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Entries in Minute Maid Park (3)

Monday
Mar272017

Alabama's Jordan Lee Wins Bassmaster Classic

HOUSTON — In 2013, Jordan Lee was a member of the Auburn University fishing team.

Today, he’s on top of the professional bass fishing world.

The 25-year-old pro from Guntersville, Ala., stayed within striking distance all week at the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. Then during Sunday’s final round at Minute Maid Park, he caught five bass from Lake Conroe that weighed 27 pounds, 4 ounces, pushing his three-day total to a tournament-best 56-10.

Lee earned $300,000 and the most coveted trophy in the sport, while Steve Kennedy — a resident of Auburn, Ala. — finished second with 55-1.

“To all of the guys fishing the college tournaments right now, this just says you can do it,” Lee said. “It’s hard work — and you’re going to have a lot of days out here that aren’t good.

“On this lake, I wasn’t sure there was any way I could do it. But you’re never out of it here.”

Lee had every reason to fold after Friday’s first round when he caught only three fish that weighed 8-6. But Saturday provided a revelation that would ultimately lead to his first B.A.S.S. victory.

He was fishing a point with a hard bottom that he found during practice, and he believed it would pay off during the tournament. After failing to catch a fish there in windy, cloudy conditions on Friday, he returned to the spot in calmer weather on the following day.

“With zero fish in the box at noon on the second day, I went back to that spot and caught a 7 1/2-pounder on the first cast,” Lee said. “When I was landing that fish, there was a whole school of 5- and 6-pounders that came with it.

“Right then, I knew something was about to happen — and I caught two more that were both big.”

Lee still didn’t manage a five-bass limit on Saturday, but the four fish he brought to the scales weighed 21-0.

That moved Lee into 15th place with 29-6 and guaranteed him a spot in Sunday’s Top 25. But he still didn’t feel good about his chances of catching California angler Brent Ehrler, who had led the first two rounds of the event and entered Championship Sunday with 43-4.

Sunday began with Lee planning to fish his magic point all day — even if the fishing had fizzled. As it turns out, he didn’t have much of a choice.

Engine troubles left him without the ability to run from spot to spot and forced him to milk every possible bite out of the point. He eventually had to hitch a ride back to the weigh-in with a spectator that he knew from Cullman, Ala. — a legal ploy in the Classic, as long as no fishing takes place in the spectator’s boat.

Lee’s main baits were a Strike King 5XD crankbait in the citrus shad color pattern, a football jig with a Rage Craw and a Space Monkey for a trailer and a Bullworm on a magnum shaky head.

“I stuck with it all day and caught fish on a football jig with a Rage Craw and a Space Monkey,” Lee said. “I threw the 5XD and the Bullworm and didn’t really get any bites on them. I caught all 27 pounds on that football jig.”

Of the hundreds of points on Conroe, Lee said it was one section of hard bottom that seemed to make his point special. Casting across the point — rather than parallel to it — was the better play all week.

“I never caught any shells or anything, so I think it was a gravel or a rock bottom,” he said. “It was really subtle. There was no brush. It was just kind of a flat point, and I was fishing probably 100 yards offshore.”

Lee had to sweat through the final few anglers, including Kennedy who weighed in 21-15 and fell just 1-9 short of the title. The final angler with a chance to unseat Lee from the top of the leaderboard was Ehrler, who weighed in just 11-10 and finished third with 54-14.

Ehrler was trying to become just the sixth angler in Classic history to lead the event from wire-to-wire and the first since Cliff Pace in 2013. Instead, he became the second angler in a row to lead the first two days, only to fall short in the end.

“I’m disappointed,” Ehrler said. “But what I really wanted to do coming in was be in position to win on the final day. I did that, but things just didn’t work out today.”

Ehrler earned the Berkley Big Bass Award of $2,500 for the largest fish of the event with a 9-12 largemouth he caught on Friday.

Ehrler also earned the GEICO Everyday Leader Award of $1,000 and the $1,500 GEICO Everyday Leader Bonus for leading both Friday and Saturday.

The event itself drew thousands of people to morning takeoffs at Lake Conroe Park, the Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods and the daily weigh-ins at Minute Maid Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros.


Monday
Mar202017

Fish Will Receive 'Major League' Care at Upcoming Bassmaster Classic

B.A.S.S. provides "major league" care for fish at every event. But at the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic March 24-26 here, that phrase takes on added and historic meaning. For the first time, in the event's 47-year history, bass will be weighed in at the home field of a professional baseball team.

Anglers and fish alike must remember to "keep off the grass" at the Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. But that won't be an impediment to continue the excellent record of fish survival at Classic venues, which typically is 97 to 100 percent, according to National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland. "We certainly expect to achieve the same level of success at Lake Conroe," he added.

Of course, "major league" fish care begins with the 52 anglers competing at 21,000-acre Conroe.

"Our anglers are very conscientious when it comes to keeping their fish alive," the conservation director said. "Dead fish mean penalties and, in the most important bass tournament in the world, they don't want any deductions!"

When competitors return to Lake Conroe Park for afternoon takeout and the 49-mile trip to Minute Maid Park, they will be met  by B.A.S.S. staff, as well as state conservation directors from the B.A.S.S. Nation who have volunteered and been trained to help.

First, they will look for dead fish and make sure bass meet the legal minimum length of 16 inches for largemouth and 14 inches for smallmouth. Also they will check to make sure livewells are full and the recirculating aerators are on full time to maximize oxygen in the water. "If water temperatures are above 70 degrees, we will add a little ice to help stabilize the temperature for the trip to Houston," Gilliland said. "It's not so much to cool the water as it is to maintain it."

Barring a cold front, that's likely to be the case. Lake Conroe water temperatures that time of year typically are in the mid to upper 70s.

Then drivers will take the anglers, their boats, and fish to the ball park, which should take at least an hour. If, as expected, they are allowed to use an inbound HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lane on I-45, travel time could be shortened a bit.  An hour's drive is more the norm that the exception for a Bassmaster Classic.

Outside Minute Maid Park, the fish will be checked again by B.A.S.S. staff and volunteers, more ice will be added if necessary, bass will be fizzed if needed (not likely), and the boats will be washed. Anglers will place their bass in mesh bags, which stay in the livewells.

When the weigh-in begins, each boat will enter the stadium from right field. It will drive onto the warning track and, from there, travel on an elevated platform down the right field line, go around home plate, and stop at third base.

"The stage will be set on the baseball infield between second and third base, facing the third-base line and stands," Gilliland said. "There will be a bridge there for anglers to cross over the grass and carry their bags of fish to the stage and scales."

At a Classic, bass typically are kept out of the water less than a minute total from the time the anglers check in at the takeout site until they are released into their home waters after the weigh-in. The longest part of that is as the fisherman carries his catch in a mesh bag to the stage.

"That time out of the water is usually 10 to 20 seconds at a time," the conservation director said. "For the Elite tournaments, the average total time was 49 seconds. We want to handle the fish as little as possible and keep them out of the water as little as possible. At the ramp, they might not even need to be handled and the same goes for the boat yard."

Occasionally, anglers will take bigger fish out of the mesh and hold them up for the crowd and media to see. As the remainder of the bass are passed off so that they can be more quickly placed in water, those photo fish will receive a few extra seconds in the spotlight before being placed in separate bags and moved along in the process.

For this Classic, the bass will be hustled out of Minute Maid Park to hatchery hauling trailers provided by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).

"The most common question we get is 'Will those fish go home?' and they will," Gilliland said. "People who live around lakes are possessive of their fish and we understand that. For this Classic, the exception would be a ShareLunker (13 pounds or better), which would go to the hatchery in Athens."

TPWD will use those trailers to transport the bass to Conroe each evening where they will be released at undisclosed locations, according to Dave Terre, chief of management/research for Inland Fisheries. "I will staff those with four people.

"I will likely have two other fish transport vehicles as well," he added. "One for transporting fish back for the high school/college tournament and one for dealing with a ShareLunker if one is caught at Lake Conroe during the tournament. Each of those vehicles will have a staff member assigned to them."

Water in the trailers will be oxygenated and temperature maintained as close as possible to that of Lake Conroe, Gilliland said.

The conservation director added that the entire fish care process from takeout to placement in the hatchery trailers requires 10 to 12 B.A.S.S. staff and volunteers.

"Space is tight and time is tight, and that's all we need to keep the process moving, to handle the fish as little as possible and get them back to the lake."

Friday
Feb172017

Will Anglers Land a ShareLunker on Conroe in 2017 Bassmaster Classic?

Renee Linderoth caught this 13.8-pound largemouth in 2009 on Lake Conroe. Seventeen Conroe bass weighing 13 pounds or more have been entered in Texas' Toyota ShareLunker program. The largest weighed 15.93.

Will crowds at Minute Maid Park witness a double-digit bass weighed in during the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods? Considering the trophy potential of nearby Lake Conroe, where 52 of the nation’s best bass anglers will compete March 24-26, they might be treated to more than just a 10- or 11-pound bass — or two or three.
 
“I think we are going to see very big bass come weigh-in time in Houston, maybe a ShareLunker,” said Dave Terre, management/research chief of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD). “At Conroe, March is the prime month for that to occur. We’ll be ready.”
 
Established in 1986, the agency’s Toyota ShareLunker program encourages the catch and release of large fish and uses bass of 13 pounds or heavier for selective breeding, before being returned to the fishery from which they were caught. Of the 17 ShareLunkers caught at Conroe, five were taken during the month of March. The latest, a 13.14-pounder, was caught in early April 2015.
 
Terre explained that Conroe’s rise as a world-class fishery was no accident. “Making big bass and great fishing are products of good fisheries management and partners working together on fish habitat.”
 
B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland added, “For years, Lake Conroe was the poster child for grass carp gone bad. Back then, the bass fishermen thought the world was coming to an end. But a solid long-term management plan that married passionate B.A.S.S. club members with the expertise of Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists, turned Conroe into a top-tier fishery.”
 
Seven Coves Bass Club, a B.A.S.S. Nation club, took a leadership role among those partners, and for its efforts, received a 2013 Environmental Excellence Award from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. “This is probably the highest recognition our conservation program has received to date,” said Tim Cook, conservation director for the Texas B.A.S.S. Nation. “Every member should be proud to be part of an organization that gives so much back to the sport we all love.”
 
In 2008, following a second round of grass carp introductions to control invasive hydrilla, the club was awarded a grant for about $45,000 from B.A.S.S. and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to build a plant nursery on property owned by the San Jacinto River Authority. The latter and TPWD also helped finance the effort.

“With the assistance and advice of TPWD, the San Jacinto River Authority, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Lewisville Aquatic Ecosystem Research Facility, they started growing native aquatic plants to go into Lake Conroe,” said TPWD biologist Mark Webb. “More people all the time were getting excited about coming in and helping to grow ecologically appropriate native plants to provide the kind of habitat we need for fish and wildlife in Lake Conroe.”
 
The following summer, 150 plants grown in the nursery were placed in the lake; they were shielded from grass carp and turtles with protective cages. Many more were to follow, as Seven Coves expanded its alliances for the betterment of the fishery. In 2010, Seven Coves received an additional $20,000 from the Toyota Texas Bass Classic and Bass Pro Shops as part of the first ever Friends of Reservoirs Foundation grant.

“This project has brought a wide range of stakeholders closer together, which has been positive for the angling community,” said Ron Gunter, a club member and assistant conservation director for the Texas B.A.S.S. Nation.
 
Today, the nursery still produces plants for Conroe, but TPWD and the Corps have taken a larger role in that aspect of the alliance, while Seven Coves members are devoting more time to helping the agency with artificial cover for the fishery.
 
“The plant work is to help propagate the (bass) species, and that definitely has helped on Conroe,” Gunter said. “The attractors will help anglers find a place to fish.”
 
Webb estimates that about 10,000 mature native plants have been added to the 21,000-acre fishery since 2008, with some, particularly water willow, now expanding on their own.
 
Along with good water quality and improved habitat, Conroe’s trophy potential is enhanced by stockings of Florida-strain largemouth bass fingerlings. The introductions are intended to keep big-bass genes abundant, rather than simply increase numbers.
 
More than 500,000 Floridas were stocked annually in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013, and some almost certainly have reached ShareLunker size.
 
Odds are improving that one of the Bassmaster Classic contenders will weigh in a ShareLunker during the world championship, as Terre predicted might happen. It would be the first 13-pounder in the Classic’s 47-year history and would easily eclipse the existing record, an 11-10 bass caught in Florida’s Kissimmee Chain in 2006.

For information about attending the 47th Bassmaster Classic in Houston, go to Bassmaster.com.

About the 2017 Bassmaster Classic

The 47th world championship of bass fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods will host 52 of the world’s best bass anglers competing for more than $1 million, March 24-26 in Houston, Texas. Competition and takeoff will begin each day at Lake Conroe Park (146 TX-105, Montgomery, Texas) at 7:20 a.m. CT. There will be off-site parking and shuttles for fans wanting to attend the takeoff. Weigh-ins will be held daily March 24-26 at 3 p.m. in one of Major League Baseball’s Top 20 largest stadiums, the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park (501 Crawford Street, Houston, Texas). 


In conjunction, the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods will be open daily only a block from Minute Maid Park at George R. Brown Convention Center, (1001 Avenida de las Americas, Houston, Texas) the largest in Classic history. Expo hours are Friday, March 24, noon – 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 25, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Sunday, March 26, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.