Jan 14

By David A. Brown
MANY, La. (Jan. 13, 2017) — Tournament victories require equal parts skill, execution and good fortune; other words, when things fall into place, you gotta know what to do with it all. That’s the fitting description for Harold Allen and Matthew Loetscher who won the season opener of the 2018 Texas Team Trail, presented by Cabela’s, at a Toledo Bend Reservoir.

Sacking up a five-bass limit that weighed 28.74 pounds, the winning duo spent their day in the lake’s upper third and focused on sheer drops in the main lake. Plunging from 10 to 20 feet, these spots presented classic winter strongholds that provided fish positional options.

“We fished spots that had some wood, not only on the bottom, but also hanging off the drop,” Allen said. “Right now, the fish are either going to be right on top of the drop, or where it eases off. If you can find some cover off the side of the ledge, that’s even better. Some of our fish were right on top of the ledge and some of them halfway down the sides of the drops.”

Allen committed his day to a 3/4-ounce black/blue Santone jig with a Junebug craw trailer, while Loetscher used a 3/4-ounce brown Stanley jig with a green pumpkin Cajun Lures craw trailer. Their strategy involved feeling around for hard cover and then surgically picking it apart.

“We would work our baits fairly fast until we hit some type of structure and then we tried to bump that structure several times,” Allen said. “When you bumped it or pulled your bait over, you’d kill the bait and let it go right down in there. That was the deal — working hard, slow and thorough.

“Color didn’t seem to matter; the main thing was size. The wind was so bad, we needed a pretty heavy jig to get into the cover and stay in it.”

With the morning take-off bringing temperatures in the 20’s, Loetscher said they were shaking and bumping their rods to clear their guides of ice accumulations. Frosty conditions lingered most of the day and with lake temperatures in the mid-40s winter’s grip remained apparent.

Nevertheless, Allen said his team’s pre-tournament recon bespoke ideal conditions for their chosen tactics. Delighted with the cold, as well as the low lake level — about 5 feet below normal — the team followed their game plan to the letter.

“The lake dropped on us, which was in our favor because it pulls fish out to these drops,” Allen said. “But then, we kept getting cold front after cold front after cold front. I told Matt ‘It’s only going to make our stuff better, so what we have to do is just slow down, concentrate and fish.

“What solidified it for us was the water stayed down and it got colder. We were pretty pumped before we even left the dock.”

Allen and Loetscher hit about six different spots, only one of which produced at different times of the day. They secured a limit by 10 a.m., upgraded throughout the day and slammed the door shut with a key afternoon decision to visit a familiar spot.

“It was a spot I had a lot of confidence in,” Allen said. “We had fished it early and never had a bite, but I told Matt we were crunched down on time and I felt like we might need one more; we didn’t really know what we had at the time. We went back to that spot and Matt caught that good one that really sealed the deal for us.”

For their efforts Allen and and Loetscher earned a Ranger 189 TRX with a 150-horsepower Mercury outboard. In addition, they claimed $2,550 of Anglers Advantage cash. Their total payday was $34,045.

“It feels really awesome; it’s just one of those surreal deals,” Loetscher said of his teams first TXTT win. “It’s a magical thing that doesn’t happen very often. The stars really have to align and things really have to go your way. To win an event like this with this against the caliber of fishermen who fish on this lake feels incredible.”


They were picky about the type of cover they fished; just not the origin. Such flexibility led George Jean Jr. and Tater Reynolds to a second-place finish with 27.47 Their performance earned them $9,740.

“We fished jigs in brush piles because when it gets cold like this, those fish relate to wood and hard cover,” Reynolds said. “A lot of the brush piles we fished were ones we put out, but if we went over one that was holding fish, we’d stop and work that one too.”

Fishing V&M Flat Line football jigs with Zoom Super Chunk trailers, the anglers caught most of their weight at their second stop. Reynolds said they had 27 pounds by 8 a.m. and made one small cull around 2:30

Describing a helpful tackle change, Reynolds said this: “Fishing brush piles, we needed to get those big fish out, so we moved up to 17-pound fluorocarbon line. Plus, the water was kind of stained where we were fishing, so we could get away with it.”

VICE-GUY third

A key adjustment propelled Bobby Vice and Ricky Guy from doing okay to sacking up the third-place limit that went 25.92 pounds. As Vice explained, they started their day dragging Carolina-rigged Big Bite Baits lizards, but after securing a small limit, Guy tried a different look and it was off to the races.

“Ricky picked up a 6th Sense football jig about 9:45 and caught a better quality fish — a 4-pounder — so we both switched to that and stuck with that pattern the rest of the day,” Vice said. “We upgraded the five we had in the well. We also caught a 5-pounder and one that was almost 9.

“We didn’t just pull up to any spots and catch a bunch of fish; we probably caught 12 fish all day. We just had it in our mindset that we needed to get out on those ledges and fish really, really slow. We threw the bait out there and let it get water-logged.”

Working the mid-lake area, Vice and Guy focused on ridges in 12-15 feet. The key ingredients were proximity to the mouths of spawning creeks and nearby deep water — classic prespawn stuff.

For third place, Vice and Guy earned $4,060

Millender-Cannon fourth, Farris-Hardin fifth

Randy Millender and Rickey Cannon weighed five bass worth 25.67 pounds, taking fourth place and earning $4,240 Behind them was Colt Farris and Taylor Hardin with 24.65 pounds. For fifth place, they earned $2,405

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 teams at the 2017 Texas Team Trail event on Toledo Bend:


Up next

The second event of the 2018 season for the Texas Team Trail presented by Cabela's is slated for Feb. 10 on Lake Sam Rayburn.