MANY, La. -- "This is the most important event in the 42-year history of Toledo Bend Reservoir," said Linda Curtis-Sparks, Executive Director of Sabine Parish Tourist & Recreation Commission, referring to this week's Elite Series contest.
And she should know. Curtis-Sparks was present at the groundbreaking almost 50 years ago, at the dedication 42 years ago and managed the reservoir for 15 years.
"In 1991, we talked to B.A.S.S. about hosting its biggest tournaments. They told us in order to do so, we needed to do a lot of work," Curtis-Sparks said.
Requirements included a minimum of 200 hotel rooms close together, clear boat lanes that were well marked and a meeting place for up to 400 people.
"At the time we only had 136 buoys on the entire 186,000-acre reservoir. We only had 204 rooms on the entire Louisiana side of the lake, and they were about 25 years old … and there was no place to meet. So, we got to work!" Curtis-Sparks said.
After the meeting with B.A.S.S. officials, the Sabine River Authority designed and bought three stump-cutting barges that dropped 12-feet below the water surface to cut trees for boat lanes.
"So, we cut about 500 miles of boat lanes on the lake and put out hundreds of buoys to mark the lanes. We started the Cypress Bend project that now has a meeting place and 1300 rentable units," Curtis-Sparks said.
The boat ramp at Cypress Bend also needed some work if it were to facilitate a large Bassmaster tournament.
"B.A.S.S. really helped us understand what a facility needs to host big events. We took them designs and they helped us modify the plans to create a perfect pier and helped us redesign the pavilion for easy drive-thru launches," she said. "These were major improvements to our facility and our lake."
Boat lanes for safe navigation through seemingly endless fields of stumps and improved facilities are not the only exciting changes Toledo Bend has seen over the years. The lunker bass seem to be more prevalent than ever, as well.
"In 1993, we started tracking lunkers (10 pounds or heavier) coming from this lake. We had maybe 20 for the whole year. This year, we have already had 27 lunkers certified in our Lunker Bass Program … and that's just for the Louisiana side!"
So why is this Elite tourney the most important event this storied lake has ever seen?
"We believe the world will see what an incredible fishery Toledo Bend is because of the amazing coverage this Bassmaster Elite Series tournament will get," Curtis-Sparks said. "You put the best anglers in the world on a lake this good, it will be exciting. And we are ready to host Bassmaster fans for fishing trips of their own better than ever!"