The West Texas Story: Brought to you by the Divine Swimbait
Can you imagine being with a small group of guys that catch a 16 pound bass and two 14 pound bass in the same week, on the same lake, using the same baits? This is an unbelievable story, so get your popcorn and hold on to your seat, because the contents of this article are the untold, behind-the-scenes accounts from the men who caught the West Texas lunkers.
The 6th Sense Pro staff retreat took months to plan and hours to come apart, in a good way. Ten guys made plans for an early February, pre-spawn, trip to Choke Canyon Reservoir in South/Central Texas. Coming from Nebraska, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and North Texas, getting the whole group together for the same week was tough.
Ben Milliken, coming from Nebraska, left a few days early with his good friend Joe McCabe to fish a few lakes in Texas on his way to Choke Canyon. On his way down through the Great Plains, a historic winter storm swept across the U.S. throwing a kink in their fishing plans. A lot of the lakes he wanted to fish were closed due to ice on the boat ramps, not typical for Texas, but it was reality at the time. A lake he had heard stories about, but never fished, happened to be open. His decision to detour and fish that particular lake in West Texas is what started the epic week for Team 6.
Icy conditions, snow on the ground, and the water temperature in the high 30s didn’t stop Milliken and McCabe from venturing out in hopes of landing some big fish. Pure instinct and willpower led Ben to the pattern that would ultimately change the course of the whole trip; the Alabama-Rig paired with the Divine Swimbait, reeling it slower than it takes your wife or girlfriend to get ready for dinner. Boom! The bites started coming, the fish started getting bigger with every single cast and before anyone knew it, they had caught multiple 10-12 pound bass. Joe, being an avid angler and having a passion for the sport that is second to none, got bit. Little did he know, this fish would ultimately break the Internet. Hearts beating 100 mph, hands shaking (not from the cold), screaming, yelling, high fives, the fish was in the boat and it was massive. 16.40 pounds! Ben and Joe’s best five fish that day went for a whopping 60 pounds. At that moment, Ben knew that lake was about to catch fire, and he was right.
The snow had proceeded to melt the next day and Team 6 took off for Choke Canyon. They spent six hours on the road with hopes of getting phenomenal content from a lake that is known to produce giant bass. It’s Saturday night, the 6th Sense Crew consisting of Casey Sobczak (president/owner), Zach Kinart (sales manager), Brett Cannon (marketing manager) and Spencer Fair (marketing), along with Pro Staff members Ben Milliken, Ronnie Kelley, Justin Royal, Cole Thomas, Joe McCabe and Kevin Baxter, were the only ones at Choke Canyon. Everyone is hanging out, drinking beer and swapping stories about what Ben and Joe just accomplished in West Texas. Minds were already beginning to wonder about whether they should scrap Choke and just head straight out West without even throwing a hook in the water. Pro staff members Luke Dunkin and Darien Craig were on their way and expected to get to Choke on Sunday. A decision had to be made and it had to be made quickly about whether to leave or stay. Ultimately the team decided to stay at Choke Canyon and give it a day or two to find fish and get a plethora of content.
After fishing all day Sunday and all day Monday, the team had a meeting. Stay or leave? A massive decision to make after all the time and effort it took to plan the trip to Choke Canyon. At 3 a.m. Tuesday morning it looked like a convoy of trucks, trailers and boats headed northwest in pursuit of record-setting bass. After 4.5 hours on the road, it took the team 45 minutes to start catching fish, big fish. A bold decision turned out to be the right decision. Sitting around Tuesday night after a fun day of fishing, each person had the same look in their eye, this is the place to be.
Imagine this, 10 guys planning to be at Choke Canyon for five days, staying in nice lodging and being two minutes from the town of Three Rivers, Texas. Now, they are in the middle of nowhere West Texas with no civilization close, no restaurants, no eating utensils and very little food to make meals. Have you ever eaten unseasoned, bite sized steak pieces off the glass microwave plate that spins around in circles like a merry-go-round? They did, and they did it like champions. I am sure we’ve all been there, the things you do for an opportunity to set records.
Wednesday turned out to be one heck of a day for the group. Luke Dunkin, using a Divine Swimbait, broke Ben Milliken’s lake record, set five days prior, with a 6.8 pound Smallmouth. Multiple 7s, 8s, and 9s were caught within the group during the day as well. The team could start to see the word was getting out about what they were doing because Thursday-Tuesday they had the lake to themselves. When Wednesday rolled around, the boat ramp was full and a lot of people were starting to follow this group. The boat ramp looked like $1 beer night at the local bar. Most of the group disassembled and headed back home that evening, the lake was crowded, the bite was getting slow, and the weather forecast for Thursday looked less than ideal.
The four-man 6th Sense crew, joined by Ronnie Kelley and Kevin Baxter, stayed to try their luck one last day, Thursday, February 18. What a call that turned out to be. The weather was calling for 40 degree temps, winds at 20+ mph, and rain. Once again, the boat ramp was empty, and Team 6 had the lake to themselves. What started out as a slow morning, energy drained, and the team ready to pack it in, quickly escalated to one of the greatest days of fishing ever.
Zach Kinart, a small-town kid from Iowa and the 6th Sense sales manager, had one goal this trip - catch his personal best. That brisk Thursday morning, the last day of the trip, Zach hopped in the boat with Casey Sobczak. Not knowing what was about to transpire throughout the day, he had a good feeling about something. While Casey was running the front of the boat in hopes of helping Zach fulfil his goal, Kinart was fan casting around trying to get bit. Sure enough, he hooks up. “Good one” he says. “Casey get the net.” Casey gets her in the boat and in the midst of extreme excitement for Zach catching his personal best, there was a hint of confusion. Is it a Smallmouth? Is it a Largemouth? “Maybe it is a Mean mouth,” Casey said. The scale read 7 lb. 4oz. and they both agreed, “let’s throw her in the livewell and figure it out later.” It was a possible lake record or state record.
Shortly after that, on a different part of the lake, Brett Cannon, had seen some big fish on the graph the day before in an area that did not get any pressure on Wednesday. He decided to give that spot a try before they loaded up and headed back east. It took Brett all of about 45 minutes to hook up. “Big-Un!”, he said. He fought this fish for several minutes and every time she saw the boat, she took off towards the bottom. Finally, she got tired and gave up. Brett got her in the boat and all the yelling, screaming, fist bumping, shaking commenced. The fight was over and the realization of what he just did was starting to kick in. Personal best: a 14 lb. 4oz. Largemouth. Unreal. But that is not the whole story.
Spencer Fair, one of Team 6’s content guys, called Casey and said, “we got a big one, over 14.” As the story goes, Casey thought Spencer was joking. When the two boats pulled up next to each other and Brett pulled the Megalodon out of the livewell, Casey and Zach's mouths fell open. Looking at that fish like it was a vault full of gold bars. Brett proceeded to tell Casey, “go to this spot because there are more big ones in the area.”
Texas Parks and Wildlife has an incredible program called the Sharelunker Program where they take fish caught over 13 pounds and breed them, study them, and release their fingerlings into different lakes all around Texas to help grow the fish population. After Brett caught that 14 pounder, he took off to the boat ramp to get it weighed on a TPWD certified scale, and became a new member of the Legacy Class ShareLunker Program.
Minutes later, Casey and Zach are in that same spot Brett caught the lunker. “Big-Un!” Casey says, “Real big! Zach, get the net!” 14 lb. 2oz., another sharelunker. Casey Sobczak got him one. Motoring back over to that spot, Brett, Spencer, and Kevin, pull up on Casey and Zach only to witness them pulling that fish out of the livewell. What an unbelievable ending to and already remarkable week for the 6th Sense team! Two Legacy Class ShareLunkers no more than an hour apart.
Backtrack to Zach’s mystery fish. With all the chaos and excitement around them with the two 14 pounders just caught, everyone utterly forgot about Kinart’s personal best and by the time they all remembered, TPWD had already left. We care about our employees here at the 6, so we give Zach credit that he caught either the lake record Smallmouth or the state record Mean mouth. Anyhow, he accomplished his goal of catching a personal best and that made the trip even more sweet.
With the help of Ben Milliken and Joe McCabe figuring out that the Divine Swimbait on the Alabama Rig matched the hatch perfectly in West Texas, a game-time decision to pack up and leave Choke Canyon, and the persistence to stay a few more hours, team members of 6th Sense Fishing collected a lifetime of memories that the bass fishing world will never forget.
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Watch the video: TEAM 6 HISTORIC BASS WEEK - YouTube