"The best teamwork comes from men working independently toward one goal in unison" -James Cash Penney
When I think of tournament fishing, the first thing that comes to mind is standing on stage with a sack of fish that you just caught. In my case, bringing 2 solid red fish to the scales can prove to be a difficult task. Even when having a team tournament, you usually choose a good buddy of yours that you typically fish with and go out on tourney day and give it hell. If one angler is having an off day, the other teammate can step up and combine fish. Fair enough, but if a challenge was brought to you to find 5 anglers to individually produce solid fish on a given day, could you do it?
The exact scenario was assembled for a bass tournament on Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas. The Team Toad Slam was brought to my attention a few months back and we talked about putting together a 5 man team to fish it. The format was simple; each team has 5 members and each member gets to enter their biggest bass to complete the teams total. Sounds fun enough and after all, it was a great excuse to leave the salty marsh's of Southeast Texas and make a road trip to fish some new water. About a month ago we decided to pull the trigger; we got the final 5 members of our team, reserved our lodging, and started doing our homework on fishing the Bird.
I began searching forums on any information I could find about people fishing Lady Bird. I also started my study of Google Maps and I believe that the whole area is permanently etched into my memory. During my studies, I had one of the leaders of the tournament mentioned looking at Navionics; pretty much it is a electronic map that has the depth charts of certain bodies of water, with Lady Bird Lake being one of them.
The time came and we were all headed to Austin for the weekend. I had my kayak and poles loaded for a weekend away from SETX. Of course too, a Texas road trip is never complete without stopping at the greatest store ever, Buc-ee's!
Without a doubt it was a beautiful day for a drive across Texas and I arrived in ATX just in time to meet up with Colt and Brent. After discussing our plans for the following day, we knew that Lady Bird Lake was off limits so we decided to go further up river and fish a little area on the Colorado. We got there right at daylight and I can not even begin to explain how captivating our surroundings were; the crystal clear water, the mountains with elegant homes overlooking the surrounding area, it had it all. This was not our typical trip along the Neches River- we do not get this back home.
We start our way down the river and peel off down a cut and start fishing. It was not long and I pulled a little guy off a point throwing a Fluke. We continued down and pulled a few smaller fish off the bank. I then decided to pick my camera up and take a few photo's of Colt and Brent fishing. The second cast Colt makes he hangs into a fish and I captured all the action.
Not the biggest fish but it was still cool to capture the moment. We ended up following the cove back and found a pleasant surprise on the side of the river. 'The County Line' restaurant was there and we were craving a bite to eat. After a pulled pork sandwich (which was on-point by the way) and a cold Shiner, we decided to head back and meet the rest of the group back at the house. We picked up a few smaller fish on the way back and Colt with a decent fish.
We then make it home and meet up with everyone and after they all get settled in we begin to discuss business. We crack open a cold beer, pull up maps, break out our tackle boxes and begin to put together a game plan for the following day. We found our launch point and each person decided which way they were going to go from there. The next step in our plan, and by far the most entertaining, was what everyone's lure choice was going to be. We all knew that Lady Bird held some big fish and people liked to throw HUGE swimbaits. By huge, I mean 10" and looks to be a Tarpon or Ling rod and reel they are using to just cast it! Of course we do not have anything that size but we muster up a few lures that we think may do the trick. Between all 5 of us we have different lures, presentations, colors and sizes; we are prepared for the unknown!
"Even Elephants eat peanuts!" -Joe Strahan
We heard the above quote all night until it was time to hit the sack and get some rest before the next day. We woke up at 4 a.m., made a pot of coffee and headed to Joe's Crab Shack for the sign-in and Captains Meeting. After we received our instructions, we were off and it was a race to the water. After a morning prayer, we all launched and started paddling. Brent and I went with our gut feeling and paddled north and the rest of the team lacked behind. The first cast was allowed at 6:30 a.m. and Brent and I did not give them a spare second. I started off throwing a Fluke along the shoreline and Brent started to throw a topwater. After the first 10 minutes, I see splashing beside Brent's kayak and he landed 17" bass; we are on the board! Not long I hear my phone go off saying that Colt and Logan both have decent fish caught on crankbaits.
I knew then it was time for me to put a fish on the board and I continued beating up the shoreline. Not long after I hang into my first fish; not the biggest but as least I got a fish to enter!
I keep making my way down and I pull another smaller fish just off the edge where the drop-off is. About the time I start to catch on I run into Colt and he tells me they been finding there fish around the same area. At this point I decide to switch to the Magnum Super Fluke and try to upgrade to cull my smaller fish. I put a few tack nails in the head to let it sink a little quicker and start casting parallel to the shore and hitting the drop-off. It was not many cast later and I started to feel my line move. As soon as I set the hook, I knew instantly that I had a good fish on and that I needed to sit down and grab my net. At first glimpse of her, I noticed that there was a bigger fish swimming beside her trying to steal the bait out of her mouth; that in itself was a awesome sight to see and was well worth my trip to Austin! I land her and give a loud shout in excitement and this is when the shakes start!
She ended up going 22" (21.5" due to open mouth) and we are guessing she weighed around 6 lbs.
Brent heard me yell so he made his way back over my direction. I gave him a replay of what just happened to me and we are both pretty jacked about the situation. He then proceeds to make a few cast around me and then I hear him say, quietly but tensely "Oh my God!". I turn around to see his rod bent over and it never slacked up until she was in the net. Needless to say it was his personal best bass and excited is a understatement of what he was. She went 21.25" and almost 5.5 lbs on the Boga grips.
After high-fiving each other, we enter our fish on the Tourney X site and are floored that we are currently sitting at first. Colt and Logan had entered 2-20" fish that they caught earlier and we just needed Joe to catch a fish. We continued to fish the area and the bite just about turned off. The lake was covered with recreational kayakers and paddle boards, so we knew that the fish had to of moved into deeper water.
We reassured Joe that there was still plenty of time but to pull off the bank and keep grinding. We scattered out but was still within talking distance of each other. Around this time is when Logan finds a few objects suspended in about 10-12' of water on his depth finder. He makes a few cast and pulls a bass out; so we now know about where they were at. After that, we just paddled around with Logan looking for suspended bass on his depth finder and then proceeded to fish that area. The first school we come to, Joe cast and pulls out a keeper bass. We got 5 fish and what a relief it was! He caught that fish right around 1 so we decided to fish our way back to the launch and allotted plenty of time to get back to Joe's.
By the time we got back the tournament director had already shut off the live viewing of the score, so we could not see where we were sitting at after the rest of the pictures were submitted. While hanging around Joe's we mingle with a few of the other competitors and tell how our day was. After the cut-off time at 3:45 they began to announce the winners.
Originally they only planned on having 6-10 teams and it was going to be a winner take all event. Well the tournament was a success and they had 24 teams and 123 people registered, which made for a really large pot. After thanking the sponsors, Joe's and everyone coming out they announced the winners.
Team U Yak Bro? came out and took 1st place with a total of 99.5". Needless to say we were all excited for taking home the win and could not be anymore grateful for the day we had. We took home a pair of Smith Optics (which are an awesome pair of sunglasses), a pile of swag and the money prize.
Also a big congratulations to Stevie Nicole Jones on Big Bass. Her fish went 10.2 lbs at 25.25 and was a stud of a fish! Nice job!
Also HUGE thanks to Chris Fowler, Xander Cremente, their fishing team and others who conducted the tournament. I know I can speak for my whole team and say that we had an absolute blast fishing in the urban waters of Austin and meeting every one of y'all. Without a doubt we will be there next year and ready to fish it again!
Going into this tournament I honestly never thought we would of won. We joked about it all weekend about how awesome it would be if we did. Brent even made me agree that if we did win that my next blog had to be titled "U Yak Bro?", well there it is... Fishing is one of those sports that when it goes your way, it just does. The only explanation I have is that we made a plan and never veered from it. We communicated well as a team and in the end, it took every team member to produce a fish.
This past weekend was a incredible adventure. Every time I travel to someplace new in Texas she never ceases to amaze me. Traveling this weekend is going to be the start of me taking time out of my normal schedule and go fish new areas and meet a few people along the way. On my trip home I ran into this and it served as a good reminder to always make progress, strive for your goals and just because you may be the underdog, it does not mean that you are out of the game.