Boat: 2017 Puma FTD
After taking an unconventional, non-grass-based approach to win the ultra-competitive SEBCOG, the team of Steve Doty and Cole Mayo probably shouldn’t have been fazed when Rick Pierce threw a curveball at the field with the National Team Championship’s unconventional format – but they were.
“I thought Taneycomo was a trout fishery,” Doty said. “I fished that place as a kid.” Similarly, even though he was born and raised in Arkansas, he’d never heard of people fishing the tournament waters there for bass. “We got our rear end kicked in.”
Their practice strategy, Mayo said, was “try to figure something out on two of the lakes and to fish for five.” They expected the bass to be in the backs of pockets, trapping shad, but when that plan didn’t pan out they had to scramble.
Despite blanking at Table Rock, the pair bounced back with decent catches at Taneycomo and Bull Shoals to remain competitive. At Taneycomo, they were thrilled by the experience of “going by the Branson Pass Pro Shops three Pumas wide like fighter jets,” before getting down to business. They used ¼ ounce PB&J Booyah jigs and shakey heads in 10 to 15 feet of water. The result was fish after fish after fish, but unfortunately they were all cookie cutter bare keepers. “We had a blast,” Doty said. “We were catching them every other cast, but there was no way to cull because they were all the same size.”
Doty is intimately familiar with Bull Shoals, but typically “down by the dam, where there’s 25 feet of visibility. This was the first time I’d seen K Dock in my life.” With limited time, and a clue based on what they’d seen at the two prior lakes, they “milked the riprap at the boat ramp with a shakey head and caught three keepers.” At the White River, they caught 10 and 11 inch smallmouths on nearly every cast, but had trouble finding bigger fish. Norfork was where they expected to make a charge, but it required a 30 mile run to execute their strategy – a gamble in any situation, but especially in a limited time format like this one. “We had to roll the dice,” Doty said, and it seemed to be prescient when he caught a 13 ½ inch Kentucky on his first cast, but without even thinking he threw the legal fish back. “On the two lakes where I planned on making up the difference, we didn’t get it done.”
Until 2013 Doty was in another brand of boat, but a late-in-life conversion made him a Bass Cat fanatic – since that time he’s owned two Eyras, a Jaguar with a 400 Verado, and is now on his second Puma FTD. “It’s the prettiest brand of boat on the trailer that money will buy,” he said. “They’re nasty fast, by far the best product on the market and absolutely nothing compares to the people.”
Mayo and his father run a Cougar in their Alabama tournaments. “The deck layout is my favorite part about it,” he said. “It carries a tournament load extremely well.”
Mayo said that they’re already planning their path to the 2017 Team Championship. “The goal is most certainly to get back and do better next year,” he explained. Doty, too, was thrilled by the experience, and plans to fish at least two if not three of the qualifying events.