FRISCO, Texas – When the final day of the 10th annual Toyota Texas Bass Classic began, Matt Herren held a slim 12-ounce lead over Bryan Thrift.
When the day was done, Thrift had closed the gap – but not enough to win.
Herren, an Elite Series pro from Alabama, had a three-day total of 51 pounds, 12ounces, which was eight ounces more than Thrift. The victory netted Herren a $100,000 cash prize, a Nitro Z20 boat with dual Power-Poles, and bragging rights in one of the most prestigious bass fishing tournaments.
But most importantly, it got Herren his first professional level win in nine years (he previously won an FLW stop in 2007.) He has never won a B.A.S.S. Elite Series event.
“Man, it’s incredible,” Herren said, after weighing a 17-4 limit on Sunday. “A lot of hard work goes into this, and there’s a lot of people who pay a big price to let me do what I do. They all know who they are … It’s amazing. You always wonder every day when you get up; you finish second, you finish third. It’s like ‘When? When is my time?’”
The top 15 anglers in the 2015 Bassmaster Elites Series and FLW Tour angler of the year standings were eligible to fish on Lake Ray Roberts in the TTBC, which is a benefit tournament for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Eight additional top-flight anglers were granted exemptions to fish in the event.
The star power on display in the 38-man field was not lost on Herren; a 14-year pro fishing in his fourth TTBC. But he brought some of his own expertise to the tournament, with five Bassmaster Classic berths and six Forrest Wood Cup appearances on his resume.
“These guys are too good to give anything away,” Herren said earlier in the week, while keeping secretive about his techniques on Ray Roberts. After Sunday’s win, he revealed that there wasn’t a heck of a lot of intricacy to his practices.
“Dude, I junk-fished the whole tournament,” he said with a smile. “The first day of practice on Tuesday, I figured out the big fish were up in the shallows and up in the willows. About mid-day on the second day of practice, we started losing a lot of water. They were draining Ray Roberts. So I started looking for someplace where the big ones would go.
“I got on a deal looking at cedar trees in the back of the drains. In Texas, they call the little channels that run up into those flats drains. Well, the last two or three trees before you got to the willows, the bigger females had pulled up right there.”
Bright sun was critical to his 19-plus pound limit on Friday, however, when Herren didn’t get the conditions he was looking for later in the TTBC, he had to adjust from the jigs he threw on Day 1.
“On Friday, I couldn’t get bit,” he said. “I started to recognize I’d have to run new water … So I scrounged up 15 pounds, from 11 o’clock on, around those cedar trees and those drains. Today, with the cloud cover, I knew I couldn’t catch them … I ran up to a bridge with a little bit of a shad spawn going on.”
He said he first lost a 5-pounder first thing in the morning, but then caught a 3-pounder, a 3-8, and a 2-plug on a square-bill DH Custom Lures 2.0.
“Then I had to run around some more, and I decided not to fight it, and just go fish,” Herren said. “I just kept it down, and fought it and fought it. And I caught 17 something pounds. I’d like to tell you I knew right where I was going, but I didn’t.
“With the conditions we had, with the water dropping, (it was difficult.) But I love to fish shallow, visible water. If I’m in anything that I can see, I feel as I am as good as there is walking. That’s how I was brought up fishing, and it suited me here.”
Thrift, who hails from North Carolina and won the TTBC in 2012, kept steady pressure on Herren throughout the day. It was in the final minutes of Day 3 (at 3:07 p.m. precisely,) that he lit into a fish that looked like it might clinch him a second TTBC victory.
That bass, caught only eight minutes before anglers had to stop fishing, weighed 3-12, and it allowed Thrift to cull up 1 ½ pounds. That left him tragically short – a mere eight ounces – of Herren.
Thrift’s bag on Sunday weighed 17-8, and he caught the majority of his bass flipping with a Damiki Knock Out.
“The last two days, that definitely was my go-to bait,” he said. “I was making as many casts as I can. I would have loved to win it again.”
The remainder of the Tundra 10 was composed of Luke Clausen, 47-8; Andy Morgan, 47-0; Dave Lefebre, 46-12; Aaron Martens, 46-8; Cody Meyer, 45-8; Kevin VanDam, 44-12; Chris Zaldain, 41-12; and Greg Hackney, 41-0.
Zaldain, an Elite Series pro from California and the leader after Day 1, caught a bass weighing 7-12 on Friday that was the heaviest of the tournament. It won him the Big Bass Award and its prize of a 2016 Toyota Tundra truck.
Morgan won the LEER Heavy Weight Award for the 22-0 pound bag he caught on Saturday. That was the highest single-day total caught by any of the pros in the three-day tournament, and it earned the FLW Tour stalwart a new LEER truck cap.
The Toyota Texas Fest (and the TTBC, which is part of that event,) is a significant fund-raiser for the TPWD. In 10 years, it has contributed $2.5 million to the department, which has put the funds to use supporting youth fishing and urban outreach programs across Texas.
By Andrew Canulette
FRISCO, Texas — It was a case of the big idea, delivered after a happenstance meeting, then presented to the right person. That’s the background of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic.
Texas pro angler Kelly Jordon had long thought a huge tournament would be the perfect way to spread the word of the trophy bass fisheries within the state. But he really didn’t know anyone who could do anything with the idea, until he had a chance meeting with Donato Ramos, a commissioner with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Jordon was hunting at a friend’s ranch near Laredo, right next door to Ramos’ ranch. Jordon and his crew discovered fences has been cut between the properties, so they went over to inform Ramos.
Ramos’ sons, John David and Freddy, were there, and after seeing Jordon’s wrapped truck, inquired about his status as a pro fishermen. Dinner plans were made and Jordon soon met Ramos, among the who’s who of Texas movers and shakers.
Jordon was invited to a New Year’s party there with a band and dignitaries. As a pro, he was asked about fishing Texas, and so he talked up his idea.
“I told Donato I had a dream to have a tournament on Lake Fork to exhibit how awesome fishing was in Texas,” Jordon said. “Because we can’t have a normal Bassmaster event with the slot limit.”
The major bass circuits don’t schedule on Lake Fork because of a slot limit that negates fish between 16 and 21 inches long, and then anglers can only have one in their possession over 21. That’s not conducive to an enthralling event. What Jordon mapped out, something very close to what’s seen today in the TTBC, was.
“Ramas said he had a friend who would like to hear this story,” Jordon said. “If you involve Mr. Dan Friedkin, then stuff happens.”
There was a fishing trip to Lake Fork, and after Friedkin learned all the details of the proposition, he was all in, Jordon said.
“I meet him for the first time, and he really liked the idea. He is Mr. Flag Waver for the state of Texas and brought all of his crew to bear,” Jordon said. “All the great people with Gulf States Toyota made this thing happen. They have the most amazing go-getters.”
The TTBC is celebrating its 10th year, and it provides donations to the TPWD for its youth programs. The total will climb to $2.5 million this year, and Dave Terre, chief of research and management for TPWD’s Inland Fisheries Division, said that money has doubled efforts.
“About 100,000 people a year benefit from this program, and about 50,000 of those are new to fishing,” Terre said. “It’s providing close, convenient fishing opportunities in public parks where a lot of people live. Most of the people who fish our neighborhood lakes tell us it’s the only place they fish.”
The TPWD stocks 18 small bodies of water in 11 major metropolitan areas in the state. The lakes and ponds are stocked with catfish every two weeks in spring, summer and fall and rainbow trout are stocked in the winter. August is the only month when stocking does not occur.
Jordon is glad he could have a hand in something that is thriving and has helped so many.
“It had very humble beginnings, in the middle of nowhere south Texas and a phone call to Mr. Dan Friedkin from Mr. Ramos. That’s the three founders, and the energy from Dan, it just made my vision come to life so much bigger than I ever expected. It would not have happened without Dan Friedkin.”
Written by: Mike Suchan
The live leaderboard is off, and the anglers are in the dark as to what their rivals are catching for the next three hours.
And so is the public. But here's what we do know.
Matt Herren led the 10th annual Toyota Texas Bass Classic coming into today, and he has the biggest catch so far on Sunday with 16 total pounds as of noon. The next biggest total today has been posted by Aaron Martens, who has climbed from ninth place to fourth with a 13-pound, 12-ounce bag so far.
Bryan Thrift, who was third overnight, is now in second overall with a 12-4 total today and a 3-day mark of 46 pounds. Andy Morgan has 10-8 today and 44-8 total, which is good for third place overall as of noon.
Luke Clasuen (fifth place at noon with a 43-pound total,) has caught 12-8 today. The other five anglers (Chris Zaldain, Dave Lefebre, Cody Meyer, Greg Hackney, and Kevin VanDam) have yet to reach double digits in weight today.
That's not all bad news for those anglers. Lefebre in particular said all his bites have been coming late in the afternoon, so it will be interesting to see if he has enough oomph to make up a 10-pound deficit on Herren.
The sky in north Texas is still overcast, but there is a substantial amount of glare and sun that Herren has suggested has aided his bite.
The final weigh-in will be held at 5 p.m. at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. The TTBC is a benefit for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's youth fishing and urban outreach programming. In the tournament's decade-long existence, more than $2.5 million has been raised for the TPWD from the Toyota Texas Fest.
By Andrew Canulette
Greg Hackney said he was fairly confident he would be able to find big fish on Day 3 of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic.
While that hasn't happened just yet, don't count out the veteran Elite Series pro who lives in Gonzales, Louisiana.
"I probably spent too much time looking for some good ones (I found earlier during practice,)" Hackney said. "But they had pulled out. So I went to another area and I knew the water was deeper, and even if the water fell, that stuff would hold more water. I went in there Friday afternoon and when I got in there, I culled everything I had."
One fish in particular caught his eye.
"It was a monster," he said. "Ten plus, easy. It was one of the bigger fish I've ever seen physically swimming around. So I knew I was going back in there (on Saturday.) And I knew I was going to lock down. That's what I did (to make the Tundra 10.) I lost a couple five-pounders, too. They were super aggressive."
Hackney said he planned to head back to that same area on Sunday.
"There's a ton of it I still haven't fished,' he said. "I'm just going to start way out and fish my way back."
Stay tuned to see if the Hack Attack lands that 10-pounder he eyed earlier in the week.
By Andrew Canulette
This morning before launch in the final day of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, Matt Herren said all he could do "was just go fishing" in an attempt to maintain his lead in this prestigous event.
Looks like the Alabama pro is doing just that.
Herren, who led after Day 2 with a 34-pound, 8-ounce total, has caught 16 pounds of fish already today in the first three hours and paced himself to more than a 6-pound lead over Aaron Martens, who has leaped from an overnight tie for ninth into second place at 44-0.
Sunlight seems to be key to Herren's bite so far in the 10th annual TTBC, and it looks like he's getting plenty of it again on Lake Ray Roberts north of Dallas. The skies, which were expected to be overcast the majority of the day, aren't exactly bluebird, but the sun is shining brightly which is good news for Herren.
Andy Morgan is in third and trying to keep pace with Herren. Luke Clausen and Chris Zaldain are the only other two anglers at this point who are within 10 pounds of Herren. The Bassmaster Elite Series pro has opened up an 18-pound lead on Cody Meyer, who is currently in 10th place with 32-8.
The live leaderboard will be switched off at noon, so keep your eyes on the action while you can. The weigh-in is scheduled for 5 p.m. in this benefit tournament for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's youth fishing and urban outreach programs.
By Andrew Canulette
DENTON, Texas — Set an alarm for noon. Then set another one for 5 p.m.
If you’ve been following the action on Lake Ray Roberts for the 10th annual Toyota Texas Bass Classic, those are two times you’ll want to remember. The 5 p.m. hour is when the champion of this prestigious tournament will be crowned and awarded $100,000, a Nitro Z20 with dual Power-Poles, and bragging rights that he was tops among a field that included 38 of the best bass anglers in the world.
But the noon hour, well, that’s when the mystery really begins.
From the 7 a.m. launch today at Lake Ray Roberts State Park until 12 p.m., the 10 remaining anglers in the field (not to mention the fans back home,) will be able to follow the action via a live leaderboard located at www.toyotatexasfest.com.
But from noon until 3:15 when the Tundra 10 are finished fishing for the day, that leaderboard will be turned off. That means that the anglers, and of course the fans, will be left in suspense until the TTBC champion is crowned Sunday afternoon.
That’s a really significant feature of this tournament, especially considering that the majority of remaining anglers anticipate the best bites of the day to happen very early (in the first hour,) and then to settle until the afternoon hours. If that happens, there could be significant movement throughout the standings, and it will be unbeknownst to everyone except the guy reeling in the hogs.
Matt Herren entered Sunday’s action with a two-day total of 34 pounds, 8 ounces. The 11 remaining anglers are all within 4-4 of the lead, though, which means that one significant bite could determine the champion.
Herren is followed by Andy Morgan (34-0,) Bryan Thrift (33-12,) Dave Lefebre (32-4,) Chris Zaldain (32-0,) Kevin VanDam (31-8,) Cody Meyer (31-4,) Luke Clausen (30-8,) and Greg Hackney and Aaron Martens (both with 30-4.)
It’s one of the closest final fields in the history of this event, which is a major fundraiser for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s youth and urban outreach programs. And every man in the Tundra 10 knows they have a chance to win.
“I wouldn’t have been working until 2 a.m. this morning to get second (place,)” Martens said. “I’m glad I’m not seven or eight pounds out. Really, four pounds isn’t that much. It’s one fish.”
Morgan said adjusting to conditions today will continue to be a major factor in the TTBC. The anglers have been faced with a myriad of variables so far – high water that began falling quickly, gale-force winds in practice giving way to calm days, cloud cover clearing into bright skies, and a full moon that always seems to affect fish in strange ways.
“I wish I was dialed in on something,” said Morgan, who has the biggest bag of the tournament so far with a 22-0 pound limit on Saturday. “I’d like to make one cast and there’s 10 pounds, but we know that’s not the case. I was talking with (Herren) last night, and it’s going to be cloudy again, so that will change things up again. That’s what keeps us engaged as pros … It’s the game, the guess.”
Lefebre said he’s not counting on Morgan’s weather prediction. He also wasn’t planning on making the Tundra 10, after having caught no fish on Saturday by noon. But the bite eventually went in his favor.
“I think the weatherman here is worse than where I live in Erie, Pennsylvania,” he joked. “I think it’s going to be pretty similar to yesterday; sunny, but a little more windy … But just to make the cut is a blessing. I caught them really late yesterday to get in here, and I’m getting the bites to blow it away if I can get the stupid things in the boat. I’ve got a one-track mind with two rods rigged exactly the same way. That’s it. I’m ready to go.”
Herren knows his lead heading into Sunday is tenuous, but he’s confident he can find the fish to stave off the field.
“I just have to fish,” he said. “We’ll all play the cards we’re dealt … I’ve been struggling in the mornings, so I’m going to start off a little differently. We’ll see how that goes.”
And so will everyone else – until noon, at least. The final story won’t be known until 5 p.m.
Written By: Andrew Canulette
AUBREY, Texas — Shaun Boyle didn’t think much about bass fishing until about a couple years ago when he read an article. Since then, he’s gone from fascination to addiction.
He’s had a short 10-minute trip from his Aubrey home to the launches of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic at Lake Ray Roberts State Park, and he’s come to Frisco for the weigh-ins. Fishing and traveling to fishing events have become part of his daily life.
“I read that article in Sports Illustrated, and it was fascinating,” Boyle said. “I started getting into bass fishing. I’d been catfishing. Then I went up to Tulsa and I saw the presentation you guys did up there for the Classic.
“Now I’m addicted, absolutely. I just bought a kayak a week ago.”
He said he’s probably going to fish right in the cove where the pros lined up each morning, and he likes another ramp about five miles away. He went to a pier after Friday’s launch and liked seeing the pro zip by from spot to spot.
With Oklahoma not far and originally from there, he did attend last year’s Bassmaster Classic, where he rooted hard for Jason Christie but was OK with Edwin Evers winning.
“I’m absolutely going to Conroe,” he said of the 2016 Classic in Houston. “It’s 4 ½ hours. I was going to Bend last week, but I had some stuff going on. But it’s kind of become a little traveling show for me, if it’s geographically reasonable.”
Written By: Mike Suchan
Toyota Test Fest Writer
FRISCO, Texas — Brian Snowden was feeling a bit under the weather on Saturday, but that didn’t stop him from catching the biggest bass on Day 2 of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic.
The fish the Bassmaster Elite Series pro pulled from Lake Ray Roberts weighed exactly 7 pounds, and he came upon it in mid-morning.
“It was probably 9:30,” Snowden said. “We had been fishing a marina with a jig swimming it along docks, and were not having much success. So I went to basically how I caught most of my fish the day before, which was flipping some sort of isolated dead brush. The fish I was catching was always real close to the main lake, and on the side of points.
“So we got there right about 9:30, and I caught a two-and-a-half pounder, then I missed one. Then, I caught the big fish flipping with a St. Croix Legend Tournament 7-11 flipping rod with a Johnny Morris bait casting reel. There was XPS fluorocarbon, 20 pound.
“I used an XPS tungsten 5/16-pound weight, and an XPS 4/0 hook, straight-shanked with a little keeper I put on it, and a Zoom Z-Hog in California 420.”
Snowden’s big bass was one of only four “overs” brought to the stage at Toyota Stadium on Saturday. The others came from Alton Jones (6-4,) Adrian Avena (5-8,) and Ish Monroe (5-0.)
While Snowden’s was the biggest bass on Saturday, Chris Zaldain’s 7-12 lunker remains the heaviest of the TTBC so far. The angler who catches the heaviest fish of the tournament will win the Toyota Tundra Big Bass Award and a 2016 Toyota Tundra.
Written By: Andrew Canulette
1. Matt Herren 34 lbs. 8 oz.
2. Andy Morgan 34 lbs.
3. Bryan Thrift 33 lbs. 12 oz.
4. Dave Lefebre 32 lbs. 4 oz.
5. Chris Zaldain 32 lbs.
6. Kevin VanDam 31 lbs. 8 oz.
7. Cody Meyer 31 lbs. 4 oz.
8. Luke Clausen 30 lbs. 8 oz.
9. Greg Hackney 30 lbs. 4 oz.
10. Aaron Martens 30 lbs. 4 oz.
11. Tracy Adams 30 lbs.
12. Jordan Lee 29 lbs. 12 oz.
13. Jason Christie 29 lbs. 12 oz.
14. Keith Combs 29 lbs. 8 oz.
15. Randy Howell 29 lbs. 4 oz.
16. Dean Rojas 29 lbs. 4 oz.
17. Ish Monroe 29 lbs.
18. Alton Jones 27 lbs. 12 oz.
19. Bill Lowen 27 lbs. 8 oz.
20. Brian Snowden 26 lbs.
21. Kelly Jordon 25 lbs. 12 oz.
22. Gerald Swindle 25 lbs. 12 oz.
23. Mike Iaconelli 24 lbs.
24. Brandon Palaniuk 23 lbs. 8 oz.
25. Justin Lucas 23 lbs.
26. Edwin Evers 21 lbs. 4 oz.
27. Scott Martin 21 lbs.
28. Brandon Cobb 20 lbs. 12 oz.
29. Jacob Powroznik 19 lbs.
30. Terry Scroggins 18 lbs. 4 oz.
31. John Cox 18 lbs. 4 oz.
32. Anthony Gagliardi 17 lbs.
33. Larry Nixon 16 lbs. 8 oz.
34. Brent Ehrler 16 lbs. 8 oz.
35. Peter Thliveros 15 lbs. 4 oz.
36. Adrian Avena 13 lbs. 8 oz.
37. Greg Vinson 10 lbs. 12 oz.
38. Shinichi Fukae 5 lbs. 8 oz.