Judges bring unique spin to Texas Fest

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Gettys Brannon

LUFKIN, Texas — Call them judges, not marshals, and for good reason. Bassmaster Marshals ride along with the pros during Bassmaster Elite Series events. That format is happening this week at Sam Rayburn Reservoir, with a unique twist.

The tournament is Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Texas Fest combines the best features of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic with the BASSfest tournament that is a fan favorite.

Texas Fest will continue following the rules established in the TTBC, including the use of judges for weighing fish. Here is how that process works.

Judges were chosen based on past experience. Many previously assumed that role in past TTBC tournaments. Some have even served as a judge for all 10 events. Judges also came from the current Bassmaster Marshal list and others are members of the B.A.S.S. Nation. Add up their experience and the Texas Fest judges are undeniably the best at what they do.

Today the judges underwent mandatory on-site training coordinated by Tim Cook. The longtime Texas B.A.S.S. Nation conservation director has held the volunteer judge management position since the inception of TTBC. Cook was joined in the training by biologists and staff from Texas Parks and Wildlife and B.A.S.S. officials.

Covered in the two-hour training session was the hands-on measuring process, using live bass, of confirming measurements according to B.A.S.S. rules. Best practices for fish handling, B.A.S.S. rules and proper use of the scales were also covered.

Here is what makes Texas Fest unique to the BASSfest and Elite Series format. That is the scales and weighing of bass in the boat. All fish will be weighed on Brecknell Hand-Held Electro/Samson digital scales. The judges will test the scales daily to assure accuracy. Each scale is supplied with a “T” handle that must be held by the judge when measuring a bass.

Here is how the weighing process works.

Once a fish comes aboard the angler will make the call for his judge to weigh the bass. While standing in the boat floor the judge will confirm the display is set to zero, then hold the scale using the “T” handle, never touching the bass, as the angler clips it to the scale. Judges will follow trained protocol with judge and angler signing off on weight as it gets locked in on the scale. Only the angler can release the fish after scoring.

All bass must measure 14 inches. Measurements are made on the longest, straightest line with the mouth closed and against the measuring board. The tail cannot be pinched to reach the minimum mark. One tip of the tail fin must touch the 14-inch mark on the board.

The rules allow the angler to keep one bass measuring over the minimum length limit in the livewell to display at the weigh-in.

Judges will ride with the pro to the weigh-in, maintaining possession of the score card, which will be confirmed and signed by the pro before handed over to tournament officials.

Once their scoring duties are complete the judges are encouraged to send catch information through BASSTrakk, and photos to Bassmaster.com for publishing to the web site.

The format of Texas Fest is guaranteed to add a unique twist to the event, thanks to the judges.