Rob Lee and Steve Winslett are the focus of this week’s Alabama Bass Trail Bassmaster Team Championship. Finishing 5th place in the South Division qualified them for the Bassmaster Team Championship on Lake Hartwell at Green Pond Landing out of Anderson, SC on December 11-14.
The two met about 15 years ago when both made the BASS Federation State Team. They became friends after that event and kept up with each other through the years while fishing separately. Each had other team partners until about five years ago, and since they knew each other and felt they fished alike, it made sense to combine forces and see how well they could do together as a team. Shallow water and power fishing are what they really enjoy- using heavy line in heavy cover and throwing flipping, swim jigs, frogs, chatterbaits and spinnerbaits. Rob describes Steve as “a really good sight fishermen who put those skills to use last year to get us a win on Lake Martin with 20.38 lbs.” Like many other teams do, they practice in separate boats, go opposite ways on the lake and compare notes at the end of the day to formulate a game plan.
Trust is a contributing factor to their success. The key to being successful as a team to them is believing in each other and trusting what the other has found in practice and being able to build on that. “Sticking with what they have learned in the past and being willing to stick with the plan has been essential to their success.” Sometimes they feel they may “stay with the pattern a lot longer than other teams would and grind it out, but eventually it pays off.” This year Lake Eufaula was a great example of believing in your partner. The whole day they didn’t want to fish shallow and knew the fish were going to be caught on ledges- they were fishing a shallow ledge where both had caught some good fish in the past. Rob told Steve “he had a gut feeling that we need to go fish a clump of reeds” and Steve responded, “Let’s go! You got that gut feeling; we’re going trust it.” Within about five minutes of fishing in the new area, they caught a 6 pounder. “It just goes to show that trusting your partner and abandoning everything to trust his feeling 100% is important.”
Fishing under pressure is another one of their strengths. They like to spend time practicing and “find that little pattern that may not catch them a lot of fish but will produce the right kind of fish that wins tournaments. If the water is cold and the fishing is shallow, that’s where we are the strongest. We like fishing when the conditions are tough.” This year they felt that was why they were a little more consistent on the ABT, “they just fished a little different and were able to break away from their power fishing pattern to make adjustments to catch what was needed.”
Almost every weekend is spent on the water during fall and early spring. If there is a team tournament opportunity, they are going to take it. They have been very successful and fortunate as a team fishing in Alabama. Their love for tough conditions on tournament day was again proven on the Alabama River. The conditions were changing all week as the waters rose overnight to flood conditions and temperatures changed. This threw many teams a curve ball. In practice Rob and Steve struggled to put together a pattern that produced fish. They weren’t able to set the hook on the fish that bit, so they weren’t sure of their size. Thankfully on tournament day they were able to boat two nice spotted bass each weighing almost 5lbs. They finished the day with a limit weighing 18.18 lbs. Normally, on that lake, that weight would have been a winning bag, but for the second year in a row, they came up about .17 lbs. short of first place. While disappointed at not taking first, the 2nd place finish helped them move up in the points.
The pair is looking forward to the BASS Team Championship on Hartwell and feel the conditions are going to play in their favor. Rob said their experience on Lake Martin in December will help them at Hartwell. Steve has been to Hartwell several times in the past and fished some big tournaments there. “I absolutely love that place because it is loaded with big fish.” Rob, on the other hand, has never been to Hartwell but has been doing a lot of research and talking with others who have fished there. He believes the pattern will be similar to Lake Martin, so he can carry over some of his wealth of experience from there. The pre-practice plan is to fill the boat with gas and spend a lot of time covering water looking for key places that hold fish like rocks, downed trees and transition banks. Rob noted, “the lake has a lot of floating docks, so finding brush piles may also play as a factor in the event. Qualifying for the classic would allow me the opportunity to fulfill some of my dreams too.” In 2008 Rob qualified through the opens to fish the Elites, but due to expenses, he was unable to move up to that level. He has also qualified for two Federation National Championships and missed the classic one year by one spot. Steve agreed “it would be a chance of a lifetime deal for sure.” At 57 he feels “not too old to compete at that level and like he can fish just as hard as them.”
Rob has fished the ABT every year since the beginning, and Steve has fished one year prior to them becoming teammates. They have fished together the last three years and are signed up for next year. Both look forward to the ABT Championship on Lake Guntersville in a couple weeks.
AOY 5th Place South Division
Lake Martin 5th Place
Lake Jordan 38th Place
Alabama River 2nd Place
Lay Lake 73rd Place
Lake Eufaula 43rd Place
Lake Martin 1st
Fished ABT South Division 2016, 2017, 2018