Bassmaster Elite set for Orange April 8-11
Last updated 12/8/2020 at 10:01pm
The 2021 Bassmaster season will be here soon and Orange is scheduled to host its fourth Bassmaster Elite tournament the weekend of April 8-11.
The tournament on the Sabine River is scheduled to make a three-stop swing through Texas in 2021.
First stop will be Lake Ray Roberts, north of Dallas, March 19-21. Then Orange and finally at Lake Fork, near Tyler, April 22-25.
“Fishing is such a huge sport. You just don’t realize it,” Ida Schossow, president of the Greater Orange Chamber of Commerce, said.
“Since we first started, it’s just taken off.”
Schossow should know.
Her organization brings bigtime pro fishing tournaments to the area on nearly an annual basis, starting with the 2013 Bassmaster Elite tournament in 2013.
A record crowd of 33,000 fans, the most for any Bassmaster tournament up to that point, turned out for the first year in Orange.
That crowd still ranks No. 2 all-time for the series.
Todd Faircloth was the first Orange champion. Greg Hackney, in 2018, won the most recent Bassmaster Elite tourney on the Sabine.
The 2015 tournament, won by Chris Lane, was the wettest for sure, as early fishing took place in a deluge.
It also yielded Schossow’s favorite story.
“The year it rained so bad, we had this little man from Vidor. He was 84 years old,” the Chamber leader said.
“He was walking over to the stage and the ground was so wet. As he turned to lean back on a trailer, his cane sunk in the mud and he just slid down in the mud.
“So we get him a chair and ask, ‘What are you doing? Let us help you.’
“He said, ‘I came to see my hero, Kevin VanDam.’ I’m like, ‘You’re 84, Kevin VanDam’s like 40ish.’ But that’s his hero.
“We told him, ‘You sit here and we’ll go get him and bring him to you.’ He’s like, ‘You can do that?’ and we say, ‘Sure.’
“These people, they follow this tournament fishing. It brings generations together, like this 84-year-old man saying this fisherman half his age is his hero.
“It’s just a neat story.”
What would be neat is new stories in 2021.
Of course the 2021 schedule for Bassmaster Elite is, like all professional and amateur sports, subject to weather and global pandemics.
Orange was on the 2020 Bassmasters Elite schedule – twice – last year; first for a spring event, then a makeup in the fall. Both dates had to be canceled because of the coronavirus.
Tuesday, a workshop for the Orange County Commissioners Court ended with a $100,000 donation from the county’s hotel and motel tax fund suggested for the Chamber to help pay fees associated with the fishing tournament.
“And that’s not all the money we need,” Schossow said after the meeting. “Our people need to raise another $59,000.”
The 16-year-old Bassmaster Elite series is slated to open Feb. 11-14 on the St. Johns River at Palatka, Florida.
It’s the first of 10 events on a schedule that runs through August.
Like everyone in every community, Schossow hopes the Bassmaster Elite tourney here comes off smooth in 2021.
2021 Bassmaster Elite Series schedule
Feb. 11-14, AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River, Palatka, Fla.
Feb. 25-28, Tennessee River, Knoxville, Tenn.
March 19-21, Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, Lake Ray Roberts, Fort Worth, Texas
April 8-11, Sabine River, Orange, Texas
April 22-25, Lake Fork, Emory, Texas
May 6-9, Neely Henry Lake, Gadsden, Ala.
May 20-23, Lake Guntersville, Scottsboro, Ala.
June 10-13, Pickwick Lake, Florence, Ala.
July 8-11, Lake Champlain, Burlington, Vt.
July 15-18, St. Lawrence River, Waddington, N.Y.
Aug. 19-22, Make-up date