There is more to a boat show these days than just boats. This year’s 41st annual Central Texas Boat Show next weekend at the Bell County Expo Center is a case in point.

While boats will be the backbone of the show, there are also fishing tackle dealers and fishing seminars, local craftsmen, live music, food, activities for kids, and perhaps most entertaining, two live bass fishing tournament weigh-ins featuring just-caught largemouth and smallmouth bass from Belton Lake and Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir, and current just-off-the-water reports on how these fish were caught from the anglers who caught them.

In all, over 40 different vendors will have booths set up at this year’s show.

Comparison shopping

Two of the greatest features of a boat show for those interested in buying their first boat or upgrading to a new boat, is the presence of a wealth of accessible boating knowledge all under one roof, and the ability to comparison shop across brands, features and dealers. This year’s show will feature five boat dealerships from around Central Texas. Marine Outlet of Temple will feature its G3 line of fishing boats powered by Yamaha outboards, as well as Larson bowriders and sportboats. Waco Motor Sports will feature its Mercury-equipped Tracker line of fishing boats. Yowell’s Boat Yard will have both Skeeter and Xpress boats on display, and Uncle Gus’ Lodge from the Lake Whitney area will have a number of recreational water sports boats present, including Bryant boats and Gekko boats.

A new player in the boat business, Tightlines Premium Fishing Tackle of Killeen, will have its line of tournament-focused Bass Cat bass boats on hand.

Everything from portable kayaks to giant pontoon boats and everything in between will be on display.

Continuing education

Boat show organizers have put together a solid lineup of speakers this year focused on making local anglers more successful. The schedule of speakers is as follows:

  • “Spring and Winter Bass Fishing,” — Keith Combs, B.A.S.S. pro angler (Saturday, 1:45 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m.).
  • “Year-Round White Bass and Hybrid Striper Fishing on Belton and Stillhouse,” — Bob Maindelle, Holding the Line Guide Service (Saturday, 1 p.m.).
  • “Crappie Fishing on Lake Granger,” — Tommy Tidwell, Granger Lake Guide Service (Saturday, noon and 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon).
  • “Central Texas Flyfishing,”— Bob Pohlman, Under Texas Skies (Saturday, 11 a.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.).

TuffMan Bass tournament finale

After a full season of bass fishing on Belton and Stillhouse, 61 two-person teams have qualified for the two-day championship match to be split across Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir on day one, and Belton Lake on day two.

These teams will each seek a daily five-fish limit in hopes of weighing in the 10 heaviest fish to compete for the $10,000 grand prize and a $1,000 big-bass prize.

The live weigh-ins, featuring emcee and B.A.S.S. pro Keith Combs, will take place at 3:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, and are included with the price of admission.

Hands-on fun for kids

An above-ground tank stocked with catfish will be set up at this year’s boat show to offer indoor fishing opportunities for kids, as well as a giant bounce house, and harnessed trampolines.

On Saturday, the University of Texas bass fishing team will be running a kids casting contest with prizes from 1 to 4 p.m. Throughout the show, Marty McIntyre, of GarQuest Adventures, will be coaching kids on shooting fake fish floating in a tub with archery equipment from off the front of his custom-made bowfishing boat.

Arts and crafts just yards away

If fishing or boating is not of as much interest to you as it is to the rest of your family, there is a Sami Show arts and crafts event taking place simultaneously in the Expo Center on Saturday and Sunday Show hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Adult admission is $5, and kids 12 and under get in free.

Easy on the pocketbook

Boat show hours are 2 to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday , and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Daily adult admission is $7, youth (13-18 years) admission is $5, and those 12 and under are admitted at no charge when accompanied by an adult. Active duty military members and their spouses are offered a reduced $5 admission.

For those desiring to attend more than one day and/or see both tournament weigh-ins, a $10, three-day ticket is also available.

For more show information, see centraltexasboatshow.com.

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