JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF
HORSESHOE BAY — A two-year commitment of having the Texas High School Fishing State Championship in the Highland Lakes was extended to a third year last March.
So this year’s Spring Break will once again end with the fishing tournament March 20-22 on Lake LBJ.
One reason for the tournament’s return is due to an unexpected feat: The 2014 state championship team of Joe Beebee and Will Brady of The Woodlands College Park caught five fish weighing 32 pounds.
“It’s a national record that’s still standing today,” said Lorna Ellis, co-founder of the fishing club at Marble Falls High School. “For a bag of fish, it’s the largest winning weight in a state high school fishing tournament.”
Other reasons are the hospitality of the Marble Falls community, the way local businesses have embraced the tournament and how volunteers coordinated the tournaments in 2013 and 2014, she said.
The best example to illustrate that is the amount of scholarship money up for grabs. The first-place team receives $5,000, while second place gets $2,500. Most of the money comes from businesses across Central Texas, Ellis said.
The third-place team receives an artwork prize, while the Big Bass winner gets a metal bass replica courtesy of Trey Carpenter of Llano.
“What you will hear from the participants, especially those who don’t fish, is that it’s a well-run event,” Ellis said. “I think they like the personal touch. We go above and beyond the requirements.”
River City Grille owner Paul Brady hosts a meal March 20 for student-anglers and boat captains. Businesses donate water and ice used during the tournament, Ellis said. In addition, since the fishing club in Marble Falls is a non-sanctioned University Interscholastic League sport, businesses have donated materials, money and other things to help offset costs.
“It’s a tribute to the greater Marble Falls community to include Austin and Leander,” Ellis said. “They rallied to help us receive funds to provide the scholarships. It has grown because of what the Marble Falls community has helped us launch four years ago.”
The fishing club at Marble Falls High School, which is the tournament host school, is bracing for 100 boats of two-angler teams and a boat captain competing in the tournament. A new format by The Bass Federation, which is the governing body of the tournament, allows for a seventh- or eighth-grader to pair up with a high school angler.
The state tournament begins at 7:30 a.m. March 21 with weigh-in at 3 p.m. at the LBJ Yacht Club and Marina, 200 S. Wirtz Dam Road.
Club sponsor Craig Orton said the local fishing club is asking Central Texas teams familiar with the Highland Lakes to use boat docks at Lake Marble Falls and Bluebrier Park in Granite Shoals to launch their boats and then travel by water to the LBJ Yacht Club and Marina to minimize traffic.
“We’re trying to save the marina for out-of-towners,” he said. “There are only so many parking spots.”
When teams dock to begin weigh-ins at 3 p.m., typically, a family member gets in line with the boat trailer to retrieve the boat from the single dock at the marina. That process, because of the number of boats, takes a lot of time.
Marble Falls/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bill Rives said the tournament’s importance to the area goes beyond the economic impact on the community and the scholarships that are provided.
He said he’s always impressed with the anglers’ respect for the environment, the lake and the fish (the tournament is a catch-and-release event) and their good manners in how they treat volunteers.
And since more than half of the teams last year caught fish that were weighed, Lake LBJ has rewarded skilled anglers with fish, Rives said.
“Not only is this a great place to visit, it’s a great place to fish,” he said.