2004 George Strait Champs

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They're ba-ack…

And as they say-this is the stuff legends are made of. In this case, the ropers and the roping are already legends-they just showed what they're made of.

One year ago at the George Strait Team Roping Classic (GSTRC), you could have heard a steer yawn in the shocked silence when Allen Bach's heel loop came up empty in the short round. Unbelievably, the victory had eluded him and header Matt Tyler.

This year, the sold-out crowd whooped and hollered when Bach solidly hammered two feet and the victory behind legendary partner Jake Barnes. The "comeback kids" stretched their last steer in 5.19 seconds-good for Chevy Duramax Dually trucks, Bruton slant-load trailers, their half of $64,728 cash, plus custom leather rope bags, leather GSTRC jackets, sunglasses, and more odds n' ends. Especially sweet-Bach doubled-dipped with Matt Tyler to take second in the average, good for half of $40,994 plus unbeatable custom Twister trophy saddles.

Throw some round money in there as well, and Barnes reports leaving town with around $85,000, and Bach made out like Jesse James with over $100,000 in cash and prizes. Not too shabby for a day's work.

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"It's absolutely unbelievable," Bach shared. "Jake and I were saying how we rodeoed all last year for $81,000, and we come here and win more in one day. This roping is only second in prestige to the NFR, and you can win even more here," he said. "People think it's only another big roping to us, but it's not. It makes our heads spin to win this much at once."

Ditto from Barnes.

"It makes your year to win one of the major ropings like the Wildfire, Mike Cervi, or George Strait," Barnes agreed. "The George Strait is the best one of the year considering the prize line-up; I mean, it was an $85,000 hit at one roping. It's a boost for the whole year."

It was one of those classic comebacks of all time for Bach. Meanwhile, Barnes is experiencing his own personal comeback-as is the red-hot team of Barnes and Bach.

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The Event
The 2004 GSTRC was held as usual at the beautiful San Antonio Rose Palace in San Antonio, Texas, March 19-20. A total of 479 teams competed for over $400,000 in cash and prizes. Friday was a two-header; teams had to rope their first steer in less than 11 seconds to even get steer number two. (In other words, if you miss your chance on steer number one-hope you didn't drive too far). The top 50 teams after round two return to rope in Saturday's three-header (all 50 teams get all three steers). To qualify for the top 50, teams had to rope Friday's two steers in 11.82 seconds or less.

"This year's roping was the toughest ever with that fast of a cutoff," Barnes said. "George and staff always put on a first-class roping, the cattle were great, and his love for roping and the open ropers really means a lot. Producing ropings is a thankless job, but we're really appreciative."

Bach couldn't agree more.

"The George Strait is one-of-a-kind. There's really no comparison. The qualifying format is really cool, and it's a high-energy, sold-out environment that really makes you feel like you did something," Bach shared. "It's great for George to give back to this industry like that."

Sponsors for this year's event included: Cavender Chevrolet of Boerne, Texas; H.E.B. Food Stores; Tractor Supply Co.; the San Antonio Express-News; Bill Miller's Bar-B-Q; Brake Check; McCormick's Foods and Spices; Georgia-Pacific's Brawny Towels; Cactus Ropes; Wrangler; Justin; Resistol Hats; Classic Ropes; Bruton Trailers; Gist Buckles; and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

  • Producer George Strait qualified for Friday's second round with heeler Tom Bill Johnson. Son Bubba (Strait) qualified in Saturday's top 50 with heeler Bret Beach. In fact, the duo was 10th high call back in the short round and finished just out of the money.
  • Since its inception in 1983, the GSTRC has awarded $1.3 million in cash prizes, plus 42 Bruton trailers and 34 Chevy trucks. It has become one of the best open team ropings in the U.S.
  • Although this roping remains elusive for the world champs, Speed and Rich didn't leave quietly. Speed rode the barrier to perfection (Rich didn't even appear to hurry), and the legends set the new GSTRC record of 3.69 seconds. This shatters the 11-year record of 3.86 seconds held by Jake Barnes and Steve Northcott.
  • 1.62 seconds separated the top 10 call back teams for the big money, trucks and trailers. A mere 2.1 seconds separated Saturday's top 50 qualifiers.
  • Header Jason Senior and heeler Britt Bockius were high call to win the whole enchilada, with a 5.49 and 5.64 heading into round 3. Unfortunately-Bockius lost his dally.
  • The second-high call team of Clay Tryan (header) and Corey Petska (heeler) were also sitting pretty, riding a 5.32 and 6.25 into the final round. Unbelievably-Tryan missed.
  • Header Jason Thomas and heeler Jett Hillman missed winning Saturday's third round due to a broken barrier. The win would have been good for $1,800 round money-plus-an extra $40,000 bonus as they'd drawn a "red wrap steer" sponsored by H.E.B. Food Stores.

The Comeback Kids
Jake Barnes and Allen Bach have been best friends for 25 years. That's partly what makes victories like this even sweeter. Bach recalled that years ago, he called Barnes before he even had PRCA dreams and asked him to rope.

"He loaded up and was there about two days later," Bach laughed.

The duo roped together Barnes's first three years in the pros, and so started a rare 25-year friendship.

"It's funny how it's circled around where were roping together again. It's really special. Last year, we almost tripped up Speed and Rich for the world. We sure put the heat on them, and won more than each of us had ever won at the finals. Then, to win this much at the George Strait with my best friend is really special," Bach shared.

While Bach experienced a classic comeback at the GSTRC, Barnes is experiencing an entire rejuvenation of his career he credits to one individual-Barney. Barney is Barnes's new gray head horse extraordinaire that he acquired late last summer, and is also his new all-time favorite ride.

"It's like the boxer getting beat up and then all of a sudden one blow turns the fight around," Barnes explained. "I was looking at retirement. I wasn't winning. It takes the fight out of you, it's expensive, and when you're horses won't work that messes with you mentally.

"I've roped the same for years," he continued. "It's all about the horse. I'm gaining back confidence every day, and I feel I'm going to win now versus just showing up. Barney fits me perfectly, and he'll work in any scenario. I can't stress how important your horse is to your roping. In retrospect, I used to take that for granted, even during the years Clay and I dominated when I had Bullwinkle," he said. "As for Barney, I don't practice on him, I just keep him in shape because if something happens to him I could be right back in the same boat."

Speaking of horses, Bach also credited his heel horse, Hollywood, for being an indoor specialist, custom fit for venues like the NFR and Rose Palace. Bach said he's won over $200,000 in the past three months aboard him.

The horses proved their worth at "the Strait," and Barnes and Bach proved they'll be a force to reckon with this year.

As they awaited their short-round steer, both men had a simple strategy-change nothing and focus on the task at hand.

"It's rare to rope one for $80,000. What can happen is negative thoughts start creeping in. I stay positive and don't talk myself into messing up," Barnes shared.

"I get my mental toughness from the Bible," Bach explained. "One scripture that really helps me is that God didn't give us the spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. Those are important to catch that last steer," he said. "Your mental game has to be right. God blesses peace, confidence and patience, and I just try to allow my roping to be in His hands.

"There are a lot of young guys who have seen early success, like the Tryans and Kory Koontz for example," Bach added. "Kory is a solid and strong-minded Christian, and that's why he's as good as he is. He stayed away from alcohol and drugs and things that give false hopes. It's important that ropers, especially young ones, understand that."

It's fairly certain the George Strait won't be the last major victory from this duo this year-they're gunnin' for all they can get.

"I'm taking a different approach to my roping than in years past," Barnes said. "I'm giving minimum schools, and putting 110 percent into my roping. Allen and I have the same goals, and it's very exciting."

Bach agreed.

"In the years when you have a family and a business, roping as much as you'd like just isn't in the cards. But now, Jake and I have an unspoken deal. We're each roping as good as we've ever roped," Bach shared. "Jake Barnes is the all-time greatest ever, and I'm experiencing roping with him at his best."