Team spirit at Toyota Tournament

FLORENCE, Ala. — Go to most any pre-tournament registration and meeting and the anglers will be wearing game faces. Talk will be about fishing strategies and nothing more. It’s all business on the eve of competition. The vibe is the exact opposite at the Toyota Bonus Bucks Owners Tournament.

Unlike most tournaments, the anglers participating in this one-of-a-kind event arrived two hours before the registration, dinner, and meeting. Game faces were replaced by smiles. There was laughter throughout a very long line of 230 two-angler teams from 35 states waiting to enter the hospitality tent. Everyone came early to socialize. Without the Bassmaster weigh-in stage on-site you’d never know a tournament was going on.

Toyota Fishing Team pros Matt Arey, Ott DeFoe, Michael Iaconelli, Brandon Lester, Terry Scroggins, and Gerald Swindle chatted in line with the participants. Bassmaster Elite Series emcee Dave Mercer was there, too.

What stood out were a husband-and-wife team wearing identical jerseys. They were Don and Martha Goodfellow, from Greenville, S.C. The Goodfellow’s have come to six of the eight tournaments. Team tournaments are nothing new for them. Married for 44 years, the Goodfellow’s have competed together for 30 years and counting.

“At one of our first events she had tournament big fish and got caught up in all the hoopla and photographs taken on the weigh-in stage,” said Don, retired from a career at Proctor & Gamble.

Friends began calling him “Martha’s husband,” and the nickname has stuck ever since. What else has stuck is their affinity for this tournament. Like everyone else, the Goodfellows first come for the fellowship, then the fishing. The couple shares a cottage with two other teams, and next door are another three teams sharing a cottage. They all come for the week, getting up early to go fishing and then returning to share nightly dinners. The best part of the week is registration, meeting, and dinner.

“While there is a competition here it’s all about the fellowship and enjoying the registration,” said Don. “The pros are so approachable and just awesome to visit with us.”

Martha acknowledges there is more about the tournament than the competition.

“It’s also about the Toyota Bonus Bucks program,” she said. “I put the logo on my jersey and we tell everyone we know, strangers included, about it if we see them driving a Tundra.”

Back home, Martha competes in the Lady Bass Anglers circuit and has won over $3,000 in bonus bucks cash. She has also recruited other women to fish the Lady Bass Anglers circuit. Some are now Toyota owners as the result of her contagious enthusiasm for the program.

The Goodfellow’s own a 2017 Tundra and it’s their third Toyota. They traded in a 2012 Tundra to remain eligible to participate within the program’s five-year model rule.

“I like the comfort and the reliability,” he said. “We’ve put over 200,000 miles on those three Toyotas without a single maintenance issue.”

While doing a Facebook Live for Bassmaster, Matt Arey stopped to chat with Dennis O’ Dell and his teammate Frank Nixon. They were joined by their wives Janet and Brandy. The couples are from Abilene, Texas, and this is the third owner's tournament.

Longtime friends, Dennis and Frank are also members of the Texas B.A.S.S. Nation. After winning a regional tournament, Frank discovered how much bonus bucks money he might have won as a Toyota owner.

“What did I do? Of course, I bought a Tundra,” he said. “Until I started fishing with Dennis I had no idea of just how much more of a benefit there is to owning a Toyota and participating in bonus bucks.”

That includes enjoying the camaraderie and friendly atmosphere of the tournament.

“We really like to fish, compete and are big fans of ‘The Bassmasters’ TV show,” added Dennis. “The pros are just so approachable and everyone is just so friendly.

“The tournament is more like a family reunion than a competition,” added Janet. “We fished a Texas couple’s tournament with the Nixon’s for 20 years and it really is all about the fun.”

They are not alone in that sentiment. The friendly vibe attests to what the tournament really is all about.