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TTZ Big Bass Tournament Big Catch for Lake LBJ

Texas Tournament Zone event is Jan. 20 on Lake LBJ.

HORSESHOE BAY — You might think it's too cold in January to fish, but there are more than 500 anglers heading to Lake LBJ who would disagree.

On Saturday, Jan. 20, the Texas Tournament Zone opens its season on the lake, and the fishing team that nets the biggest haul wins at least $10,000.

“Lake LBJ is our most popular lake,” said Brian Booker, owner and founder of TTZ, which organizes tournaments across the state. “It’s a really good bass fishery, and (you) typically see some pretty nice fish come out of LBJ.”

Last year's TTZ tournament on Lake LBJ drew 256 two-person teams, or 512 anglers. It was a record for TTZ, but Booker believes the Jan. 20 event is setting up to break it.

For those who don’t know the difference between a Texas rig and a crankbait, bass tournaments are big. Big in the number of anglers they attract, the number of fish those anglers catch (and release), the entertainment offered, and the economic boost provided.

Fishing is generally a quiet, relaxing activity, but tournaments take it up a notch — several notches. Booker once competed on the bass fishing tournament circuit and recalled spending days on a boat in bitter cold and extreme heat. Anglers sometimes pounded through 2- to 3-foot waves in bad weather at speeds up to 70 mph to get to the next fishing hole or weigh-in.

Then, there are the hours of standing on a rocking vessel as you throw cast after cast after cast.

“It’s a tough way to live,” Booker admitted.

While he loved his time on the circuit, it meant days away from his family. After hanging up his competitive rod and reel, he looked for ways to stay connected to bass fishing tournaments without being on the road all the time.

Texas Tournament Zone was born.

At each tournament, teams head out at dawn with the goal of catching the five biggest largemouth bass. Winners are determined by the overall weight of the haul. With a guaranteed first-place payout of $10,000, it’s truly a competitive sport. On top of that, TTZ pays out winnings to at least the top nine places and offers a 90 percent payout of entry fees. Booker explained that if the tournament brings in $50,000 in entry fees, it would pay out $45,000 to the anglers.

TTZ and other tournament series look for the best lakes on which to hold tournaments. Several factors are considered. Booker pointed out that while Lake LBJ sits in a good spot with Austin and San Antonio nearby, its immediate location is also in its favor.

“First, you have to have a lake that’s large enough to handle a tournament with 200 or so boats,” he said. “Then, it has to have enough hotels, gas stations, restaurants, and others things.”

Lake LBJ has it all, including a top-notch bass fishery, which means anglers can catch the big ones.

On the surface, bass tournaments don’t seem like spectator events, but Booker said that’s changing, mainly due to the weigh-in.

People love seeing the big fish come through.

On top of the weigh-in, which starts at 3 p.m. at the LBJ Yacht Club at 200 S. Wirtz Dam Road, the event offers free food as well as merchant booths.

“We try to make it a very family-friendly event,” Booker added.

He encourages youth participation in the tournaments, and not just as spectators.

“We’ve had some (kids) start as young as five or six and who are now on college teams or even professional anglers,” he said. “There’s a number who still fish with us. It’s a way of getting kids interested in fishing and the tournaments.”

Another thing that helps organizers pick a lake is the community. Booker pointed out that the residents — from the folks who live on the lake to the Marble Falls/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce and local businesses — show great support for the tournaments and the anglers.

And the tournament shows great support for the community in return.

The more than 250 anglers hit the lake with their trucks, boats, tackle boxes, and rods and reels as well as their credit cards and cash. Booker said the average TTZ angler spends $161 in gas, food, and hotel stays during the tournament.

That comes out to $80,000-$100,000 pumped directly into the local economy. Those dollars often circulate several times within the community before leaving.

Even a month before the tournament, many of the competitors who don’t live in the immediate area will visit several times to pre-fish and scout the lake to see where the fish are and what lures are most effective. (Under TTZ rules, anglers can’t get on the lake the week before the event.)

Booker said those early trips add more money to the local economy. Some anglers even return to the area with their families for vacations.

Lake LBJ is a fixture of TTZ's Central Region series. The 2018 schedule also includes stops on Lake Travis (March 17) and Lake Buchanan (May 19). The lake for the series championship is yet to be determined.

TTZ is just one of several bass tournament series that swings through the Highland Lakes. Bass Champs has tournaments on Lake Travis (Feb. 3) and Lake LBJ (March 3), and the Texas Bass Couples series has a tournament on Lake LBJ (June 9). The Texas Bass Trail features a late summer-through-winter schedule with January championships. It made two stops on Lake LBJ in 2017 and one stop each on Lake Buchanan and Lake Travis.

With its location, quality fisheries, and supportive local communities, the Highland Lakes is a Texas fishing tournament hot spot.

Booker added that anyone interested in learning more about tournament angling should attend the TTZ event Jan. 20 to watch.

“And they can just call me,” he added.

Go to TTZ1.com for more on the Texas Tournament Zone series or to register. You can also call Booker at (512) 761-2426. Go to basschamps.com, texasbasscouples.com, and texasbasstrail.com for information on those series.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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