By David A. Brown
Brookeland, Texas (Feb. 24, 2020) — Stats lovers know that drama dwells in the details; often in the slimmest of margins. Well, for Danny Isles and Brian Shook, an astounding 5-bass limit of 49.31 pounds not only won the Texas Team Trail presented by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s, at Lake Sam Rayburn, it outpaced their nearest competitors by nearly 18 1/2 pounds.
Notably, that winning
margin was more than the 12th-place team’s total weight.
So, what does it take to
sack up five bass weighing just south of 50 pounds? Weather, Iles said — cold
weather. Initially, the Lufkin, Texas angler admits, he and his partner were
unsure of what the day would bring.
“Honestly, the cold
front we had the middle of the week is the only reason we caught those fish,”
Iles said. “It seems like they had really moved up shallow pretty good, but we
had a pretty severe cold front that knocked the water temperatures down and
pushed the fish out of the little pockets that they had been in.
“Last weekend we fished
offshore in practice and didn’t catch anything but three or four little ones.
We talked about it earlier this week and thought ‘It’s been colder, maybe the
fish will back up a little bit.’ When we left (at take off), we said ‘It’s
50/50 whether we’re even going to catch one or not.”
Heading up the lake to
the 147 Bridge area, Iles and Shook started on a deep drop-off. With their boat
sitting in 28 feet of water, they cast shallow and retrieved their crankbaits
out to the 25 foot drop-offs where a mix of brush and old timber provided
attractive staging areas.
“At our first place, we
caught an 11.47-pounder and a 10-pounder and we said ‘Well, we’re not going
shallow now,’” Iles chuckled. “We were only going to fish shallow if we got in
trouble. We like to fish offshore if we can, but we were going to give the
shallow fish a try. We had a bunch of shallow stuff tied on and we were going
to go up shallow if (the deep spots) didn’t work out.”
As Isles points out,
their day was heavy on quality, but light on quantity. The winners got only six
keeper bites on three spots of similar makeup. After finding only those two
giants on their first spot, they found a 7-pounder on their second and then
added one around 9 and limit-making 12 on their final spot.
The winning anglers had
their weight by 10:15 and, while looking at five giant heads in the live well
certainly gave them supreme confidence, that feeling took a while to cement. As
Iles recalls, thoughts of past events prevented them from prematurely
“We caught the first two
and we were kind of freaking out because we had fished another tournament a
couple weeks ago and we only had two keepers at 2 o’clock,” he said. “We
finally scrounged up three 2-pounders to go with the two big ones. This week,
we caught those two and we were like ‘We gotta find a way to catch three more.’
“We were really kinda
nervous, but the next place we went, we caught another big one and we were like
‘Okay, we have three that weigh around 26-27 pounds. If we catch two more
2-pounders, we may win this thing.’ We were already thinking about what we had
to do later in the day to catch a couple of 2-pounders, but then on the next
offshore place, we caught two more bin’s and we knew we had enough weight to
Iles said that gearing
up with the right tackle was essential for he and Shook’s success. They changed
their bait’s stock hooks to 2X strong Owner round bend trebles and fished them
on 7-11 Power Tackle cranking rods with 16-pound fluorocarbon. With the day
yielding few opportunities, they couldn’t afford to squander any.
“The most fortunate part
of our day was not only getting the bites, but getting them in the boat,” Iles
said. “We hooked five (big ones) and we got all five in the boat.”
For their efforts Iles
and Shook earned a fully rigged Ranger Z19 with a 225 Mercury.
In addition, they claimed $3,030 of Anglers Advantage cash and $1,535 Big Bass
award. Their total payday was $52,560.
Marine will also be paying this team an additional $2,000 for purchasing their
boat at their dealership.
A subtle feature
produced big results for Casey Burleigh and Josh Rodgers, who placed second
with 30.82 pounds. Running up north to an area outside Stanley Creek, they
targeted a flatter drain with a small depression dropping from 14 feet to 16.
The spot lacked hard cover, but abundant bait gave staging prespawners abundant
“When we found this spot
in practice around 11 a.m. on Friday, we caught a 3-pounder and a 4-pounder on
back-to-back casts and we decided to leave,” Burleigh said. “We decided to
start on that spot, because on Rayburn, if it’s going to happen, typically, it
happens in the first two hours.”
Oddly, their key spot
offered no warm welcome, so Burleigh and Rodgers left and fished a grassy area.
With no love there either, they returned to their drain and this time, the fish
were ready to go.
“It was 11 o’clock, the
same time we caught them on Friday and it was lights-out,” Burleigh said. “We
were throwing a 6th Sense C-20 Cloud 9 crankbait and the key was we weren’t
burning it. You had to keep it really slow and the big girls were just chomping
Burleigh said a
hour-long flurry yielded about 29 pounds. After that, they ran to a spot they’d
fished before, made a key cull with a 6 1/2-pounder — also on the crankbait —
and started the long run back around 2:30.
Burleigh said their day
included a moment of tremendous opportunity and heartbreaking loss. He had just
caught a 5-pounder when his partner’s second following cast tempted a pair of
8-pounders that literally came to the boat hooked on the same crankbait.
“I got them both in the
net, but with 16 pounds in there, but when I went to lift them, my net broke
and one of them got away. The one we put in the livewell weighed 8 pounds and
the one we lost was every bit as big.
“We were worried that we
had lost the tournament when we lost that fish, but we got beat by (over) 18
pounds. That eased the pain a little bit at the end of the day.”
For second place,
Burleigh and Rodgers earned $10,147, which included $2,222 in Anglers
Advantage cash and a $250 Ranger Boats bonus.
After practice showed
them that staying shallow was unlikely to prove consistent, Brannon Mire and
Ben Matsubu made a game-day decision to back way off and target the ones that
were coming. Doing so yielded a limit of 25.84 that earned third place.
“We prefished shallow
early and we just figured that was a crap shoot,” Mire said. “With high skies
and bluebird days (post-frontal conditions), if you catch 17 pounds up there,
you’d be luck and that’s not enough to win it on Rayburn. So we went back into
12-18 feet and all we caught was dinks.”
Uncomfortable with what
practice revealed, the anglers took drastic measures, which ended up delivering
a solid day. As Mire recounts, Matsubu made the crucial call shorty before
“We got up tournament
morning and I said ‘Ben, where are we going today?’ And he said ‘Dude, we’re
going deep,’” Mire said. “We went out to a spot in 12-18 feet and caught a dink
and he said ‘We need to back up.’
“We actually put our
boat in 50 feet of water and were throwing up to 32. There was a big rock point
on the south end of the lake and within 15 minutes, he caught a 10.36-pounder.
We could see (on our electronics) there was bait their, big fish swimming. He
said ‘Dude, everything is lining up perfectly.’”
And line up, it did.
Mire and Matsubu caught all of their fish on 5/8-ounce peanut butter and jelly
color Talon football jigs with Yamamoto Hula Grub and Big Bite Baits Cane
Thumper trailers in tilapia colors
For third place, Mire
and Matsubu earned $6,625, which included $2,020 in Anglers Advantage
Clint Wade and Stacy
Spriggs weighed five bass worth 24.82 pounds, taking fourth place and
earning $4,787. Behind them was Alan Moore and Robert Davis
with 24.10 pounds. For fifth place, they earned $3,817.50.
The 10th place team of
Rusty & Chris Harvey claimed the $500 Garmin Tournament Reward for being
the highest placing Garmin user at the Sam Rayburn event.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10
teams at the 2020 Texas Team Trail event on Sam Rayburn:
Lafleur and John Fraizer — 22.48
7th: Clint West and
Nathan Prine — 21.66
8th: Mick Raydon and
Doug Wroten — 20.75
9th: Jeffrey Grubbs
Sr. and Jeffrey Grubbs Jr. — 19.61
10th: Rusty Harvey and Chris Harvey — 19.54