Fruit Jars and Appearance Fees

Spent the past week on famed Lake Fork at the Toyota Texas Bass Classic. What a lake and what an event. Nothing like the TTBC has ever been done.

This was the first event that Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has allowed on the lake that did not observe the slot limit. That in itself is pretty amazing

Whoa, there pardner. Before you get the hanging rope out and round up the lynch mob, check out how it all worked. The 40 teams were allowed to bring in one fish over 24 inches per person. All the other fish that were caught were weighed in the boat, the weights recorded, and immediately released.

Each team had a trained observer that rode along to keep track of every fish that was caught by both anglers. Each angler could keep the weights from their five heaviest fish for each day. Pretty cool stuff, and easy on the fish.

Sure there have been paper tournaments for years, albeit on a smaller scale. So that wasn't anything groundbreaking.

When's the last time you saw KVD and Matt Reed standing on the front of a boat together going at it cast for cast? Can you see Denny in the Moose Tracks boat with Jon Bondy? That was funny.

Not only did these guys have to share a boat, but all four members of the team had to share info gleaned from each day's fishing to contribute to the betterment of the team.

Sharing a boat is one of the aspects of the BASS Invitationals that I miss. Back in "tha day" all 300-plus of us showed up to each tournament with a boat. Everyone practiced alone, then BASS paired us up, and we flipped or fought to see whose boat would be taken the next day.

When you're paired with another angler who is on an equal or higher level of ability and understanding, you can learn a lot. When you get paired with someone who is catching the same fish you're catching by using a totally different technique, you can learn a lot fast.

This is what I miss about draw derbies. The TTBC gave us that learning opportunity back, but instead of competing against that other angler we were working together toward the same goal.

Despite what many think, the fish and the anglers were not the center of attention during the week on Lake Fork.

What's that? The Toyota Texas Bass Classic wasn't all about the fishing? That's exactly what you just read.

This was much, much more than just another fishing derby. This was an entertainment event that truly had something for everyone in the family.

For dad there was the fishing derby and trucks. For the kids there were games and activities spread across numerous acres. For mom there was eye candy in the form of Clay Walker and Tracy Lawrence.

Yeah, I'm sure there are quite a few guys who enjoy listening to Walker and Lawrence, but they were brought in to make sure that more than just dear old dad came to the fishing derby. Someone wanted to make sure that the entire family had an excuse to attend this event.

So why go to all this trouble and expense to have an event of this magnitude out in the middle of the East Texas countryside? To sell stuff.

Toyota wants to sell trucks. Enterprise wants you to think of them the next time you need to rent a vehicle. Texas Parks and Wildlife wants you to make Texas your next fishing destination. The city of Lindale wants you to stay in Lindale when you come to Fork to fish.

Too capitalist for you? Oh well, get over it. What's different between this and a company spending millions of dollars per minute on Super Bowl commercials? Nada.

The most glaring difference between the TTBC and any other tournament that I have ever seen was the fact that the Pro Anglers Association had stepped up to provide part of the entertainment for the event.

I know what you're thinking; has Short lost all the pink marbles in his head? Not hardly. That's what the anglers in this event were hired and paid to be — entertainment. All 160 of us were handed an appearance fee for being part of the inaugural Toyota Texas Bass Classic.

We're not talking payback here because there was no entry fee. Of any kind. From any angler's pocket. Period. The sponsors of this event picked up the tab for everything. Wow. Has this ever been done before at the upper levels of bass fishing?

That check which every angler received is the biggest difference between the Toyota Texas Bass Classic and any of the hundreds of tournaments that we have all fished over many years.

That check came from no angler's pocket. It wasn't received based on where he finished in the standings. It was paid out to each angler because they appeared, performed to the best of their ability, and entertained a crowd of thousands.

Sound too weird? Could be the difference between a fruit jar derby and a true professional sport.

Do you really think Tiger is out there every Sunday swinging for his own money? Think Junior is making that left turn just to get his entry fee back?

At some point, bass fishing has to get past the fruit jar. The TTBC was a big step away from the jar. If they have another, and I hope they do, make plans to attend and be amazed.

For more info on Kevin Short or to contact Kevin, check out his Web site at www.kfshort.com.