The first of 30 consecutive Tuesday night bass fishing tournaments is set to begin Tuesday. The regular season of the series will conclude on Sept. 25, and the championship event will take place during the last weekend of September.
The 3X9 Series gets its name from the challenge facing the series’ participants: to catch the largest three fish by 9:30 p.m.
Each of the tournaments takes place at the boat ramp adjacent to the Stillhouse Marina located inside Stillhouse Park on Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir off of Simmons Road. Each tournament begins at 6 p.m. and ends at 9:30.
The series is organized by Tightlines Premium Fishing Tackle in Killeen, with Dean Thompson, one of the store’s co-owners, serving as the operations manager of the tournament.
The series is a team-focused tournament intended to be participated in by two-angler teams in which teammates remain the same throughout the series.
Boatmates work together to bring the heaviest three-fish limit to the scales in the allotted period of time.
Although smallmouth bass, Guadalupe bass and spotted bass are occasionally weighed in, the vast majority of the fish brought to the scales on Stillhouse are largemouth bass.
When asked if any changes would be made to this year’s series versus past years, Thompson was quick to point out one improvement intended to reduce delayed mortality on those bass released following weigh-in.
“We’re going to use our trained youth to handle the release of our fish so the release is more timely and less stressful on the fish, especially in the heat” said Thompson. “We’re also going to use a holding tank with cooled water.”
The series already has a self-imposed limit of three kept fish per team versus the lawful state limit of five bass per person in order to keep livewells less crowded and fish more lively.
Further, anglers failing to care for their captured fish face a one-pound penalty if a dead bass is brought to the scales, and culling a dead bass is prohibited.
The cost to participate is reasonable as far as modern bass tournaments go. There is a one-time $10 per angler registration fee for the series, and then a $50 per team entry fee for each tournament.
Each week, 80 percent of the entry fees are paid back out to the top finishers as well as to the angler catching the single largest bass of the night. The remaining 20 percent is retained for the championship event prize money.
Last year’s 3X9 Series championship saw $7,500 up for grabs to the top finishers. The team of Craig Gilbert and Dexter Thompson led the field with a final five-fish weight of 19.83 pounds, anchored by their largest fish, a 5.62-pounder. They took home $4,000 for their efforts.
Ervin Woodard and Kacey Henderson took second place and split $2,000 with their 17.67-pound catch.
Willie Vickers and Billy Hirchman took third place with just four fish weighed in. Their catch of 14.65 pounds was rewarded with a $1,500 prize.
With upward of 50 boats expected as the new series begins, organizers will use a random drawing for numbered chips to determine the order in which teams launch so as to avoid a potentially dangerous “mass start.”
Due to the length of the series, anglers are exposed to a variety of seasonal conditions requiring that they excel at a number of tactics, from the use of late winter methods for the first few tournaments, to tactics suited for the spawn and post-spawn periods, on to presentations appropriate for temperamental summer bass, and so on.
Although tournament organizers encourage advanced registration, anglers may sign up to participate at any point in the series, and right up until launch time on tournament nights.
Interested anglers may contact Tightlines Premium Fishing Tackle at 254-690-3474.
Once again the Killeen Daily Herald plans to provide season-long weekly coverage of the 3X9 Series in the sports section of the newspaper.