TPWD Biologist Receives 2017 Ken Cook Friend of B.A.S.S. Fisheries Award

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AUSTIN – Texas Parks and Wildlife Department inland fisheries biologist and avid bass angler Todd Driscoll of Jasper received the Ken Cook Friend of B.A.S.S Fisheries Award March 24 at the Bassmaster Classic in Houston. Driscoll is known among his peers and constituents for his work studying bass tournament fish care and mortality, improving fish habitat in some of the state’s top fisheries, dedicating much of his personal time to bass fishing, and passionately working with anglers to make fishing better in Texas.

“Driscoll’s career with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has been one that certainly sets the bar high as a fishery researcher, reservoir manager, communicator and a friend to bass anglers in Texas – and he’s a pretty darned good tournament angler to boot,” said B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland.

B.A.S.S created the Ken Cook Friend of B.A.S.S. Fisheries Award to honor the memory and legacy of fisheries biologist and professional angler Ken Cook, who died in 2016. Now in its second year, the award recognizes a state agency biologist who exemplifies the qualities of a scientist, communicator and avid angler each year at the Bassmaster Classic.

“I am pretty speechless – this is a significant award for sure,” Driscoll said. “I was lucky enough to interact with Ken Cook several times and really admired and respected him from a fisheries biology perspective and a professional angler perspective. To be recognized with an award based on his memory is really an honor.”

Driscoll said he knew he wanted to be a fisheries biologist when he was 16 years old, and after high school he passionately pursued it, graduating with a B.S. from Kansas State University in 1994 and an M.S. from Mississippi State University in 1996.

“I grew up in the Midwest – which isn’t a bass fishing paradise by any stretch of the imagination,” Driscoll said. “But my dad took my brother and me fishing every chance he could get. Fishing has been a lifelong passion of mine, and when it got time for me to think about a career choice it kind of seemed a natural fit.”

Driscoll has now served as a fisheries management biologist with TPWD for more than 18 years, and currently serves as the district management supervisor in Jasper. He is responsible for fisheries surveys, management and research efforts in a 15-county area, which includes Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend reservoirs. Both lakes have been rated among the top 100 bass fisheries in the nation by B.A.S.S, with Toledo Bend taking the No. 1 spot for two consecutive years.

“I have been so blessed to spend what’s now almost 20 years of my career near Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend,” Driscoll said. “It was an honor working with such passionate anglers and on their behalf to make the fishing the best it could be in those lakes.”

After his constituents raised the question of how heavy tournament usage at Sam Rayburn Reservoir affected the bass population at the lake, Driscoll led a groundbreaking bass tournament impact study that involved tagging and monitoring over 6,000 fish in one year. He continually monitors tournament catches to track changes in fish populations and provides guidance to tournament organizers on proper fish care and handling.

This work led Driscoll and his team to develop and implement fish care practices at the Toyota Texas Bass Classic (TTBC); a world class professional bass fishing tournament benefiting the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. For 10 years, these innovative fish care processes for trophy-size fish were showcased to a national television audience. In 2017, the TTBC becomes a Bassmaster Elite Series event called the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest and will be fished on Todd’s home waters, Sam Rayburn Reservoir, on May 17-21.

But more than any one personal accomplishment, Driscoll credits his success to the people who educated, mentored and supported him throughout his career.

“I would like to thank some people that have influenced me and made me better at my job,” Driscoll said. “First, Dr. Hal Schramm at Mississippi State University – he was my adviser during graduate school, so no words will do justice to what I learned under his guidance.”

“A big thank you goes to all of my dedicated colleagues with Texas Parks and Wildlife that I have worked with and for over the years,” Driscoll continued. “Specifically, this includes Dave Terre, Craig Bonds, Spencer Dumont, Phil Durocher, Dan Ashe, Joe Moorhead, Ray Lenderman, Mike Ratcliff and Pete Ray. All of you have made my job easier, and make me proud to work for Texas Parks and Wildlife.”