The most intense competition at the seventh annual Toyota Trucks Bonus Bucks Owners Tournament may be for bragging rights between Toyota manufacturing plants. The Toyota Owner’s Tournament takes place at Table Rock Lake, Missouri, on Sunday, October 28, 2018. It has drawn over 200 teams from 30 states.
Among the competitors are five teams from Toyota’s Mississippi plant, which manufactures the Toyota Corolla, and three teams from the Toyota plant in Kentucky, which makes the Toyota Camry, Toyota Avalon and the Lexus ES.
Besides vying for the cash awarded to the top 30 teams overall, the teams from the Toyota plants dearly want to best each other. It is a tournament within a tournament and the winning plant will be awarded a traveling trophy on stage after the weigh-in.
The weight of all the teams from each Toyota plant is averaged, and the team with the highest average weight is the victor. The first of these competitions took place at the 2017 Toyota Owner’s Tournament. The Mississippi plant bested the Kentucky plant.
“We finished second last year,” said Greg Haddix, Toyota’s Kentucky plant assembly manager. “That sounds better than saying we lost.”
According to Haddix, the Kentucky plant has had its own bass club for 27 years, which holds six tournaments a year. The Mississippi plant also has a bass club, which holds eight tournaments a year, claimed Roy Byrd, of Pontotoc, Miss., a logistics specialist at the Mississippi plant.
“We definitely want to beat the Kentucky plant,” Byrd said. “But we also want to do well as individual teams.”
Byrd’s team partner is his cousin, Ryan Owens of Columbia, Tenn., who some Kentucky plant anglers regard as a ringer.
“We're optimistic,” Byrd said. “I believe 15 pounds will win this tournament and that 12 pounds will make the money.
Haddix admitted that practice for the Owners Tournament has been a dose of humility. However, the Kentucky plant teams did get onto two patterns that prompted them to “spend several hundred dollars last night at Bass Pro Shops.”
The highest finishing Toyota plant team in 2017 was a father-daughter duo, Tom and Isabella Sharpe, who represent the Mississippi plant. Isabella works in maintenance assembly and towed a 521 Ranger boat to the Owner’s Tournament in her Toyota Tacoma.
Last year they brought four smallmouth bass to the scales that weighed over 8 pounds.
“We don’t do green fish,” said poppa Sharpe. “We’re going for smallies again this year.”
As well as they fish as a team, there is one point of contention that has stuck in Isabella’s craw since the 2017 Toyota Owner’s Tournament.
“I caught the biggest fish last year, but my dad took credit for it on stage,” she said.
It doesn’t seem likely that dad will get away with that one this year.