Tuesday, December 6th
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Felix and Fishback win 2020 Joe Bass Team Trail Invitational

The wind was howling, waves were crashing, and the temperature dropping, but that didn’t stop Blake Felix and Rick Fishback over the weekend on Truman Lake. It was the pair’s first time fishing together in a bass tournament, but definitely won’t be the last. Over the course of the two-day Joe Bass Team Trail Invitational with roughly 200 boats competing, Felix and Fishback brought in 31.3 pounds for the first-place win on Sunday.

While it may have been the first time fishing together, it certainly wasn’t a fluke. They both have extensive experience on Truman Lake.

“I moved to the area when I was 2 years old after my grandparents bought the Tebo Creek Lodge,” Felix said. “I’ve basically been fishing since the time I could walk and am blessed to have had my grandpa, brother, and stepdad be so inclusive taking me almost every day growing up.”

He actually fished in his first tournament when he was just 6 years old, and was competing seriously with his brother by 12. It didn’t take long for him to find success.

He won his first event by age 14 with his brother, Luke, fishing the Fall Bass Classic out of Drake Harbor. Many more years of success were to follow, leading us to the 2020 Joe Bass Invitational.

Ahead of the event, Felix practiced on Monday since that was one of his two days off each week from working at Pro’s Choice Marine, where he’s been for 11 years.

“Honestly, I’ve found that it’s almost better that way,” Felix said. “I don’t like beating up on the fish all week right up to the event. I figured out what I was going to do and was going to stick with that even though I had people texting me all week about their 21-pound bags they were getting in practice doing other things.”

Plain and simple, he’s pretty adamant that once you have your plan, that’s what you need to stick with and try to tune out anything else you might be hearing. His primary plan was to hit steep, main lake, channel swing bank trees 6-8 feet deep, but was ready to move to the creeks in case of wind. It’s a good thing he had a backup plan.

The wind was pretty challenging on Saturday, to say the least,” Felix said jokingly. Anglers had to battle 40+ mph wind gusts a lot of the day. So, he went to his backup plan and headed into the creeks to look for windblown banks.

“The more the wind was blowing on the banks back there, the better they bit,” he said.

For both Felix and Fishback, the crankbaits outperformed everything else on day 1. They stuck with a smaller profile Bandit 100 covered with the Crankwraps pattern called “Fishback Attack”. (Wonder who that is named after??) They took a chartreuse marker down the side of the baits for good measure.

“Every fish we caught on that thing day 1 absolutely choked it,” Felix added.

On day 2, they knew they’d need at least a heavy 16-17 pound bag to have a chance. They headed to the exact bank they started on the day before, but had 4 keepers this time instead of one.

Throughout the day, the spinnerbait came into play a little bit more. Felix described letting it sink all the way to the bottom and slow rolling it back as slow as he possibly could. They were doing the slowest possible retrieve with the crankbaits as well.

Joe Bass Team Trail Invitational

“There was one bluff pocket I’ve fished a million times we came up on, but luckily I had Humminbird 360 installed on the boat a week before. This time Rick noticed a big boulder out behind us,” Felix said. “He immediately casted to it and lost what was probably close to a 3.5 pounder.”

Unfortunately, they didn’t have another bite for 4 hours. As time was winding down, they decided to come back to that same boulder to turn their luck around.

“My first cast into it I had the 5.61 that we needed,” Felix said. “It was pandemonium for a second when the line got wrapped around the line guides on my rod, but thankfully we got it in.”

As soon as it was in the boat, they both had a feeling they just sealed the deal.

“I was shaking so bad after that I couldn’t even retie my jig,” Felix said, laughing. “We just decided that was it and headed in.”

The weigh-in was as stressful as any for both of them. Fishback, who has won many individual events in his career, could barely stand to watch the weigh-in and spent some time in the truck to calm his nerves. Since they weighed in early with the first flight, time seemed to drag on.

But anxiety quickly turned to excitement after all the anglers had reported in. Blake Felix and Rick Fishback were announced the winners with a total of 31.3 pounds.

“It kind of just takes your breath away because you work so hard to get there and there are so many variables that work against you every outing,” Felix said. “When they announce it, it’s almost hard to believe, like did I really win? Is this really real?”

Like we said in the beginning, this may have been the first time they fished together in a tournament, but it won’t be the last. They plan to partner up for many 2021 events.

“We got along really well in the boat, and both fished from the front deck without getting in each other’s way,” Felix stated. “Rick has a ton of experience reading his Humminbird electronics, so I’m excited to see what we can do in 2021.”

Joe Bass Team Trail

Felix also had some good advice for those looking to target largemouth bass on Truman Lake in the fall.

“A lot of folks tend to worry about hitting as many spots and areas as possible,” he said. “But really, folks just need to slow down and go fishing. Pick your favorite area apart tree by tree fishing extremely slow.”

“If you’re running around all over the place, you’re not going to catch them,” he said. “Trust me, I know,” he laughed.

For more information about the Joe Bass Team Trail Invitational, you can visit their website at joebassteamtrail.com.

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