Last month, more than 100 of the world’s best bass fishermen gathered at Lake Travis, outside Austin, Texas. It was the annual Texas Fest tournament, sponsored by Toyota and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). For the second year in a row, it’s the only stop on the Bassmaster Elite series tour where anglers have an official in the boat to weigh their fish so they can release them right away. It’s the hallmark of this event, which raised around $250,000 for TPWD this year.
For cities, scoring a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament is like hosting an FIS ski event or having a stage of the Tour de France go through your town. The competitors are the absolute best in the world, and the fans turn out to see them. Each event has an entry fee (typically around $5,000). After two days, only the anglers in the top 50 advance to the weekend and get paid. Fiftieth place gets $10,000, and the winner typically rakes in about $100,000.
Of course, many of the lure-throwing magicians have support from sponsors, all of which are proudly displayed on their trucks, boats, and jerseys. But even Kevin VanDam—who has won $7 million and a couple dozen tournaments during his career—told me, “You’re only as good as your last tournament.”