There is certainly no shortage of storylines for this year’s Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on Lake Travis.
The tournament, which is scheduled for May 17-20 with daily takeoffs from Jones Brothers Park at 6:15 a.m. CT and weigh-ins back at the park each day at 3 p.m., features a total purse of $1 million, with $100,000 going to the winner.
It’s the only regular-season Elite Series event this year that will feature a catch-weigh-release format, where fish are weighed by an onboard judge and immediately released without ever going into a livewell.
It’s also the only regular-season Elite Series tournament that will award an automatic berth to the 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods – and that’s the part that has New Jersey star Michael Iaconelli’s attention.
“It’s nice that this tournament creates another spot for the Elites in the Classic,” said Iaconelli, who has qualified for the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing 17 straight times. “It gives you a little extra motivation. If I make it, I can take it easy the rest of the year.”
The automatic Classic berth will be especially important to Iaconelli this year since he plans to skip the Elite Series event scheduled for June 7-10 on the Sabine River in Orange, Texas.
The tournament was originally scheduled for April, but heavy flooding in the region forced a postponement — and Iaconelli already has television obligations planned for the new dates.
“Missing Orange, this will be only chance I have to keep my Classic streak alive,” he said. “That’s all the motivation anyone should need.”
With this being the first visit to Lake Travis for B.A.S.S., many of the 108 pros on the Elite Series will be seeing the fishery for the first time.
Iaconelli said he finds that aspect exciting as well.
“I didn’t practice there before it went off-limits,” he said. “I’ve never even laid eyes on the fishery. Guys are going to discover some things at Travis. You’ll see patterns used that you haven’t seen in a long time – or maybe ever before.”
One Elite Series pro who has fished Lake Travis is Oklahoma resident Jeff Kriet.
He won an FLW Texas Tournament Trail (TTT) event on the lake in May 2004.
“I like it,” Kriet said of the 29,160-acre impoundment on the Colorado River. “It’s full of bass and fishes just the way I like to fish. It’s a deep, clear lake – and that’s what I like.”
After Kriet’s victory in the TTT event, Lake Travis stayed well below full pool for an extended period. That low water level allowed vegetation to grow up around the shoreline – and since the lake is now full again, that vegetation could create new opportunities for anglers.
“I think guys will catch them a lot of different ways, including flipping,” Kriet said. “The lake is in really good shape.”
Alton Jones, a Texas pro who also has some experience on Lake Travis, agreed.
“During the last decade or so, they’ve put Florida bass in it,” Jones said. “The lake level has been higher, and that’s improved the spawn.
“It’s not the kind of Texas fishery we’re used to – like Toledo Bend or a Sam Rayburn or a Lake Fork. It’s very deep, very clear water.”
Jones said the typical seasonal patterns – like crankbaits, Carolina-rigged plastics and jigs – will likely come into play. He also said the morning topwater bite could be solid, even though the annual shad spawn, which promotes early-morning feeding along the shoreline, is just about over.
“There are some really big fish in the lake,” Jones said. “I don’t think we’ll see lots of guys bringing in stringers of big fish. But there will be some big ones caught – and when you do catch a big one, it will go a long way.”
The Bassmaster Elite Series Outdoors Expo will take place at the park on Saturday and Sunday. The event will feature boat demo rides, an aquarium, free prizes and the latest fishing products on the market. The fan-favorite kid’s area, Bassmaster Get Hooked on Fishing presented by Toyota and Shakespeare, will also include catfish-casting ponds and a chance to meet the pros. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Adventures Area will welcome visitors of all ages to try out archery, learn ways to contribute to conservation and participate in other fun outdoor activities.
Also taking place on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., is Bassmaster University. Bassmaster Elite Series pros will be teaching seminars at the park on a variety of topics related to fishing including techniques, gear, electronics and more. All activities are free and open to the public.
Visit Bassmaster.com for more information.