It is the final day of the Toyota-sponsored Bass Classic fishing tournament at Lake Conroe, and — though I can’t project who will win — it is a sure thing that Toyota’s first new truck in seven years will have had a great weekend ride.
I was there for a preview on Thursday, and had an opportunity to speak with a number of the competing anglers, both about their prospects and about their trucks. The drive course for attendees was being built at the time so it was unavailable to me, but I had the chance to drive off-road at the vehicle launch, and will again this weekend at the Texas Auto Writers’ Truck Rodeo near San Antonio. With water (God-willing), a great hill ascent and descent and other obstacles, I expect to enjoy the off-road ride — along with those in F-Series, GMC and Silverado, and Ram models — designed to meet the challenges and take home the coveted “Truck of Texas” trophy.
The Toyota folks were gracious enough to lend me a 2014 Tundra for the week so I also had the chance to put the truck through its paces on the highway and back roads for the three-hours-each-way trip to the lake and back. It was the Tundra Ltd. 4×4 edition equipped with a 5.7L V8 with a full tow package.
I was impressed with the far-quieter cabin and greatly improved comfort on the multi-hour trip, and — attesting to the new look of the sheet metal, grille, three-piece bumper system, and interior — we were accosted by many of the competing fishing teams when parked in the same parking lot as they used for trucks, trailers and boats. Some were members of the Toyota Fishing Team who had placed orders for 2014 Tundras (or were about to), while others had competitors’ trucks as their sponsor. Trucks are universal for sportsmen and a glimpse at any new one makes the heart beat faster.
Gulf States Toyota makes it happen
For those who do not know the history of the Bass Classic, Gulf States Toyota has provided Texas Parks and Wildlife — now celebrating its 50th year — with a $250,000 check for each of the last seven years to support youth programs and the event. Through the program, the state has stocked 15 urban lakes for young people to experience fishing as a low-cost recreational pastime. The event itself is free to the public and includes family activities, concerts, and programs like the Toyota drive. The kitty is up to $1.75-million in GST donations and the Conroe community estimates about $3-million in increased income over the five-year period that the event has been held in Conroe.
Lake conditions could make for big winners or losers
One highlight of the event that I attended was the interaction with a panel of successful anglers — some previous winners, one the current national leader, and including Texas-own Kelly Jordan who, with Dan Friedkin, head of Gulf States, envisioned the tournament almost eight years ago.
The panel included Jordan, Kevin VanDam, Terry Scroggins, Bryan Thrift, Randall Tharp, and Shinichi Fukae. While they were cagey about their strategies, as we expected, they did speak to the water levels (about 3-1/2 feet below full). This was about one foot shallower than a year ago, but up from 2011 when the lake was down ten feet. They said that weather changes, particularly the cooler nights predicted for two of the three nights, would drive shad species to move to shallower water and predator fish like bass to follow.
Described as the strongest field ever, the competitors said that they enjoyed the opportunity to fish against anglers who are in other leagues and who have succeeded in the qualifying process.
Captain, do we need a bigger truck?
In informal dialog with the anglers, I asked about trucks and the ever-present personalization that makes the rigs — boat and truck — stand out from the pack.
The most important information that I gained was regarding tow capacity needed for trailer, boat, gear and another passenger. Several said that the load never exceeds about 3,000 lbs., making that heavy duty trucks are almost never required for this sport. There are a lot of vehicles that you may never have thought of as appropriate. Of course, I know that you are always making decisions about your vehicle based upon “the next boat that I buy”, so this info probably won’t phase you.
As to the personalization, the fishermen told me that most of it is the work of the sponsoring companies rather than the anglers themselves, although I suspect they do get a thumbs up/thumbs down vote. Imagine, the truck that is integral to your livlihood, and often your everyday drive, is designed to the graphic specs of the people who fund your activities. Sounds like every other work place to me.