Anglers win Ranger Z519 with a 225-horsepower Mercury outboard
yle Rowe and Ted Pate caught a two-day limit of 50.98 pounds to win the Texas Team Trail presented by Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s (TXTT) Championship, October 25 on Choke Canyon Reservoir. The anglers won a fully rigged Ranger Z519 with a 225-horsepower Mercury outboard valued at $50,090.
Rowe and Pate went into the championship counting on leveraging those big Florida-strain largemouth bass to their advantage. It all worked out in the end, but their victory hinged on making a key adjustment.
For clarity, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has stocked this Frio River impoundment with the “Floridas” since 1981. Generations have adapted to their Lone Star surroundings, but the fish retain two of their most characteristic traits — great size potential and a clear disdain for weather changes, like the minor cold front that arrived the day before the event.
“It doesn’t matter where you go in South Texas — Amistad, Falcon, Choke — those Florida strain bass do not like cold fronts,” Rowe said. “It may only change the temperature (a few degrees), but it will affect them.”
Such was the case for the winning team. After dialing in a morning topwater bite in the mid-lake region, Rowe and Pate started Day 1 pursuing this pattern.
“We had an early (take-off number) so there was one particular spot where I thought we’d catch our limit and probably have our limit on a topwater,” Rowe said. “It took me a while to even get the first bite — a 4-pounder. We could tell it was off, so we immediately switched plans.”
Transitioning to a grass flipping pattern saved their day, as the team sent Texas-rigged Zoom Brush Hogs into the mats and filled their limit for a 19.95 that put them in thirteenth place. Not a bad start, but Rowe admits that confidence in their area nearly bit them in the backside.
“We decided not to pull our fish out and weigh them (on the water); we were just estimating,” Rowe said. “We both thought we had 21-23 pounds. We were on fish good enough, we didn’t even go to the best spot until 11 o’clock and we filled out limit really fast.
“I told my partner ‘We don’t need to stay here. We have the projected daily weight and we’ll be in the top-10. That’s all I care about; as long as we were in the top-10, most of these teams weren’t going to catch them two days in a row and we are.’”
Returning to the weigh-ins thinking their bag held more than it did, Rowe and Pate were disappointed to find they’d overestimated their day. Making matters worse, Danny Iles and Brian Shook were leading with 27.57. Realizing they had throttled back too early in the game, reality made for disheartening mental shift.
“We went back to the room and I was just sick,” Rowe recalled. “I told Ted ‘We messed up. We have no chance to win now because I know (Iles and Shook) are good enough to catch ‘em again another day.’
“I said ‘We’re going to catch a big sack, but we’re really fishing for second.’ The next day, we went back in there and things worked out; we were lucky.”
Returning to their grass beds, Rowe and Pate correctly assessed the passing front’s impact and made what was likely the most important decision of their event. Leaving the grass edges that produced their first day’s bag, they reached far into the mats where those ultra-sensitive Florida bass had fled and sacked up a whopping 31.03 pounds on a mix of Spro Bronzeye Frog and Texas-rigged Brush Hogs with 1-ounce weights.
Edging the Day-1 leaders by 7 ounces, Rowe and Pate won a total prize pack value of $54,068 included $1,024 in Angler Advantage cash. Rowe said he and his partner realize full well the magnitude of pulling out a victory against the talented field of TXTT competitors.
“Being seven pounds behind as good of fishermen as (Iles and Shook) are, we were very fortunate,” Rowe said. “Every one of these teams that fish this are capable of winning at any time. It just comes down to who makes the best decisions.”
After starting the year with a dominant win on Lake Sam Rayburn, Isles and Shook topped the Day-1 with 27.57-pound limit, anchored by a 6.11. Adding 23.34 on Day 2, they finished second with 50.91 and locked up Team of the Year honors.
For second place, Iles and Shook upgraded their prize package as part of the Ranger Cup program to a Ranger Z519 with a 225 Mercury. Their total prize package of $54,004 included $960 in Anglers Advantage cash. For their Team of the Year achievement, Iles and Shook received commemorative rings, a trophy and free entries into 2021 TXTT event.
The remaining Top 10 are Dunn/Shaw (third) Bonds/Nitschke (fourth); Mansfield/Weston (fifth): Stevens/Harper (sixth); Ligon/Pruitt (seventh); Johnston/Wilson (eighth); Vote/Vote (ninth); and Carothers/Wells (tenth).
Texas Team Trail events are made possible through the sponsorship and continued support of these well-respected brands: Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, Ranger Boats, Lucas Oil, Duckett Fishing, Aftco, Sunline, Mercury, Triton Boats, Power-Pole, NITRO, Protect the Harvest, Garmin, Valley Fashions, T-H Marine, Atlas, G-Juice, Navionics, Amphibia, Powertex Group.
For full results, please go to https://www.texasteamtrail.com/results/.