In addition to anglers and fans, the 2019 Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest drew people from local communities and tourists alike to Lake Fork and the surrounding area, shining a spotlight on all this part of East Texas has to offer.
On Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday, 75 elite anglers competed to be named Texas Fest champion. Saturday, however, was a day for local vendors and musicians to showcase their talent and products and promote the beauty and amenities of Wood County.
The Wood County Industrial Commission (WCIC) served as host of Texas Fest in conjunction with Lake Fork Chamber, Sabine River Authority (SRA), Quitman Development Corp. (QDC) and Emory Tourism.
WCIC Executive Director Kiki Bettis explained the economic and tourism benefits of having world-famous elite anglers come to Lake Fork and the Wood County area.
“This was a huge tourism project for Lake Fork, Wood County and the surrounding areas. Despite the weather, it was a great turnout. We had several out of town visitors come to the event – they enjoyed the tournament as well as the area and expressed their interest in returning. The majority of our lodging establishments were occupied, the retail and restaurant businesses in and around the county saw an influx in customers indicating a positive boost to Wood County’s economy,” Bettis said. “Without the collaborative efforts of Wood County Industrial Commission, Sabine River Authority, Lake Fork Chamber, Emory Tourism, Quitman Development Corp., area businesses and organizations, this event would not have been such a fantastic success. We appreciate everything Texas Parks and Wildlife does for Lake Fork and grateful to Bassmaster for agreeing to bring their tournament to Wood County. We look forward to working with them in the future.”
Lake Fork Chamber of Commerce President Michael Rogge noted that he saw a multitude of new people come to the lake, and they plan to come back.
“This tournament brings a lot of recognition,” Rogge said. “They (Bassmaster) have excelled in promoting Lake Fork. It brings a lot of recognition and because of that it brings a lot of people here. When people see this on TV or the news, they want to come to Lake Fork and the surrounding areas,” Rogge said.
Seeing these tournaments can lead to people moving to the area and potentially adding to economic progress through business developments, he added.
Whether fishing-related or not, multiple events attracted thousands to the lake area.
Community festivities began with the five-mile fun run, “Run Your Dam Bass Off” across the Lake Fork dam hosted by Lake Fork Chamber of Commerce. The Run was sponsored by WCIC, SRA, QDC, Emory Tourism, Colonial Realty and iTRI365 Timing & Event Production.
Brent McDonald came in first place in general and among the male division. Leslie Stepflug came in first in the female division and fourth in general.
It was one of the first times for the Lake Fork dam to be open publicly.
On Saturday through Sunday, an Outdoors Expo included Nitro, Skeeter and Triton boat demo rides, games and prizes from Toyota and Carhartt, booths from brands like Yamaha, T-H Marine, Power-Pole and official Bassmaster merchandise.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department brought in fish aquariums, a kids’ fishing area, fly fishing, casting, fish art and information on Texas parks and preservation efforts.
Attendees were also able to meet with the fishermen, get autographs and listen to interviews on Saturday.
Country music artist Chris Knight’s performance closed the Saturday festivities as a part of the Mercury Concert Series. Local artists Danny Reichle and the L&B Band performed earlier in the day courtesy of Neon Moon Restaurant and Club.
In addition to Lake Fork events, Lake Quitman hosted 12 Bassmaster High School All-Americans anglers partnered with the Bassmaster elite anglers for the annual Bassmaster High School All-American Fishing Team Tournament on Saturday.
Each team of a professional angler and high school angler worked together to get the heaviest catch.
All-American Tyler Cory of Amherst, Wis., and elite angler Carl Jocumsen from Australia came out on top with a joint catch of a little over 11 pounds. The elite and high school anglers also went on a shopping spree at Academy Sporting Goods in Greenville for fishing equipment.