Fork once again host to top pros during Toyota bass tournament

Published on Tuesday, 6 May 2014 11:14 - Written by Steve Knight outdoor@tylerpaper.com

After a five-year absence, the Toyota Texas Bass Classic returns to where it got its start, Lake Fork,Friday-Sunday.

The event highlights 50 of the top bass fishermen from both the BASS and FLW tours. The tournament field includes five from the current BASS Elite Series angler of the year top 10 standings and eight from the Walmart FLW Tour’s angler of the year top 10.

In all, the field includes a combined $64 million in career earnings, 234 tournament victories, 21 AOY titles and 18 major championship wins.

That includes 11 Bassmaster Classic and FLW Forrest Wood Cup winners such as four-time Bassmaster Classic winner and seven-time BASS angler of the year Kevin VanDam, former Classic winners Luke Clausen, Alton Jones, Mike Iaconelli and Jay Yelas. FLW Cup title winners include Brent Ehrler, Randall Tharp and Clausen, the only fisherman to win top honors in both circuits.

Keith Combs of Huntington returns to the field as the reigning tournament champion.

He also won the event in 2011. Also competing is 2012 champion Bryan Thrift.

“TTBC is my favorite event of the season. Considering how an angler has to qualify for this event it is the strongest field that we compete against all year,” Combs said, “I spent some time this past winter familiarizing myself with Lake Fork. It will be a late spawn/early summer tournament, which means a lot of movement and it will take big weights to win.”

The tournament is unique because as a function of the Professional Anglers Association it draws fishermen from multiple tours that might otherwise not compete against each other. The field is chosen from 2013 angler of the year points races from BASS, FLW and the PAA Tournament Series.

When the tournament was last held at Lake Fork it was in a four-man team format. After moving to Conroe it morphed into a individual championship tournament.

Because of Fork’s 16- to 24-inch slot limit the TTBC has been the pros only chance to compete on the lake. This tournament is possible because it is a catch-and-release competition. Judges will be assigned to each boat and will weigh and measure all fish within the slot limit. The fisherman’s top five fish of the day will be included in his total, but the only fish that will be brought to weigh-in would be any over 24 inches in length.

The fishermen are competiting for a first-place prize valued at $150,000.

Since its beginning the TTBC has raised more than $1.75 million for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Fisheries programs. This year’s event is expected to bring in another $250,000.

That has helped fund the department’s Neighborhood Fishin’ Program that stocks fish in 16 urban lakes around the state in an effort to bring fishing to those who might not otherwise have a place to go. This year Tyler’s Woldert Park Lake joined the program.

Money from the TTBC has also helped underwrite TPWD’s State-Fish Art Contest for youth from kindergarten through high school.

With three headline concert acts and an expanded activity and retail show, this year’s concert is different from 2007 and 2008 when the event was first held on Lake Fork. In 2008 the TTBC attracted an estimated crowd of 30,000 to the lake.

The biggest thing is that concerts will be held after each daily weigh-in. Pat Green will entertain Friday with Little Big Town performing Saturday and Jason Moore capping off the final day’s activities.

Interactive activities include TPWD’s Outdoor Adventures Area andBass Pro Shops’ Kid Zones, both youth friendly areas.

The retailer will also have an expo center with outdoor gear and products and seminars at the Berkley tank.

Toyota will have an off-road test drive area for their vehicles and Yamaha will have a test track for its ATVs.

Food options will include the Johnsonville Big Taste Grill as well as several food trucks.

Daily tickets are $15 in advance or $25 at the gate. Youth 17 and under are admitted free if accompanied by an adult. Advance tickets are available at participating Brookshire’s stores, Academy Sports + Outdoors and area Toyota dealers. They are also available online athttp://www.toyotatexasbassclassic.com/tickets/ .