CELEBRATION, Fla. Months of excitement and anticipation come to a crescendo on May 18-21 in Forth Worth when BASS will host the Bassmaster Memorial the first of three Bassmaster Majors a ground-breaking mid-season highlight with a $250,000 top prize.
In similar fashion to golf's Majors, the Bassmaster Memorial, Bassmaster American and Bassmaster Legends pit BASS' top pros in a unique, two-lake format. The winner gets the largest payday BASS has ever awarded, outside of the prestigious CITGO Bassmaster Classic.
A berth in the Majors has been the goal of the top-echelon anglers since it was announced last year. With the momentum of the first phase of the new CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series behind it, the first Major lifts competitive fishing to a new level that includes same-day television coverage on ESPN2 on Sunday, May 21 at 7 p.m. ET.
"I'm excited about the Majors," said Oklahoma pro Jeff Kriet. "It's something that's so big, a lot of us never even dreamed of it."
The Bassmaster Memorial honors Don Butler, BASS' first member and winner of the second Bassmaster Classic. Days 1 and 2 will be staged on Eagle Mountain Lake and Days 3 and 4 will be on Lake Worth. The field is cut to the top 12 anglers on Day 3 and top six on Day 4, when anglers will rotate through a six-course format.
Eagle Mountain Lake is different from most Texas bass fisheries because of its lack of aquatic vegetation, according to Rafe Brock, regional biologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. But the 8,738-acre impoundment of the Trinity River harbors largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass that enjoy a good forage base consisting of gizzard and threadfin shad, crawfish and bluegill.
"It has a pretty good population of largemouth and spotted bass, but not very many very big individuals," Brock said. "By that, I mean over 10 pounds. A lot of good 4- to 7-pound fish are in there."
Kriet is one of the few Elite Series pros that have fished Eagle Mountain in the past.
"It's a pretty interesting little lake," he said. "The lake has a lot of fish in it. I don't know if it will produce a lot of big sacks, but there were quite a few 12- and 13-pound limits caught when I was there last summer. This is a better time of year to fish there."
Kriet said the 56 pros vying for $250,000 can expect to fish productive docks, marinas and offshore drops.
But the shoreline vegetation and some docks won't be a factor in the Bassmaster Memorial because the lake is about 4 feet low. It has risen a foot or so because of recent rain, making the water off-colored in the upper end and slightly clearer in the lower end.
Lake Worth is much smaller, just 3,458 acres, and is on the west fork of the Trinity River entirely within the Fort Worth city limits. The largely overlooked largemouth and spotted bass fishery was built in 1914 and is shallow, just 22 feet at its deepest point. But a military base and a large Lockheed Martin plant on its shores have deterred many anglers, according to Brock.
"Because of that, a lot of people have ignored the lake," Brock said. "Since then, the bass fishing has gotten better. There will be plenty of fish for 12 guys and there will be some 8-pounders caught."
Brock said anglers can expect a constant water level with more shoreline vegetation than Eagle Moutain. There's also rocky habitat and sporadic outcroppings of plants as well as flooded timber.
Additionally, BASS is hosting a Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats on Lewisville Lake. The top six women will weigh-in on the Bassmaster Memorial stage on Saturday, May 20.
Daily tournament weigh-ins at Will Rogers Coliseum begin at 3:30 p.m. CT, May 18-21. Like the Bassmaster Classic, the Majors also include an ESPN Outdoors Expo, which will be held at the Coliseum's Amon G. Carter Exhibit Hall. It is open Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. CT.
Shaw Grigsby, Jr
Local sponsors include the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau. For more information, visit http://www.FortWorth.com.
Sponsors of the Bassmaster Majors include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Advance Auto Parts and Theraseed.