Michael Johnson and Byron Albrecht have fished together competitively for 12 years, but none of their previous outings compare to their victorious run to the Texas Team Trail Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s held Saturday and Sunday on Lake Whitney.
Johson and Albrecht caught a limit on both days of the championship for a total of 10 bass weighing 41.32 pounds. After weighing five bass for 19.56 on Day 1, they registered the big bag of the tournament on Sunday – a 21.76-pound haul that vaulted the duo from third place to the championship title. They also caught the big bass of the tournament, an 8.64-pound kicker on Sunday, that helped seal the win.
The victory earned the pair a Z519 Ranger bass boat with a Mercury 225 ProXS motor. Combined with Angler Advantage and Big Bass Award bonuses, they totaled $59,997 in cash and prizes over the weekend.
In all, 86 teams competed in the championship for a total purse of $120,915 in cash and prizes.
“It’s hard to put into words how nice this is,” Johnson said. “We’ve fished together so long and put in so much work. It’s really special to say you’ve won a boat against the guys we competed against this weekend. There are some really good sticks on the TXTT.”
Johnson, 42 and from Crawford, Tex., hooked the big bass using a dark-colored creature bait. It came off a brush pile at about 9 a.m. Sunday when the duo had only a pair of bass in the live well.
“That was the kicker we were looking for,” Johnson said. “We came into the second day sitting in third place and that fish took a whole lot of pressure off us. After that, we figured we had a chance if we could get two more fish in the boat.”
At first, however, Johnson wasn’t even sure the 8-pounder was a bass.
“We caught two big channel cats yesterday, one about 10 pounds and another about 15 pounds,” he said. “I honestly thought today’s big one was another catfish. Byron saw it and said, ‘No, that’s a bass! Let’s not horse around with that one.’”
Johnson and Albrecht, who hails from nearby Waco, are quite familiar with Lake Whitney – a 23,500-acre impoundment of the Brazos River southwest of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. They used that intimate knowledge to amass a list of more than 80 favorable brush piles they could hit during the championship. Steady winds on both days of the tournament, however, often forced them to shallow water. When on the banks, they favored chartreuse/white spinner baits to boat their best bites.
“We started shallow (on Sunday),” Albrecht said. “Once we had one or two in the boat, it helped settle the nerves. When we went out and got that 8-pounder in the boat, that allowed us to go back shallow and finish the limit.”
Albrecht, 48, said he and Johnson have developed a unique chemistry in their dozen years of competing together. Some of their communication is verbal, he said, but many times, they work instinctively.
“He’s as good as anybody I’ve seen out of back of boat,” Albrecht said. “He reads and understands what I’m doing. We’re like peanut butter and jelly. He knows when I’m doing one thing, to do something different. If I throw to one pole, he knows to throw to the other.
“And we have this thing, when of us might not be having the best day, the other one has a really good day. Yesterday, I was on and today, he was. It worked out for us.”
Lee and Whitley take second
Russell Lee and Garret Whitley finished second in the championship with a two-day total of 10 bass that weighed 36.09 pounds. Their haul of cash and prizes, including a Z518 Ranger and Mercury 150 Pro XS, totaled $48,803, including $500 for being the team using Garmin electronics to finish highest in the tournament.
“After practice, we thought we’d be pretty good fishing brush piles offshore, but come Saturday and Sunday, it got tough to do that,” Lee said. “I caught one about five pounds on Saturday cranking a brush pile then we went four or five hours without anything. Near the end of the day, we went back and caught a 6 ½ pounder and another 5-pounder.”
Lee said the biggest bass wanted Texas-rigged Xcite Maximus worms (10 inches, plum and red bug colors).
The team was in second place after Day 1 as well, with a 20.33-pound limit. They slipped a bit with 15.76 pounds on Sunday, but Lee was pleased with the outcome.
“We only had six keeper bites on Saturday and we caught five,” he said. “Today, we had seven or eight keepers. But it’s OK to get second when you still get that boat. Finishing second against some of the best anglers in the state is a proudctive weekend.”
Stafford and Moore take third place
Brett Stafford and Shane Moore, who led the championship after Day 1, finished third overall with a two-day total of 35.28. They earned $2,154 for their season-ending efforts.
“We were where we wanted to be (on Saturday),” they said after the weigh-in. “We wanted to be in position to win. But we were one dimensional. We fished brush piles the whole time we were here. We knew the wind and clouds wouldn’t help our bite (on Sunday), and we missed a couple of good ones.”
Eric and Zane Washington worked the Lake Whitney brush piles efficiently, finishing fourth overall with a 10-bass total weighing 32.11. Seth Furmanek and Robert Kettner placed fifth 31.75 over two days, including an 8.21-pound heavy caught on a drop-shot on Sunday. The duo collected $1,365 in the tournament.
Rounding out the Top 10 are, sixth, Jordan Grimm and Jud Harris, 28.73, $1,121; seventh, Lee Batson and John Fleming, 28.26, $1,299 (w/ Ranger bonus); eighth, Brannon Mire and Ben Matsubu, 27.67, $977; ninth, Paul Stokes and John Guerra, 27.07, $905; and 10th, Garrett Dokter and Courtney Hobgood, 26.16, $833.
Imhoff and London nab TOY title
Will Imhoff and Shane London clinched the trail’s Team of the Year honors on Sunday after finishing in 11th place at the championship on Lake Whitney with a two-day total of 24.68 pounds.
Imhoff and London started the Texas Team Trail season off right with a seventh-place finish on Lake Amistad in March. Though they slipped to 80th in the May 7 competition on Sam Rayburn Reservoir, they rebounded to finish fifth at Rayburn on May 8.
Imhoff and London finished with 669 points in 2021 team scoring.
“I’m at a loss for words right now,” Imhoff said after he and London collected their Team of the Year trophies. “This was our first year ever to fish any kind of team series. Shane and I were a little skeptical about how we would compete, but we fished some good events. We thought that bobble on the first day at Rayburn would shoot us in the foot. To prevail today is pretty exciting.”
“We fished hard and there are a lot of really good guys out here fishing hard,” London said. “There are no words for this.”
Brian Shook and Danny Iles placed second in Team of the Year scoring with 651 points. Lance Robella and Cody Pratka (648 points) were third, Jason Truitt and Johnny Ray were fourth (647) and the Lee-Whitley team was fifth (639). Click here for FULL TOY STANDINGS