Utilizing a qualifying format similar to that used for the Ryder Cup in professional golf, the PAA qualified professional tournament anglers for the Toyota Texas Bass Classic based on their rankings from both the B.A.S.S. and FLW tours. This crossover qualification essentially knocked down the huge barrier between the country’s two largest professional bass fishing organizations, something that many felt could never be done.
“The PAA is not about one tournament organization against the other,” notes PAA Executive Director Gene Ellison. “It’s about uniting professional tournament anglers and taking them to the next level. It is also about conservation and growing the sport, especially for our youth,” Ellison adds.
Although still in its infancy, the two year old PAA worked on the format for the Toyota Texas Bass Classic almost from day one. After a series of revisions, the final format was adopted for this non-entry fee tournament. The format created 40 four-angler teams based on their rankings in their respective tours. The four-man teams were then broken down into two two-angler teams, one of which would fish a four-hour morning session and the other a four-hour afternoon session. All forty teams would fish the first two days of the competition, with the top five teams advancing to the final round on day three. The third day of competition would have both teams of each of the top-5 four-angler teams fishing both sessions.
The venue selection for the PAA’s inaugural Toyota Texas Bass Classic was a no-brainer; Lake Fork, Texas, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The problem is that Lake Fork is considered a trophy lake and, as such, it has a very aggressive slot limit. Anglers cannot keep any fish that measures between 16 inches and 24 inches, and can keep only one fish over 24 inches. This strict regulation is the sole reason why there have been no professional bass tournaments on Lake Fork in its 25-year history, in spite of constant pleas by tournament organizers to waive this slot limit for tournament purposes. Make no mistake about it, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is very proud and protective of this trophy bass gem. To overcome this major hurdle, the PAA and Gulf States Toyota (the title sponsor of the event) spent countless hours with representatives of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to find a workable solution; and they did.
To insure accuracy, each judge was issued a certified Boga Grip handheld scale, a Gator Grip measuring board, a scorecard for each angler, and a two-way radio.
The plan was to allow tournament anglers to catch a fish, measure it (if necessary), weigh it, and record the weight. The angler would then immediately release their fish. To accomplish this, each two-angler team would have a tournament judge on board their boat during tournament hours. The judges would immediately radio the catch information to a scoring control center. The catch data would then be entered into a computer which would immediately update the total catch for the (combined) four-angler team on a Live Leader Board and on the PAA’s website. This allowed for the Live Leader Board to be updated instantly with each fish caught. Each angler’s five best fish would be counted during each session. However, unlike most team tournaments, an angler catching fewer than five fish could not use their partner’s “extra” fish to fill out their limit.
To insure accuracy, each judge was issued a certified Boga Grip handheld scale, a Gator Grip measuring board, a scorecard for each angler, and a two-way radio. The judges were volunteers selected from nearby bass clubs or were anglers with prior tournament experience. Each judge received five hours of extensive hands-on training from PAA officials and the Texas Parks and Wildlife staff.
Terry Scroggins, Chris Daves, Frank Ippoliti, and former Southern California angler James Niggemeyer (holding crystal trophy) won the tournament in dominate fashion with a tremendous three day total weight of 244 pounds 12 ounces.
After two years of hard work, the Toyota Texas Bass Classic finally became a reality on April 13-15, 2007. Gulf States Toyota, one of the country’s largest Toyota distributorships, teamed up with Enterprise Rent-a-Car and several other great sponsors and ponyed up an unprecedented one million dollar tournament purse. They contributed another three million dollars for logistics and for two live concerts featuring popular country western artists Clay Walker and Tracy Lawrence.
Because of the generosity of Gulf States Toyota and the dedication of the PAA board of director and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Toyota Texas Bass Classic was arguably the most spectacular professional bass tournaments in the history of competitive bass fishing. An estimated 25,000 spectators attended the week-long event, which was held on the grounds of the Sabine River Authority near Lindale, Texas, the host city for the event.
As noted in the many post tournament articles written about the inaugural Toyota Texas Bass Classic, the four-angler team of Terry Scroggins, Chris Daves, Frank Ippoliti, and former Southern California angler James Niggemeyer won the tournament in dominate fashion with a tremendous three day total weight of 244 pounds 12 ounces. Their final day come-from-behind victory netted the team an incredible $225,000 in winnings. Runners-up in this historical tournament were first and second round leaders Alton Jones, Russ Lane, Steve Daniel, and Kyle Mabrey, whose 209 pounds 0 ounces earned them $88,000.
Big Fish of the contest was a beautiful 11 pound 2 ounce bass caught by Oklahoma angler John Sappington
Big Fish of the contest was a beautiful 11 pound 2 ounce bass caught by Oklahoma angler John Sappington on the second day of competition. Sappington took home a custom Toyota Tundra truck valued at $50,000 and a pair of custom made Luchese Boots valued at $6,000 for catching the largest bass of the contest.
Taped coverage of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic will be nationally televised on CBS on Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 13, 2007). For complete coverage of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, check out the daily articles from the Tyler (Texas) Morning Telegraph about the event at: http://www.tylerpaper.com (Type TTBC in the search box and click on “Go”). Additional information can also be found on the PAA website at: http://www.proanglersassociation.com/joomla, and on the Toyota Texas Bass Classic website at: http://www.toyotatexasbassclassic.com.
Judging by the feedback from nearly everyone involved in the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, it appears that the PAA has hit a grand slam home run with this event and very well may have given us a look at how professional bass tournaments will look in the future.
Thanks for your time and always remember: “The shortest distance between two points is a reef!”