California angler takes lead after day 1 of the inaugural Toyota Texas Fest

California angler takes lead after day 1 of the inaugural Toyota Texas Fest
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff

ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Brent Ehrler of Newport Beach, Calif., takes the lead on the first day of the 2017 Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, bringing 25 pounds, 6 ounces to the scales on Wednesday.

"The fish are confused," he said. "And you have to fish confused."
The tactic worked, as the California pro caught 25 pounds, 6 ounces of bass to take the lead in an event that features a $100,000 first-place prize and an automatic berth into the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods.
His five-bass catch was anchored by a 9-1 largemouth that gave him the lead in the race for Toyota Big Bass of the week. The angler who claims that title will take home a new Toyota Tundra pickup truck valued at $50,000. Total payout is $1 million.
"It's really tricky right now," Ehrler said. "Timing is everything. The fish are just everywhere. You go out, you go in. If it looks good, you fish it."
As part of a catch/weigh/release format that is being used for the first time in an Elite Series event with a full field of 109 anglers, competitors were only allowed to bring one fish to the scales — and that fish had to be at least 21 inches long. The rest were weighed on the water by judges and immediately released.

Shortly after 7 a.m., the anglers, each with a tournament marshal in their boat, took off to find their sweet spot on the lake where they hoped to catch the biggest bass. This event marks the 41st time B.A.S.S. has held a tournament on Sam Rayburn Reservoir, and it is the fifth of nine regular-season Bassmaster Elite Series professional bass fishing tournaments scheduled for 2017.

The tournament pits 109 of the top bass anglers in the world against one another as they compete for $1 million, including the $100,000 first-place prize and a $50,000 Toyota Tundra pickup. The field of competitors includes fishing superstar Kevin VanDam, reigning Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle and 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic champion Jordan Lee. Eight Texas anglers will also compete: Keith Combs of Huntington, Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Alton Jones of Lorena, Alton Jones Jr. of Lorena, Kelly Jordon of Flint, Gary Klein of Weatherford, James Niggemeyer of Van and Takahiro Omori of Emory.

The lake has become a favorite spot for many on the tour, including combs that moved to the area for great fishing.

"It's really cool," Combs said. "Most of the time, we are on the road, who knows where; Florida, New York, somewhere pout of the way, but this one I get to sleep in my own bed. I don't know if I have a tremendous advantage. It changes, and the patterns change, but Rayburn is fishing good. It is not going to disappoint. It will be our best tournament of the year."

Combs is not alone in liking the lake. Even those from outside of Texas are eager to get on the water in East Texas.

"We have fished all across Texas, and we have fished this lake a lot," Gerald Swindle from Guntersville, AL said. "It is one of the biggest lakes we fish. It offers a variety of fishing, and scatters the guys out."

The Top 51 will fish Friday's semifinal round, and the field will take a break Saturday for a special fan appreciation day that will feature seminars, a Toyota ride-and-drive course, boat demos and an outdoors expo featuring a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department adventure zone. Beginning Friday, a special Get Hooked On Fishing experience will be open to teach youngsters about recreational fishing. Hundreds of Lufkin area schoolchildren are expected to attend.

To follow the tournament live, click here.

Schedule of Events
*All times are local

Wednesday, May 17
7 a.m.  The full field of anglers launch on Sam Rayburn. Public launch viewing is available each day from Cassels-Boykin Park (Zavalla, Texas 75980)

4:30 p.m.  Official weigh-in takes place at the George H. Henderson Jr. Expo (1200 Ellen Trout Drive, Lufkin, Texas 75901)

Thursday, May 18
7 a.m.  The full field of anglers takes off from Cassels-Boykin Park on Sam Rayburn

4:30 p.m.  Official weigh-in takes place at the George H. Henderson Jr. Expo

Friday, May 19
7 a.m.  The full field of anglers takes off from Cassels-Boykin Park on Sam Rayburn

4:30 p.m.  Official weigh-in takes place at the George H. Henderson Jr. Expo

Saturday, May 20      
7 a.m.  Launch for the 2017 Bassmaster High School All-American Tournament (tournament fishery to be announced on May 19)

10 a.m.  Bassmaster Elite Series Outdoors Expo opens at the George H. Henderson Jr. Expo

Sunday, May 21
7 a.m.  The Top 12 anglers launch from Cassels-Boykin Park for the final day of Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest competition

10 a.m.  Bassmaster Elite Series Outdoors Expo opens

4:30 p.m.  Official final weigh-in for Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest begins at the George H. Henderson Jr. Expo

Bassmaster Elite Series Outdoors Expo Activities:
On Saturday the anglers will take a day off-the-water to participate in activities at Bassmaster University. The onsite expo will be open Saturday and Sunday starting at 10 a.m. All activities are free and open to the public.

  • Military and Public Safety Personnel Day on Sunday. (Bring your official I.D. for an official Bassmaster hat.)
  • Check out the latest line of fishing wear from Huk Performance Fishing at the Huk merchandise trailer.
  • Power-Pole will also have several active displays and will be selling their latest products and merchandise, as well.
  • Free boat and motor demo rides will be available from Skeeter, Yamaha, Nitro, Triton and Mercury. A free shuttle to Sam Rayburn is available at the expo.
  • The Berkley experience trailer —
  • Celebrity Elite pros will be on hand for autograph and photograph sessions
  • Follow your favorite pros on the water with up-to-the-minute updates on BASSTrakk.
  • Toyota Ride and Drive obstacle course will also be on-site giving free rides to qualified drivers.
  • The fishing expo will include dozens of other vendors such as Carhartt, Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Livingston Lures, Phoenix Boats, Shimano, and T-H Marine are also scheduled to appear.
  • TPWD Outdoor Adventures Area is a family experience and is scheduled to include the following:
    • Archery 
    • Boater Education
    • Casting
    • Coastal Fisheries Expo
    • Daisy Air Gun
    • Fish Fundamentals Aquarium
    • Invasive Species Awareness
    • Operation Game Thief Trailer - Wall of Shame
    • River & Stream/Texas Paddling Trails
    • Take Me Fishing Trailer – Learn to Fish
    • Texas State Fish Art
    • Texas State Parks
    • Toyota Sharelunker Trailer
    • TPW Bass Management  
    • Water U Doing Road Trip
    • Wildlife Crime Scene Investigations 

2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Shell Rotella, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha, Berkley, Huk, Humminbird, Mercury

2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Lowrance, Phoenix Boats, Shimano, T-H Marine, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Carhartt, Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Advance Auto Parts, Livingston Lures

Local Host: Gulf States Toyota, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Lufkin Convention & Visitors Bureau

Copyright 2017 KTRE. All rights reserved.