Tuff Man – Stillhouse Championship 1/09/10


61 teams fished, 23 teams weighed in and 23 places were paid. Use the scroll bar on the right to view all the results.

“Colder than a well digger’s…”

A saying we’ve all heard for years, but with bone chilling temperatures the coldest we’ve seen in a decade this tournament really brought the cliché home. The anglers hit the water at a balmy 14 degrees, and the heat of the day barely broke the freezing mark! As a result several anglers reported mechanical issues ranging from hydraulic steering lock ups to motor malfunctions.

As the day went on most of the teams ran all over the lake in search of active fish. The main lake resembled more of a highway than a body of water as boats raced back and forth between the river and the dam. With water temps as cold as 47 degrees 15 feet below the surface, many anglers resorted to the jigging spoon or finesse applications, such as the drop shot, in deeper water. The fishing on Stillhouse has been extremely tough since the summer with the rapid decline of hydrilla and fishing pressure; and this day was no different as nearly everyone reported very little to no bait presence in many of the areas they fished.

“Tuffing” it out and winning the event on a heck of a roll was the team of Crawford and Warren. Sound familiar? It should, because last month, with 16.54 pounds, they nearly lapped the field with an almost three pound margin over the second place finishers at the last regular season qualifying event on Lake Belton. In this championship event they had two fish with a total weight of 9.83 pounds. This was good enough to secure them the guaranteed first place prize of $10,000.

We spoke with Ryan Warren after the weigh-in and he gave us some insight as to how the team caught their fish,

“We had a horrible pre-fish and I had caught a bunch of white bass out deep on spoons and a few blacks; my partner had caught some blacks the week before in the area we started. As we took off that morning I had a few spots in mind to stop and crank around mid lake. When we made it there, there was no one on our first choice so we pulled up really not expecting much; I threw my second cast and the big fish hit a Norman Deep Little N in a red craw pattern.”

Later in the day Ryan a Matt moved to deeper water (38-48 feet) in search of bait and signs of fish. They ran to several spots and gave each one 10 to 15 minutes before moving on to the next; their second keeper was eventually caught mixed in with 10 white bass and a short black. All their deep fish bit a Sexy Shad jigging spoon custom painted by Chuck Guthrie at Tightlines Premium Fishing Tackle.

“We really underestimated our big fish and thought that 8.77 pounds was going to beat us. When our big fish flashed 7.93 I knew we had the lead but really believed someone was waiting to weigh in last with a big sack.”

Ryan would like to thank Chuck at Tightlines and the Stanley Auto Group in Gatesville for renting out the dome.

“I hope we genertated some sales for them because people don’t realize how much nicer the weigh-in was in the dome opposed to the dirt arena in the back of the convention center. I recently bought a new car from Courtney Hobgood with Stanley and ever since we’ve been on a roll fishing…they must be good luck!”

The 2009-2010 Tuff Man Champions were fishing for Gary Wendeborn and Ranger Boats.

We were able to speak at length with Paul Carman and Jared Smith, the second place finishers, who had an incredible story to share. At the ramp their Hot Foot was frozen solid and they eventually lost their throttle cable, so were forced to fish around the boat ramp and dam all day. Paul told us “We thought about going on home”; and who wouldn’t with the tough fishing, record lows and a completely altered game plan? They did have a propane heater in the boat, which helped morale a bit and gave them a little more enthusiasm about toughing it out. Amazingly, the team reported they still had ice on their rod guides until just after noon!

As they fished without a bite, around 12:30 Paul threw a wacky rigged green pumpkin/black flake Yamamoto Senko on a weighted jig head to a saddle cut near the dam that bottomed out around 25 feet. His bait was working down the saddle when the line got heavy at about 15 feet.

“I set the hook, and thought I was hung to be honest with you. Then I felt the fish take off to the side.”

The 8.77 pound fish was good enough for Paul to represent the team on the “hot seat” for most of the weigh-in, where boats are pulled through the coliseum in front of the large crowd that came out to cheer on these committed and talented tournament anglers. As he and his partner Jared waited, Paul was anxious as the boats rolling into the coliseum waned.

“We thought we were gonna make it maybe, then the winning stringer came in there at the end. But we were happy with the way it turned out based on the day we had.”

Their hog earned the team first place Big Bass honors for $500 and second place overall for $4,000. Congratulations are in order to these guys and a $4,500 fish is a nice reward for staying out when most would have probably packed it in!

Paul and Jared would like to thank their sponsors Baker Triangle and Calply Materials. We asked Paul for any parting thoughts, and he said it all,

“Tuff Man is a great tournament trail to fish. Now I really know where it got its name!”

Needless to say, it was an insanely tough day. We heard reports of fish caught in 40 plus feet of water on jigging spoons all the way up to a foot of water on a rattle trap, but they were few and far between to say the least! Many teams weighed in one fish and most weren’t able to even do that. Of the teams we talked to, several did not get a bite all day. Knowing the caliber of every team in this Championship, that is really saying something to the degree of lockjaw these bass had.

We have to give credit to this tournament and mention how well it was run. The tournament directors wisely postponed the takeoff, had the ramp well maintained with sand and tow vehicles were available for any trouble on the potentially icy ramp. Thankfully the launch was a success and all the anglers returned home safely. The Coast Guard had representatives on hand for helpful cold weather tips and the captain’s meeting reinforced safe behaviors for being on the water in the crippling cold; a fall overboard would have been serious, even deadly in these conditions.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Tuff Man format, the Championship is framed by a three day boat show and tackle expo hosted by the Central Texas Marine Association. First we should talk boats. Marine Outlet and Texas Boat World had stellar displays, as did Yowell’s Boat Yard out of Waco, and we found the brand new Legend Alpha 211 to be particularly mouth watering. It’s a red behemoth owned personally by Legend founder Randy Qualls. Complete with the new Yamaha SHO (Super High Output) 4-cycle engine and two Power Poles, this thing was a head turner! Texas Tournament Zone and Marine Outlet also had their 2010 Legend Alpha 211 on display in the Expo Center.

Yowell’s Boat Yard had the brand new Skeeter FX, also powered by the Yammie SHO, which has had the industry talking to say the least. We gotta say seeing this thing up close was awesome and we can’t wait to actually drive one. We talked to several that had and the most impressive thing is the speed with which the boat gets on plane, its middle acceleration capabilities and the reduced fuel and oil consumption a 4-stroke affords.

The highlights of the tackle expo were JaROD Jigs and Victory Tackle. Both are cutting edge new companies with custom capabilities to satisfy the pickiest tackle box. JaROD Jigs is owned by husband and wife Jarod and Shannon Shelton. Throughout the event, Shannon hand tied custom jigs for patrons after picking out a jig head, skirt color, skirt material and rattle preference. She is meticulous to say the least and the quality components used by Jarod and Shannon are impeccable.

Jarod had a good excuse for not being at the booth on Saturday as he was out fishing the tournament with the co-owner of Victory Tackle and fellow soldier Mike Garrett. We are really impressed with the quality, workmanship and custom capabilities of these jigs and TTZ is proud to announce our partnership with JaROD Jigs in 2010; look for more to come very soon. Meanwhile, you can find these products at:


Victory Tackle, owned by Army Bass Anglers team members and active soldiers Randy Sitz and Mike Garrett, really caught our eye as well. They create spinnerbaits, vibrating jigs and buzzbaits by hand to your specifications; any color, blade pattern, head or weight is an option. The tomahawk style tri-bladed spinner bait was very unique and we highly recommend you check that one out. Mike Garrett took some time to speak with us at the show,

“We are custom made tackle by fishermen for fishermen. You will not find custom tackle at this price anywhere else!”

And TTZ concurs; especially at this quality and because these baits are made here in the USA by our country’s finest. They can be reached at 254-307-1780 or victorytackle@gmail.com.

The boat show also offered free seminars with very reputable anglers on Saturday. Dale Read, TTZ team member and accomplished tournament angler, was on hand to give a seminar on guess what…a Senko! Knowing Dale’s ability and tournament success with this incredible bait, several were on hand to soak up as much as they could. Dale shared the rigging techniques he prefers (wacky and both weighted/weightless Texas rigs); he also discussed line and hook choices to affect fall rate. As Dale says, “Both monofilament and fluorocarbon have their uses depending on what the bass are asking for.” You can read about Dale here.

Fellow TTZ team member Terry Valentino was there to discuss winter fishing techniques. His expertise and emphasis was on the finer points of the football jig; he covered everything from skirt trimming to lure presentation, as well as areas to focus on with this effective cold water bait. Terry ended his presentation with a wealth of knowledge on the hard jerkbait. As we all know this is a tricky but effective lure, and folks left with a better understanding of proper timing, bait suspension and presentation for more success.

For more on Terry please visit his team page.

In closing we were able to speak with Rick Smith, owner of Marine Outlet and the president of the Central Texas Marine Dealers:

“I want to congratulate all of the qualifiers on making it into the championship; it’s a real pleasure to work with such a fine group of fishermen. We are having a lot of fun with this tournament series and I hope you the fisherman are to.

“We want to thank everyone for supporting the TUFF MAN Tournament Trail as it would not be possible without the anglers and the boat dealers in the Central Texas Marine Association: Marine Outlet, Texas Boat World and Gary’s Marine.

“We had a lot of help with this year’s Championship in the way of sponsors and their products and want to say THANK YOU to each and every one of them.”

With four qualifying events, huge payouts, 61 boats to compete with in the Championship and a “pro style” weigh-in this trail sets itself apart from anything offered in central Texas. For more information about the upcoming 2010-2011 season you can contact Rick Smith at Marine Outlet or us here at TTZ.

Texas Tournament Zone and its anglers would like to thank Rick Smith, Cliff Brown and Gary Wendeborn of Marine Outlet and Texas Boat World for another great Tuff Man season!


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