The figure in the prow is charcoal against a predawn sky. He casts, breaking the silence, a soft whir of arching line and then, “plop” as the lure plunks below the water’s surface. The man reels in his line, carefully, skillfully. Pounds matter. He needs weight on the line, enough to keep him in the lead. The angler with the most bass pounds takes the trophy. His anxiety is palpable, the pressure a force he loathes and loves. This is his game. He’s a pro.
Ray Roberts Lake is one of Denton’s primary attractions. The fact that our city is situated in close proximity to other lakes like Grapevine and Lewisville lures both leisure fishermen and serious bass hunters to base their adventures out of Denton. This is the case with the angler above and 23 more like him. Together, they are the elite: the top 24 professional anglers in the world, and they lived that scene on our lake for six days in October during the Shell Rotella Challenge Cup, a Jack Link’s Major League Fishing production.
Major League Fishing is to angling enthusiasts what the World Series is to baseball fans. The term “major league” in the angling world, however, is relatively new. In only the fifth such competition in history, and just the second to be televised, Denton area lakes were selected as the playing field.
“We are especially pleased to have filmed in a vibrant community like Denton. It is an attractive community and one that welcomed us,” said Major League Fishing Commissioner Don Rucks. “Denton sits in a region with beautiful lakes — lakes that offer great bass fishing opportunities. And I can assure you our anglers made the most of this opportunity.”
Jack Link’s Major League Fishing is a partnership between the Outdoor Channel and the world’s 24 best anglers. Under serious angler-style cloak and dagger, these famous fishermen arrived in Denton on Oct. 18. The reality TV-like competition began in earnest on Oct. 21. Every morning was a mystery for the pros when each was randomly assigned a specific area to fish, a different spot every day. The location, determined solely by the luck of the draw, might be anywhere on Ray Roberts Lake or even Grapevine Lake. Fish caught were weighed immediately, then released, the weights recorded in real time for each competing angler to see right then and there where they ranked.
Fishing fans are many. More than 39 million viewers in more than 50 countries around the globe watch the Outdoor Channel, where this fascinating tournament will air in the spring of 2014. It is the largest outdoor-specific media channel in the United States. The Challenge Cup will also air on major television networks. This is a mega-audience that will meet Denton during the big fishing game.
The Outdoor Channel sent a production team in early, before the anglers arrived, to capture Denton, the host city for this highly anticipated event. Our vibrant downtown, music and funky vibe are part of the story and will be included in the tournament coverage next spring, a media value to Denton of conservatively $76,500.
The Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau promotes tourism to Denton. Much of what the CVB does is seen outside of Denton since visitors, by definition, don’t live in Denton. And our guests often go unnoticed by the majority of Dentonites, especially anglers for whom the lakes are the hook. Just because you don’t see them, however, does not mean visitors are not here. We do our best to announce the guests we know are coming to town. But, in rare instances, our staff is sworn to secrecy, like in the case of this high-profile competition.
Hotels, security detail, meals — these were all aspects with which the CVB was involved during months of planning, not to mention site visits with the top-secret gamemasters who scouted Denton for exactly the right headquarters, TV news sets, launches and reporting locations. But it was on the low-down, our promise that we would say nothing until now. So what does it all mean? Come spring, Denton and our area lakes will be prominent in the angler world as the honey hole for making fishing dreams come true. In tourism terms, these are media residuals, and anglers will be fishing our neck of the woods for years to come.
KIM PHILLIPS is vice president of the Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau at the Denton Chamber of Commerce. She loves promoting Denton’s original, independent spirit through the city’s sense of place and cast of many characters. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.