Boat: 2008 Cougar FTD
Qualifying out of the ultra-competitive TXBCOE, the Texas pair of Mark Bowlby and Ivan Slayton weren’t discouraged by their struggles in the early rounds of the Bass Cat National Team Championship. They bounced back with a strong closing catch of 8.67 pounds at Norfork, and ended up in the middle of the pack with a strong desire to return next year and build on that 11th hour success.
“It was totally different fishing than we’ve ever done,” said Slayton, who said that they usually tackle Lone Star fisheries like Fork, Athens and Palestine. “We started out shallow on Bull Shoals, Taneycomo and the river and it didn’t work out.”
At Norfork, they adjusted by relying heavily on their electronics, riding around until they found an island with a heavy concentration of shad nearby. The bass were in lockstep, ready to eat. At that point they got to work by dropshotting and shakey heading Zoom green pumpkin worms.
“We just didn’t have enough time,” Bowlby said. “Those lakes have 90 miles of the same bank. It was tough trying to figure out which rock to fish. It was the craziest experience I’ve ever had.”
Despite struggling early, Slayton said they “would’ve had fun whether we caught ‘em or not. I’d love to go back. We learned a lot right at the end.”
The pair fished out of Bowlby’s 2008 Cougar FTD. It’s his third cat, after a Pantera and another Cougar, the latter of which is now owned by his son. When asked what he likes about the brand, he didn’t mince words: “There’s no way to tear them up. We fish around a lot of wood and I bump it around a lot. My boy owns my other Cougar and it probably has 2000 hours on it and it still runs perfectly.”
He’s thrilled that he had a chance to experience the team championship, and they’re already planning a return if they can make it through their region’s gauntlet of 80 or so teams: “I can take five lakes off of my bucket list now,” Bowlby concluded. “I just wish we’d had a full day on each of them, but I couldn’t have asked for a better time.”