stages
of spawning, the odds are pretty darned good you’ll see at least one
lunker bass,” said Dave Terre, regional director for TPWD’s Inland
Fisheries Division.

“Normally, tournaments on slot limit lakes turn into big bass
competitions because the slot limit minimizes for all practical
purposes the effect of entering multiple fish,” said Gene Ellison of
the Professional Anglers Association. “In this tournament, having the
independent certified observer on each boat and weighing the fish in
the boat means that each contestant will be able to have five fish of
various sizes count towards their competitive total.”

Anglers and observers will emphasize careful handling of tournament
fish — fitting for a lake that owes its legendary status in large part
to longstanding and innovative fisheries management policies.

Consider that the current Texas state record, from Lake Fork, trails
records from only two other states (and one of those is the world
record). Of the 50 biggest largemouth bass caught in Texas, 35 came
from Lake Fork. The smallest of those was 15.2 pounds and was larger
than the state records of 37 other states.

TPWD biologists estimate that more than 15,000 bass weighing 7 pounds or more are caught in the lake each year.

“What’s also impressive is that over 15 percent of those fish are
heavier than 10 pounds,” said Terre. “Through the Lake Fork Trophy Bass
Survey, which we’ve been conducting over the last three years in
cooperation with Lake Fork anglers and local businesses, we have
confirmation that our special size limits are working.”

“This tournament will showcase the excellent fishing on Lake Fork
that has resulted from innovative fisheries management strategies that
have been strongly supported by our friends at the Sabine River
Authority,” said Phil Durocher, TPWD’s Inland Fisheries director.
“Anglers who have fished the waters of Lake Fork have been enjoying the
results of this partnership for years.”

The lake was designed, literally from the ground-up, to support
great fishing. TPWD and SRA biologists and managers worked together
before Lake Fork was impounded to ensure that prime fish habitat was
preserved and the larger and faster-growing Florida-strain largemouth
bass would predominate.

TPWD has stocked more than 8.1 million Florida largemouth bass
fingerlings in the lake. Angler support of the lake’s slot limit as
well as a pervasive catch and release ethic has helped bolster the
fishery.

The contestants, all of whom are qualified members of the
Professional Anglers Association, will be arranged in four-man teams
for the tournament’s first two days on Friday and Saturday, with five
of those teams qualifying for the finals on the tournament’s third day.
The four-man teams will consist of two pairs of anglers, one pair
fishing in one boat for four hours each morning and the other pair in
the afternoon.

With 160 entries, 40 boats will be actively fishing on the lake in
the morning and again in the afternoon. As the morning competitors
return to the dock, they will put their heads together with the second
pair in strategy sessions to share tips and info on what they have
learned about the lake and conditions that morning, and where the
afternoon pair might be more successful.

The first place team prize is $250,000 and the angler who catches
the biggest bass of the tournament will win a 2007 Toyota Tundra
pickup. Any angler who beats the current state record — an 18.18-pound
fish caught on Lake Fork in 1992 — will also win $100,000 and a new
boat.

It’s the richest no-entry-fee tournament in history.

“This tournament is different and is going to be a lot of fun for
the contestants because it puts a premium on teamwork,” said Gary
Klein, chairman of the tournament committee and one of the leading
competitors on the tournament circuit. “It is attracting top level
professionals to compete on Lake Fork, one of the best bass lakes in
the U.S., and will take advantage of the slot limits to demonstrate the
depth and diversity of the lake’s bass population.”

The idea for the tournament came about after touring bass pro and
PAA member Kelly Jordon escorted TPW Commissioner Donato D. Ramos on a
visit to the lake. Ramos enlisted the help of Commissioner T. Dan
Friedkin, and the Toyota Texas Bass Classic became a reality.

“Our goal for this tournament is to create a premier fishing event
that will support Texas Parks and Wildlife’s youth fishing and outreach
programs. It is also a tremendous way to celebrate Lake Fork’s 25th
anniversary,” said Friedkin.

The tournament’s format is designed to appeal to spectators, and
includes kids activities, live music and a Jumbotron showing continuous
action to the audience. Weigh-ins morning and afternoon will assure
high levels of activity during the day. While half of the anglers are
on the water fishing, the other flight of anglers on shore will be
giving clinics, signing autographs and interacting with the public.

The Toyota Texas Bass Classic is sanctioned by the PAA with
technical assistance and support from TPW Inland Fisheries Division.
Title sponsor for the event is Toyota, presenting sponsor is Enterprise
Rent-A-Car and the City of Lindale is the official host city.

Entertainment for the tournament will include Clay Walker, Tracy
Lawrence, Danielle Peck, Zona Jones, Kacey Musgraves and Todd Fritsch.

– Lake Mohave

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