Exclusive Interview with Keith Combs – Three Time TTBC Champion
QUITMAN, TX – May 11, 2014: All eyes on were on Keith Combs this week at Lake Fork and he did not disappoint, leading wire-to-wire as he won his third TTBC title. On the eve of this event, Combs made a statement that seemed insane at the time – it could possibly take a 35lb or even a 40lb average per day to win this event. He was not that far off with fifteen bass for 110lbs, Keith set a new world record for a three day professional bass tournament. That’s a remarkable average of 7.33 pounds per bass weighed in.
This is his third win in the TTBC in the last four years and it will certainly solidify his place in professional bass fishing history and further enhance Combs’ already legendary status in Texas.
The TTBC is Fun For All
Even when records are not being broken at the TTBC, all of the professional anglers who qualify are thrilled to get here and even more excited during the event. It is a truly unifying event, bringing the top anglers from the PAA, the FLW Tour and the Bassmaster Elite Series.
Combs says more than any tournament, this is the one he looks forward to each year. “Everything about this tournament is so much fun, you have great concerts, amazing crowds and big Texas bass. What could be better?” asks Combs.
Lake Fork Fishing
"Prior to this, I had no idea how good Lake Fork is," says the three-time world champ. Although Combs lives in Huntington, Texas, he really hasn't much prior experience on Lake Fork.
While Combs made his win look easy this week, it was not without challenges along the way. After his Day 1 haul of 42lbs, he had a large group of spectator and camera boats following his every move. In addition, he was sharing the same areas with two anglers who were also in the top ten after the first day. This changed his strategy and how he made decisions throughout the day. “We were covering huge expanses of water by ‘strolling’ (long-lining) so we had to let the spectator boats know where we were headed so they could back off a little as we brought our crankbaits through. The boats out there were great though, you always hear about it how they will go in and fish your areas as soon as you leave, but thankfully everyone was great and left it alone when we left and went to another spot,” added Combs.
Keith Combs rotated through several spots throughout the event and felt that timing was a critical aspect to his win. His toughest challenge was the morning of Day 3. “I went to where I caught them on Day 2 and didn’t catch a fish. I fished a few different spots in my rotation and caught a good one at each spot and had intentions to hit those areas again but never had to because my next spot produced a 6-8, an 8lber and I don’t know how many five pounders, it was amazing,” said Combs. His timing throughout the week on his key areas changed every day as the fish moved. Each hour and each day was different and it required being in the right place at the right time when the fish were biting.
Lake Fork at its Peak right now
Over the past few years Keith Combs has spent countless days on Texas lakes Amistad and Falcon guiding and fishing for fun, but believes that right now Lake Fork rivals the highest peaks at those or any fisheries.
“Lake Fork is fishing better than any lake in Texas right now and probably the whole country. If anyone is planning a trip to Texas for bass fishing you need to come here to Lake Fork and you better get here really quick because the big fish are biting,” urged Combs.
"Everybody has heard of Lake Fork, it is the Texas state record lake and it produced a lot of 16 and 17 pounders back in its heyday. Well, last year they started catching them really good here, and this event proved that it is still the best lake in Texas!"
"I'd love to come back here in the very near future just to do some fun fishing, and I hope they'll keep having the Toyota Texas Bass Classic here. Lake Conroe has been great to me (where I won my first two TTTBC's), but I want to come back here next year and do this again."
"Lake Fork is unbelievable! You really never know what you're going to catch. Every time I set the hook today, I thought it was going to be a 10 pounder. In your mind, there's no doubt of the potential Lake Fork has on any cast. There aren't many places we fish on the pro tours where that happens."
BAITS AND TACTIC OF THE 2014 TOYOTA TUNDRA TOP TEN
On the first day of the 2014 Toyota Texas Bass Class held May 9-11 in Quitman, Texas, 14 of 50 pros weighed 30+ pound five-bass bags, and the top three (Keith Combs, Russ Lane and Stetson Blaylock) had the best single day of their pro careers. Over three days, twenty-six 30+ limits were amassed – an incredible story.
For the entire event, a total of 538 Lake Fork lunker largemouth bass averaging 5.02 pounds a
piece were counted as the biggest 5 per day for the 50 TTBC contenders. Those are only the fish that counted for the daily weights. What's not included in that average are the mind-boggling quantity of 4 to 5 pounders that were caught and released daily by many pros. The fishing this week on Lake Fork was something that many pros here had never experienced before.By the third and final day, Keith Combs with 110 pounds had smashed the previous record for
a 3-day pro event that was set in 2000 at Clear Lake, California by Byron Velvick with 83 pounds, 5 ounces. Combs’ total over three days eclipsed the record by a staggering 26 pounds, 11 ounces. Combs said, "That's incredible! To get over 100 pounds in four days is a major accomplishment, and to do it in three is unheard of. It is a testament to this lake. That just tells you how strong and how well-managed Lake Fork is."
Not only Combs, but pros finishing in the top seven places had eclipsed the previous record for a 3-day pro event.
Below is a summary of how winner Keith Combs and the Toyota Tundra Top Ten finalists made their incredible Lake Fork catches.
KEITH COMBS – 1ST WITH 110-0
Now a three-time TTBC champion, Keith Combs weighed-in 15 bass with an amazing average weight of 7.3 pounds. Like many pros, Combs caught countless other quality bass that didn't contribute toward his official weight this week.
"There were millions, millions of big bass out there that were all over 5 pounds," said the winner. "I probably caught 15 a day that were between 5 to 10 pounds during this event. You would see big shad schools down there on the bottom on your electronics, and then you'd see huge schools of big bass that were all over 5 pounds. I couldn't see through them at times (on the graph), it was solid bass and when they were eating, it was steady catching on every cast at times."
This was the second time in the Huntington, Texas pro's 8-year career that he broke the 100 pound milestone in an event. His first time was on Falcon Lake, TX in March 2013 when Combs amassed 111.5 pounds in a four day pro event. This time on Lake Fork, he clobbered 110 pounds in three days.
Combs' forte is cranking. He used his three favorite crankbaits this week in his confidence colors. When he fished shallow, he used a Strike King 2.5 KVD Squarebill in Tennessee Shad color in 2-6 feet of water. In mid-range depths (10-15 feet), he used the Strike King 6 XD in blue chartreuse. Deep was 27-30 feet for Combs this week, where he used the Strike King 10 XD in Sexy Shad.
What Combs was looking for and what made the good areas he was fishing were no trees.
"If it was shallow, it was a sandy point. If it was mid-range, like where I throttled them the second day, it was a very subtle secondary point. There were no trees where the fish were – they were on a clearing in the trees. The deep stuff they were on, you would never hit any brush or anything out there. The big bass schools were just keying on shad and they did not want to be in the trees. The fish that were out the deepest, they were just fat, so fat. They had spawned and had been out there feeding heavily."
Like many pros here this week, Keith had been capitalizing on big bass feeding on a shallow, early shad spawn every morning. In fact, Combs caught all his weight (33-8) the second day before 9 a.m. – but that morning bite did not materialize for Combs on Day Three. "My best spot from the second day wasn't producing. My best spot from the first day wasn't producing either. I mean nothing. Both of those had been morning spots."
Many other pros had been enjoying a mid- to late afternoon period of hot action, but not Combs. "Midday the third day, I finally got into a little rhythm but was only catching one fish per spot. I'd run, catch one, run again, and catch one. I told my onboard judge, 'I'm feeling it,' and I got a little groove on. In four consecutive spots I got a near-five pound fish in each place, and then an 8 pound 8 ounce giant. I said to my judge, 'It's happening for me right now.'"
"I pulled up on a spot shortly after that and said to my judge, 'If I can get a six pounder, I may win this thing,' and on my first cast, I caught a 6-1/2 pounder."
Combs settled into that spot, catching another 8 pounder, making 2 other culls and catching multiple other bass. He caught that last 8 pounder on the Strike King Shadalicious swimbait.
His mainstay for all three days however was the Strike King 6 XD deep-diving crankbait which he used exclusively on Day Two. The 6 XD also produced two of his weighers the final day plus three he weighed on the first day – in other words, 10 of Combs' 15 fish came on the Strike King 6 XD. Three this week went for the Strike King 10 XD deep-diving crank. His other two weighers came on a swimbait – a 6" or 7" Shadalicious on a 1 ounce jighead. Although he did not throw the swimbait very much, it paid off with that fat 8 pounder the final day.
Combs will have multiple rod/reel/line setups on the boat deck, all the same for cranking. Keith cranks with a 7' Power Tackle glass rod which is the Keith Combs Signature Series now (model #KC170) with 15 pound Seaguar Tatsu and InvisX fluorocarbon line. He favors the premium Seaguar Tatsu for major tournaments days. He uses the economical InvisX for practice and other times. His reel is a high-speed 7:1 Shimano Curado.
The specialized technique of strolling also called longlining crankbaits accounted for some of Combs' biggest fish in this event. "This was the first time I've really used that technique in competition, and I did it some every day. My biggest fish – my 10-8 pounder was caught strolling." Other pros in Combs area were also longlining crankbaits at times, and Combs thinks that a lot of pros were probably strolling some in this event. Combs mainly used the Strike King 6 XD to stroll or to cast. He strictly cast and retrieved the 10 XD.
STETSON BLAYLOCK – 2ND WITH 102-12
Blaylock's first day of competition on Lake Fork was the best day he ever had on the water – and it just kept getting better after that. By the third day, the young pro from Benton, Arkansas had joined the "century club" as he amassed 102-12 pounds of bass.
Blaylock caught most of his fish offshore, and caught almost all his fish on a Strike King 10 XD crankbait and swimbaits on jigheads, mixed in with a Dive Master 20 from Livingston Lures. He said more of his fish fell for swimbaits on jigheads, including some on Basstrix and some on Yamamoto swimbaits.
"There were little flurries of action in the mornings as well as flurries mixed in at other times. It was a timing thing," he said. "You just had to hit the right spot at the right time to get those Fork lunkers. You could catch 4 and 5 pounders at quite a few different places – but the really, really big bass seemed to be on certain spots. You'd just have to hit those spots at the right time. You'd have to capitalize on your opportunities and it would take all day to put together a good bag. For instance, I culled a big fish on my second to last cast of this event – and it made a huge difference to hang in there all day and be able to do that."
RUSS LANE – 3RD WITH 99-4
Russ Lane of Prattville, Alabama had one main spot in Caney Creek (a main creek flowing into Lake Fork). He caught 40 quality bass there on the first day, and he worked the same school of bass for all three days. He fished in the back of the creek, what Lane calls "a little secondary place." He says, "There was 8 feet of water on top and 12 feet out on the sides."
Russ says he caught the majority of his fish on a SPRO Fat Papa 70 crankbait in Sneaky Blue, Mellow Yellow and Lavender Shad colors. He caught a bunch of other fish on a 5/8 ounce Buckeye Mop Jig in green pumpkin/purple with a Big Bite Real Deal Craw for the trailer. Lane also says, "I caught a bunch of my good ones on a Big Bite Baits Kriet Tail Worm on a football swing-head jig, changing between blue flake to green pumpkin to plum colors – with blue flake probably being the best," revealed Russ.
On the crankbaits, Lane used 10, 12 and 14 lb Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon. "There's a new prototype rod by Castaway that's a 7' glass rod I used here for cranking as well as the Castaway Skeleton DD22 rod," shared Lane.
Lane used 22 lb Sunline Shooter fluoro and the Castaway 7'6 Flippin' and Pitchin' rod for his jigs and worms.
JASON CHRISTIE – TIE FOR 4TH WITH 97-0
"I was throwing some big plugs, BD7 and BD8 Bomber crankbaits and a couple other plugs, but the main bait I had was the Money Minnow swimbait, alternating between a 3/4 and 1 ounce jighead," said Christie from Park Hill, Oklahoma.
"The first day I caught a 7 pounder and the 2nd day, a 7-12 on a Booyah Pad Crasher frog off the bank."
His third day, everything Christie caught was in deep water. He tried shallow early, but didn't catch anything there the third day.
JUSTIN LUCAS – TIE FOR 4TH WITH 97-0
Justin Lucas from Guntersville, Alabama threw swimbaits the whole event and caught every fish this week on swimbaits with 3/4 to 1 ounce jigheads – all custom stuff. His fish were in 20-30 feet of water. "It seemed like in the morning the fish were closer to the bottom in low light conditions. As the sun got up, it got them up and active and they were more suspended."
Lucas wielded a 7'6" Abu-Garcia Veracity heavy action rod with 17lb Trilene fluorocarbon line and a 6.4:1 Revo SX reel.
"The 6.4:1 reel allows you to work a swimbait correctly in my opinion. I reel it slow and steady. You just have to give it a little twitch every now and then to make it look active. I let it hit the bottom, and then I fish it back so it comes up, attracting suspended fish too."
MARK ROSE – 6TH WITH 93-0
Mark Rose was throwing a Strike King 6 XD, Strike King 10 XD, a Shadalicious swimbait and also spooning a little. He was inserting several different weights of homemade inserts inside his swimbaits. He was fishing out on some ledges, just scratching and clawing, running and gunning, and he ran into them pretty good by doing that all week. Depths of 20-22 feet were the best for Rose from West Memphis, Arkansas.
RANDY HAYNES – 7TH WITH 92-12
Like many others in this event, Haynes caught so many 4 pound and up fish the first day alone that he was aching to go home already to rest. Using a Strike King 10 XD and other big crankbaits, the pro from Counce, Tennessee paid particular attention to figuring out the casting angles and keying into how the bass wanted to be triggered into striking.
Haynes also used the Shadalicious and other 6 inch swimbaits on 3/4 ounce jigheads, just letting them rip and covering water. Haynes kept the swimbait down on the bottom as well as working it up off the bottom in the water column.
Most of his fish were 25-30 feet deep. Haynes said, "I was intentionally trying to fish deeper than most other people but maybe that's why I caught a little bit smaller fish than the leaders who probably weren't as deep – but I did have fun!"
MATT REED – 8TH WITH 85-8
PAA President Matt Reed of Madisonville, Texas caught most of his fish this week on an 11-inch Yum Mighty Worm on a 5/8 ounce stand-up jighead and a few on a Strike King 10 XD deep-diving crankbait. Also a few on a Carolina-rigged Zoom Magnum Trickworm. However, his main bait this week was the Yum Mighty Worm on that stand-up head. Color didn't seem to matter too much. Blue flake was Reed's best, but Bama Bug (a green pumpkin/junebug color) caught several too.
TODD FAIRCLOTH – 9TH WITH 82-8
Jasper, Texas pro Todd Faircloth caught 95% of his fish this week on the Strike King 10 XD in the depth range of 20-25 foot. He was fishing long ridges and high spots way out on the main lake.
Faircloth said, "There were certain casts necessary to get bites. You had to have the right angle and the right cast. The wind was blowing pretty hard throughout the whole event. Boat position was real critical this week, paying attention to your GPS coordinates and knowing what angle you got a bite on. Wherever I would catch one, I'd punch a waypoint in and pay real close attention to what angle my cast was. If you could repeat that cast, you could get a school fired up and catch 3 or 4 and then come back at a later time and catch them again – on that same angle."
"I had a great week and the fish bit well every day."
Faircloth was using a 7-6" Castaway (which is a light action flipping rod) with the big 10 XD crankbait and 14 lb Sunline with a low gear ratio reel. "I like using a low gear ratio reel whenever using a big plug like that so it doesn't wear you out."
A lot of Faircloth’s deep fish were post-spawn while others were still prespawn. "I noticed that a lot of the fish I caught still had eggs in them. I don't know whether they are going to spawn later or just spawn out there deep – or not at all."
BRANDON COULTER – 10TH WITH 77-12
Brandon Coulter had a great week but felt he was fishing "behind" the fish this week – meaning he may not have been deep enough to start with, even though the Knoxville, Tennessee pro fished progressively deeper every day. Coulter got on a pretty good shallow bite when he first got here, but he feared that would evaporate, so he backed out to mid-depths of 8-12 feet and found the fish there. Coulter was throwing a great, big jointed wood swimbait and that held up for most of the first two days. He caught all his fish the first day and his two biggest the second day on it, but Coulter's big swimbait was fading by the end of the second day. He got on a couple of deep places at the end of the second day which proved pretty good. Knowing that all these guys had been out deep all week, Coulter tried to get in on that the final day too, but he felt he didn't catch them very well the final day. All the deep fish he weighed were on either a Strike King 10 XD crankbait or Sawamura Baits One Up Shad on a jighead.
Story by Russ “Bassdozer” Comeau, PAA
Defending champion earns third TTBC title in four years at Lake Fork
QUITMAN, TX (May 11, 2014) – The world championship of bass fishing, the Toyota Texas Bass Classic was decided by a world record-breaking performance from two-time winner and defending TTBC Champion Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas. Combs broke the tour-level world record today with a amassing 110 pounds following three days of competition at historic Lake Fork. The previous record for a 5-bass-limit was set in 2000 at Clear Lake, California by Byron Velvick with 83 pounds, 5 ounces. Combs’ total over three days broke the record by a staggering 26 pounds, 11 ounces.
“To get 100 pounds in four days is a major accomplishment, and to do it in three is unheard of, it's nothing about the angler but it’s a testament to this lake,” Combs said. “I wasn’t the only one here to crack 100 pounds on 15 bass, so that just tells you how strong and how well-managed this lake is.”
After standout performances from Combs in the first two days of TTBC competition, he entered Sunday with a four pound lead, however Stetson Blaylock, Russ Lane, Jason Christie and Randy Haynes overtook him and the lead spot saw multiple anglers in first place during an early morning flurry of big catches.
Lane was the first pro to top 90 pounds, tallying 96, which was then quickly topped by Blaylock with a 93 while Combs sat at 88 pounds. Justin Lucas was the sixth pro to top 80 while Mark Rose added a couple weighers around 10 a.m. By noon, the top seven of the Tundra Ten were within 10 pounds.
As wind picked up around the noon, the big six, seven and eight pounders that Lake Fork is famous for, started to show up. Combs bounced through several spots producing four or more catches at each.
"Midday, I got into a little rhythm but was only catching one fish per spot. I'd run, catch one, run again, catch one. I told my onboard judge, 'I'm feeling it,' and I got a little groove on,” said Combs. “I said to my judge, 'It's happening for me right now.'"
Combs was on track to collect his second Century Bag (100+lbs) of his eight year career, recording 102 pounds and regaining the lead with an 8-8 (over 24 inches) in the afternoon. Blaylock made a late afternoon run with catches at 7-8, 4-8 and 5-12 within five minutes of each other, earning him the first Century Bag of his young professional career but it proved not enough to catch Combs. Blaylock finished second at 102 pounds, 8 ounces.
Combs’ world record performance also claimed two individual statistic awards, his 42 pound bag performance on Friday earned him the LEER Heavyweight Award (largest single day weight) while his 10 pound 14 ounce catch Friday won him the ATX Wheels Big Bass Award. Combs will receive a LEER Truck Cap and a set of premium ATX Wheels for his efforts.
"You really never know what you're going to catch. Every time I set the hook today, I thought it was going to be a 10 pounder,” said Combs. “In your mind, there's no doubt of the potential Lake Fork has on any cast. There aren't many places we fish on the pro tours where that happens."
The tournament remains a non-entry fee event, with all 50 competing anglers taking home guaranteed prize money. In addition, the TTBC continued its focus on conservation and adhere to strict catch, weigh and immediate release format that has earned the event national praise for its conservation efforts over the past eight years. The program highlights the efforts of Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and after a $250,000 contribution this weekend, TTBC has given $2 million in donations to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to fund youth education and outreach programs.
Three days of world championship bass fishing also included performances from three of country music’s brightest stars. Little Big Town, Justin Moore and Pat Green entertained thousands of fans throughout the weekend. Free family fun was also a highlight of the event, with activities in the Bass Pro Shops Kids Zone and TPWD Outdoor Adventures Area.
PHOTOS (Photo Credit Gabe Roux)
KeithCombs.jpg Keith Combs celebrates winning the $150,000 prize package awarded to at the Toyota Texas Bass Classic at Lake Fork in Quitman, Texas on May 11, 2014. (Photo by Gabe Roux)
Combs is the only three time Toyota Texas Bass Classic Champion and also made a world record at this World Championship of bass fishing.
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SHARE: Keith Combs is crowned the 2014 #TTBC champion: http://bit.ly/SsbGEM
The TTBC tournament functions are operated by the Professional Anglers Association with technical assistance and support from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Inland Fisheries Division. Toyota is the title sponsor for the event. Official sponsors of TTBC are ATX Wheels, Bass Pro Shops, Nitro Boats, Geico, Leer Truck Caps, Republic Services, HOLT CAT, Shakespeare Ugly Stik, Tellespen, Yamaha, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Brookshire’s, TLC Radio, KYKX 105.7, 104.1 The Ranch, KMOO 99.9 & the Coca-Cola Company. For more information visit www.toyotatexasbassclassic.com or call 1-866-907-0143
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You never know what will happen in a world championship derby, especially on the final day when the Toyota Tundra Top Ten contenders from the PAA, Bassmaster and FLW are unified in the one major tournament that decides the undisputed new world champion of pro bass fishing.
Deep-cranking Keith Combs' "wrists of steel" kept him at the top for Day One and Two, but Combs' mighty crankin' power stalled temporarily in the early morning hours on Day Three. That was the Achilles’ Heel that Stetson Blaylock, Russ Lane, Jason Christie and Randy Haynes needed to overtake first place as the leader spot bandied between them big-fish-by-big-fish through the early morning flurry that pros had come to expect on fabled Lake Fork in Quitman, the Bass Capital of Texas and (all TTBC pros now believe) truly the world.
EPIC EARLY MORNING SLUGFEST ON FORK
The difference this morning was the big girls weren't eating early breakfast Sunday – and they especially weren't coming to Combs’ table. Keith had been capitalizing on big bass feeding on a shallow, early shad spawn every morning – but it did not materialize for him today.
Six pounders this morning proved as precious as gold for the Tundra Ten while sevens went platinum. Five pounders were few, making them huge this morning too. Plentiful 3 and 4 pounders obliged everyone but weren't going to win this world championship for anyone.
Big Russ Lane was a bass-catchin' freight train. First to pop 90 pounds, Russ amped up to 96 by 9 o'clock. Then Stetson Blaylock scorched 93.
At 9 o'clock, Keith Combs was reeling to keep up with the fast-climbers. Combs had "only" 88. Randy Haynes had 87. Jason Christie almost 85. Justin Lucas was 6th to break 80 by 9 o'clock. Mark Rose whacked a few more weighers around 10 o'clock to say he was still in this thing.
Keith Combs ratcheted up to 95 by 11 a.m. – still trailing behind Lane at 96-8 and Blaylock at 95-4 at that time. Meanwhile, Randy Haynes, Mark Rose, Justin Lucas and Jason Christie all had 86+ to 87+ pounds in 4th to 7th respectively.
As morning turned to noon, the top seven were within 10 pounds – one massive Lake Fork lunker - of each other.
Ladies and gentleman, Day Three and this championship were anyone's to win!
Around noon as the wind whipped up in advance of an approaching major storm, the big sixes, sevens and eights that Fork's world-famous for started rocking for the lucky few among the Tundra Ten.
Keith Combs bounced through 3 or 4 spots and pulled in a good 4 or 5+ at each stop. That was when Combs felt the day turning around for him. On Day One and Two, Combs didn't have much of an afternoon bite – although other pros did.
Day Three, the afternoon proved good to Keith when he shattered the century milestone for only the second time in Combs career. Keith piled 102 pounds up and regained the lead with an 8-8 "over" (over the 24 inch slot limit) around noon.
Keith Combs creeled another 8 pounder at 1:40 p.m. to finally close the barn door he had unwillingly let open that morning.
The crackling of the scoring judge's radioing in big bass started to heat up the airwaves again around 2 p.m. Combs' judge called in a 6-0 for Keith, followed by Blaylock's judge relaying a 7-8, 4-8 and 5-12 within 5 minute of each other. That fast flurry made Blaylock the next to break the 100 pound barrier for the first time in Stetson's pro career.
As time ran out for the day, it was Keith Combs on top at 110-0. Stetson Blaylock in 2nd at 102-8. Russ Lane in 3rd was right on the "century bubble" with 99-4.
Jason Christie and Justin Lucas tied for 4th with 97-0.
And that's how the history books will say it happened when Huntington, Texas pro Keith Combs caught and released 110 pounds of Lake Fork's finest.
Keith bested the 49 best from the PAA, Bassmaster and FLW and he won the 2014 TTBC world championship for his third time in four years – this time on legendary Lake Fork in Quitman, the Bass Capital of the world.
5.02 POUND AVERAGE LAKE FORK BASS
Over the 3-day event, 538 Lake Fork lunker largemouth bass with an average weight of 5.02 pounds apiece were caught-and-released and counted as the biggest 5 per day for the 50 TTBC contenders.
FIRST PLACE PRIZE PACKAGE
For first place, Combs' winnings consisted of $50,000 (retail value) Nitro boat/Mercury outboard/Dual Power-Pole/trailer prize package and $100,000 in cash.
ATX WHEELS EVENT BIG BASS AWARD
Keith Combs had the biggest bass of today, an 8-8 and the overall biggest bass brought back to the scales any day of this event – a 10-4 on Day One. For it, Combs won the ATX Wheels Event Big Bass Award – a set of premium ATX Wheels.
Stetson Blaylock also released an 11 pounder on Day One. It counted in Blaylock's daily bag. It was ineligible for the ATX Wheels Big Bass Award because it wasn't brought to the weigh-in.
LEER HEAVYWEIGHT AWARD
Four of the Tundra Ten had 30+ limits on day Three. Keith Combs had the biggest bag of Day Three (34-8) and the biggest overall bag of the event (42-0) on Day One.
For the heaviest single day weight (over 3 days), Combs won a premium Leer Truck Cap.
BAITS AND TACTICS OF THE TOYOTA TUNDRA TOP TEN
Stay tuned for our final coverage of the 2014 Toyota Texas Bass Classic including a rundown of the baits and tactics of the Toyota Tundra Top Ten and an exclusive interview with new TTBC champion (3-time winner) Keith Combs.
Story by Russ "Bassdozer" Comeau
|1||Keith Combs||34 lbs. 8 oz.|
|2||Jason Christie||32 lbs. 8 oz.|
|3||Stetson Blaylock||31 lbs. 4 oz.|
|4||Mark Rose||30 lbs. 8 oz.|
|5||Randy Haynes||29 lbs. 12 oz.|
|6||Russ Lane||29 lbs. 8 oz.|
|7||Justin Lucas||29 lbs.|
|8||Todd Faircloth||25 lbs. 8 oz.|
|9||Matt Reed||22 lbs. 12 oz.|
|10||Brandon Coulter||17 lbs. 8 oz.|
|1||Keith Combs||110 lbs.|
|2||Stetson Blaylock||102 lbs. 12 oz.|
|3||Russ Lane||99 lbs. 4 oz.|
|4||Jason Christie||97 lbs.|
|5||Justin Lucas||97 lbs.|
|6||Mark Rose||93 lbs.|
|7||Randy Haynes||92 lbs. 12 oz.|
|8||Matt Reed||85 lbs. 8 oz.|
|9||Todd Faircloth||82 lbs. 8 oz.|
|10||Brandon Coulter||77 lbs. 12 oz.|
|11||Aaron Martens||57 lbs.|
|12||John Murray||56 lbs. 4 oz.|
|13||Mike Mcclelland||54 lbs. 8 oz.|
|14||Ott Defoe||54 lbs. 8 oz.|
|15||Brent Ehrler||54 lbs.|
|16||Brandon Palaniuk||52 lbs. 8 oz.|
|17||Mike Iaconelli||52 lbs. 8 oz.|
|18||Shinichi Fukae||52 lbs.|
|19||Luke Clausen||51 lbs. 4 oz.|
|20||Fred Roumbanis||50 lbs. 4 oz.|
|21||Jacob Powroznik||50 lbs. 4 oz.|
|22||Adrian Avena||49 lbs. 4 oz.|
|23||Kevin VanDam||49 lbs. 4 oz.|
|24||Bryan Thrift||49 lbs.|
|25||Terry Scroggins||48 lbs. 12 oz.|
|26||Brian Snowden||48 lbs.|
|27||Chris Zaldain||47 lbs. 12 oz.|
|28||Bobby Lane||47 lbs.|
|29||Cody Meyer||46 lbs. 12 oz.|
|30||Hank Cherry||46 lbs. 8 oz.|
|31||Tommy Brown||45 lbs. 12 oz.|
|32||Ish Monroe||45 lbs. 4 oz.|
|33||Spencer Shuffield||44 lbs. 12 oz.|
|34||Andy Morgan||44 lbs. 4 oz.|
|35||Edwin Evers||43 lbs. 12 oz.|
|36||Jim Dillard||43 lbs. 8 oz.|
|37||Gerald Swindle||42 lbs. 4 oz.|
|38||Todd Auten||41 lbs. 12 oz.|
|39||Matt Arey||41 lbs. 8 oz.|
|40||John Crews||41 lbs.|
|41||Randall Tharp||39 lbs.|
|42||Greg Vinson||39 lbs.|
|43||Tommy Biffle||37 lbs. 8 oz.|
|44||Cliff Crochet||35 lbs. 8 oz.|
|45||Kelly Power||32 lbs. 4 oz.|
|46||Dan Morehead||30 lbs. 12 oz.|
|47||Jay Yelas||29 lbs.|
|48||Alton Jones||28 lbs.|
|49||James Watson||27 lbs. 12 oz.|
|50||Kelly Jordon||15 lbs. 8 oz.|
Amazingly the massive parade of big bags continued at Lake Fork on Day 2 at the Toyota Texas Bass Classic. It’s been an amazing week so far and the best is yet to come – the time to crown the 2014 TTBC champion tomorrow afternoon.
A Lucky Catch
As California pro Chris Zaldain came to the docks as the end of the day, he was excited to show off his prized catch, a piece from a submerged tree with nine crankbaits still attached from previous anglers. “I caught a seven pounder from this spot, so whoever was fishing here and losing crankbaits knew what they were doing,” said Zaldain. For the record, he lost more than nine crankbaits this week so he is still in the negative.
Notes from the Pros
“I cranked so much this week that my wrists are sore. Keith Combs must have wrists of steel!” quipped Bixby, Oklahoma pro Fred Roumbanis.
When asked about his day, Ott DeFoe said he didn’t do as well as he would have liked to on Lake Fork today. “I had 23 pounds today, but that is like catching 10 pounds most places,” said the Knoxville, Tennessee pro.
Cody Meyer weighed in over 46lbs for two days and was fortunate to catch some nice fish but left the lake wanting more. “I caught tons of four and five pounders but I want to come back here and catch a ShareLunker (a bass over 13lbs in Texas), because I know they are in here,” exclaimed Meyer.
“I’m in 7th place and a long way from 1st, I just don’t know what to do Mercer,” said Madisonville, Texas pro Matt Reed to tournament emcee Dave Mercer. He added that Lake Fork is the place it can happen. Reed agreed, “It could happen here, someone could catch a 50lb bag and I really wouldn’t be that surprised,” stated Reed.
Adrian Avena walked to the stage and began recapping his tournament, “I thought I could catch them on a swimbait…HOLY COW there’s a lot of people here!” screamed Avena as he looked up and suddenly realized the huge crowd in attendance.
Lake Fork continues to impress all in attendance this week. As the field is cut to ten for tomorrow, even with a 18lb 8oz difference between 1st and 10th- nobody in the Tundra Top 10 is out of this event.
Report by Tyler Brinks, PAA
Day Two: Keith Combs leads Tundra Top Ten into Grand Finale on Lake Fork
QUITMAN, TX. – Top pros from the PAA, Bassmaster and FLW (the TTBC is a unifying championship) that were on the fish yesterday stayed locked on them today – and it appears no one's going to stumble tomorrow. It's going to be a rumble Sunday on Lake Fork.
Pros in yesterday's top ten – Keith Combs, Stetson Blaylock, Russ Lane, Justin Lucas, Jason Christie, Randy Haynes, Matt Reed, Brandon Coulter – stayed on the short list today.
Mark Rose stepped up from 11th as Todd Faircloth hotfooted from 14th into 10th.
Ladies and gentlemen, those are your 2014 Toyota Tundra Top Ten that made the cut and will fish Lake Fork for one last exciting round tomorrow, Sunday May 11th when one of them will be crowned the undisputed new world champion of professional bass fishing.
If Texan Keith Combs (currently in first) was to win Sunday, he may possibly also be crowned some kind of king or legend in Texas by the many Lone Star fans expected to turn out to cheer on the weigh-in and awards ceremony at the exciting conclusion of the eighth annual Toyota Texas Bass Classic on Lake Fork in Quitman, the Bass Capital of Texas if not the world! Combs has won 2 of the last 3 TTBC’s and has a deserved reputation for being the man you can’t beat on Texas lakes.
Yesterday (Day One) was a surreal experience none of the FLW, Bassmaster and PAA pros will soon forget. The top three yesterday – Keith Combs, Russ Lane and Stetson Blaylock – had the single best day of their respective careers – and 14 pros had 30 or more pounds – an unprecedented tally!
On Day Two, the unreal catches subsided…only slightly. There were 8 pros with 30 or more pounds today and the top nine pros had 60 or more pounds total for two days – with the top two over 70 pounds. Justin Lucas had the heaviest bag of Day Two weighing 35-8.
Many pros had an early morning bite while others enjoyed a mid- to late afternoon flurry of fast action. Timing proved paramount – being able to pull in on a school that's active and catch a few fast before they shut down.
Please enjoy reading below what the Toyota Tundra Top Ten had to say this evening.
KEITH COMBS – 1st
Keith Combs had the biggest bag of his pro career (42 pounds) yesterday and sacked 33-8 today for a two-day total of 75-8. In two days, he almost eclipsed his own TTBC record weight of 76-12 set in 2011 for the 3-day event.
Combs caught all his weight (a 6-4, 7-0, 5-12, 6-4 and 8-4) before 9 a.m. this morning. "It's pretty hard to cull a 5-12 you know – we don't do that very often!" laughed Combs.
"I'm going to have to pull 30-something to have a chance tomorrow – or else Blaylock, Lane or Lucas is going to smoke me," said the leader seriously. "You never know, you can pull up on something that's not even in your routine – and catch them big time. Somebody can time it right here and catch 50 pounds. So don't put the guy that's in 9th or 10th out of this thing – because most of the guys that made the top ten are fishing where I'm fishing. Being there at the right time is critical."
Combs will be doing the same thing tomorrow as today and yesterday – slinging it out there and praying for five big Lake Fork lunkers!
STETSON BLAYLOCK – 2nd
Blaylock's 35-0 limit today backed up his 36-8 yesterday for a two-day total of 71-8.
"The key to my day today was sticking with my places, the areas I've got have a lot of fish on them, and it's just getting those five good bites, those 7 and 8 pounders are key. You've got to get those big bites in this event tomorrow."
All Blaylock's fish were deep. He had two sevens and several six pounders first thing this morning. He's going to change up a few things tomorrow to try to get a few more of the bigger bites in order to see if he can't get a giant stringer – because he knows it's going to take that. "They're going to catch them really big tomorrow. No one's holding anything back. I've got to go and swing just as hard as I can."
RUSS LANE in 3rd with 69-12
Russ Lane didn't get quite as many bites today but still caught some solid sixes staying in the same area and fishing the same schools of bass using the same tactics as he did yesterday. Nothing changed on him from day to day. "I'm going to stick with it and catch as much as I can tomorrow. It doesn't look like anyone here is going to stumble at all – so it all comes down to the last day," said Russ Lane with resolution in his voice.
JUSTIN LUCAS in 4th with 68-0
Justin Lucas amassed the biggest limit of Day Two which was 35-8.
Lucas hit some of his same spots today as yesterday – but was more attentive to his timing, especially when he visited his big bass spots. He kind of created or optimized his own timing. "I kept hitting the same spots today, but let them rest – I knew that the fish were not going to be hitting again after that for another hour or so, which is when I would come back and pop a big one. The one spot where I caught the 8 pounder and 9 pounder today, I caught them at totally separate times. I just don't know what time they're going to bite, so I let them rest for a little bit. They can feel your boat on top of them – they know when somebody's there. When somebody's not there, they let their guard down, get fired up themselves – and you show up, get in there and catch one right away or even 3 or 4 real quick before they shut down again."
Justin Lucas is using swimbaits and crankbaits, depending how deep the bass appear on his graph. He'll use the swimbaits both above and on the bottom, varying the jighead weight to do that.
He's not planning anything different for tomorrow. It's Justin's first time ever on Lake Fork, and he's just been having a really good time. "Tomorrow, I'm going to go out there and have fun, keep throwing my swimbait – and try to catch 40 pounds."
JASON CHRISTIE in 5th with 64-8
Christie's bite is better later in the afternoon. "There are not that many schools out there. You just have to keep bouncing around until you hit a school that has rested (from fishing pressure) for a while and then you can catch 2 or 3. The thing about me is I haven't caught any over 7 pounds here yet. I'm catching all good, solid fish – but no giants," Christie informed us.
He's starting out shallow, getting some good ones early – and fishing deeper later in the day. "I need to catch 40 to 45 pounds tomorrow – and I might have to strictly fish deep all day to do that," said Jason with conviction.
RANDY HAYNES in 6th with 63
With four monster graphs optimized for offshore angling, there's nothing that swam under Randy Haynes boat undetected today. He had a good morning that started off hot and heavy. "My judge and I were pretty busy with the radio this morning calling in early catches. Later in the afternoon, fishing through the same hole again, we woke them back up and I learned a little sumpthin-sumpthin about this lake; if I can make that work again tomorrow, I'll be fixin' to catch 40 pounds," predicted Haynes.
MATT REED in 7th with 62-12
PAA President Matt Reed caught a lot of fish yesterday but today, only seven. Those were good for 30-12 but took him all day to catch them. Like many other pros, Reed had a mid-afternoon flurry of hot action. Reed caught them in a different spot today than yesterday – and may try different spots (including one of his best spots) tomorrow that he didn't get to fish today. "I'll just keep rotating through my areas and try for some big ones," he said.
MARK ROSE in 8th with 62-8
"This has been fun. God bless Texas and Lake Fork," said Mark Rose jovially. "I didn't get any really big ones – just four 6 pounders and a 6-1/2 today. It's a blast to be here and catchin' what I caught." Rose is on a deep deal that's obviously working – he just needs to turn those sixes into eights tomorrow. Rose is running the gamut with offshore lures – deep cranking, spoons and other stuff. Nothing was different for Mark today from yesterday. He's just going to keep doing the same tomorrow – and pray for all eights!
BRANDON COULTER in 9th with 60-4
Coulter lost a few big ones just before he had to weigh-in today. "I feel like I have a good place to start tomorrow anyway," laughed Brandon. He caught his fish the first day on a big hard swimbait, concentrating on the mId-depths from 8-12 feet. Most other pros were fishing deeper or shallower than Coulter. "I had a lot of water to myself which was nice. However, the overcast today made the fish in the mid-depths move out deeper – because I moved out deeper later in the day and caught them pretty decent again once I made the move."
TODD FAIRCLOTH in 10th with 57-0
"Legitimately, I don't think I have a shot at winning this event. I am 18-8 behind. I made the top ten and I am happy with that. Anytime you can do that well against this group of guys – the best from the Bassmaster Elites, the FLW Tour and the PAA Series – you've got to consider that an accomplishment. I am a competitor, and when I go out there fishing, I try to catch as much as I can – and that's what I am going to do tomorrow. I'm going to try to move up some spots; I'm in 10th place so I can only go up! I'm going to try to put together the big Lake Fork bag tomorrow," said Faircloth with determination.
Report from Russ "Bassdozer" Comeau, PAA
The Toyota Texas Bass Classic was conceived by current and former TPWD Commissioners Dan Friedkin and Donato Ramos, respectively, along with professional angler Kelly Jordon. The goal for the event is to create a premier fishing event while supporting TPWD’s conservation efforts by delivering significant funding for youth fishing and outreach programs. Their vision was to also focus national attention on Texas’ outdoor resources and TPWD’s programs and successes.
Now in its eighth year, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and all the citizens and anglers of the great state of Texas are very proud to have the TTBC back on Lake Fork to showcase what Texas' best bass fishery – Lake Fork is all about. Dave Terre (Chief of Management and Research, TPWD Inland Fisheries) says it best. "We take a lot of pride in the fishery we've produced here with our local partners – the Sabine River Authority, Lake Fork Sportsman’s Association which is a local Friends of Reservoirs Chapter, and the local community. We appreciate the opportunities that the TTBC provides us to market our story to a nationwide audience."
Let's look at freshwater fishing across Texas right now. There are about two million freshwater anglers in the state and they generate about $ 2.3 billion dollars for the Texas state economy. With large numbers like that, Texas is one of the fishingest states in the USA, and TPWD takes their fishing and the management of those state fishing resources very seriously. Freshwater fishing is economically important to the state, and it is a major way of life for a lot of Texas citizens and a lot of local communities that are supported by Texas fisheries – their schools and municipal improvements are supported with the tax revenue that is generated at their lakes by fishing-related commerce. "We need to keep our fisheries thriving, which will help keep our fishing-related businesses healthy – that is important and the TPWD recognizes that for sure," emphasizes Dave Terre.
TTBC FUNDS TPWD'S NEIGHBORHOOD FISHIN' PROGRAM
The Toyota Texas Bass Classic event has provided TPWD so far with $1.75 million dollars to support the fishing outreach programs in Texas. The TTBC has provided significant funding and is the title sponsor of TPWD's Neighborhood Fishin' program. You can go to www.neighborhoodfishing.org to check it out. The Neighborhood Fishin' program currently has sixteen lakes in the state, and what TPWD does with these lakes, they stock them with catfish or rainbow trout every two weeks throughout the entire year. TPWD finds that these fishing opportunities draw citizens and youth who live in urban areas of the state who don't have the chance to go fish Lake Fork or other popular fisheries. The Neighborhood Fishin' lakes are places where kids can jump on their bicycles to go down and fish and get engaged with this great Texas pastime near to where they live.
In 2012, TPWD wrapped up a big survey, and they found that 85,000 people utilize these sixteen lakes every year – and that about half those folks are either children or people who are new to fishing. So the Neighborhood Fishin' program is working to engage new people and youth into our beloved sport. TPWD is very proud of this – and could not do it without the funds provided by the Toyota Texas Bass Classic every year.
The newest lake in the Neighborhood Fishin' program is Wolbert Pond in Tyler, TX near Lake Fork. TPWD just opened that up about one month ago. So citizens from the local Lake Fork area can go see one of the Neighborhood Fishin' program lakes themselves -and see the kids and new anglers (that do not have the opportunity to get on a fishery like Lake Fork) engaged in fishing there.
STATE-FISH ART PROGRAM MADE POSSIBLE BY TTBC FUNDING
Funding that has come through the TTBC has made the Texas State-Fish Art program the largest in the nation. TPWD had over 1,100 entries into the program this year – which is approximately twice as many as last year. No other state in the USA has the funding and support like Texas with the TTBC. TPWD has done some research studies, and they know that they are engaging these youth into the outdoors and fishing through their art – and that's proven through the research, so TPWD knows that's true. It's truly a success story for the state and for continuing Texas' outdoor heritage with the new generation.
SO MUCH MORE THAN A WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP FOR PRO ANGERS
So the TTBC is more than a world championship tournament for pro anglers. When you read the incredible fishing results and applaud the winners of the TTBC tournament this week on Lake Fork in Quitman, TX – take a moment to congratulate the real winners of this event too – the people and youth of Texas. Please thank the TTBC for providing the funding and the opportunity for so many people and youth in Texas via TPWD's exemplary outdoor programs.
Story by Russ "Bassdozer" Comeau, PAA
May 9, 2014
Day One: Lake Fork welcomes TTBC Pros Back
QUITMAN, TX. – What happens when you bring fifty of the best bass pros in the world to one of the best bass lakes in the world? Well, this is what happens…
·Fourteen of those pros weigh 30+ pound five-bass limits on Day One of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic on the fabled trophy bass factory that is Lake Fork in Quitman, Texas.
·Two-time TTBC champ Keith Combs knocks 42 pounds even out of the park.
·Russ Lane in 2nd place sacks the best limit of his pro career with 38 pounds 4 ounces, catching and releasing 40 good-sized bass today.
·Stetson Blaylock in 3rd has his best day ever. He catches and releases an 11 pounder that anchored Blaylock's 36 pound 8 ounce limit.
·Randy Haynes in 4th with 34 pounds 8 ounces is ready to go home already because he's plumb tuckered out from reeling in too many hefty Fork porkers all day.
·Luke Clausen in fifth with 33 pounds 12 ounces is the only pro in the TTBC to have won both the Bassmaster Classic and the FLW Forrest Wood Cup – and although Clausen feels it will be tough to make up ground on the likes of Combs and Lane, winning the TTBC and attaining the "triple crown" of bass fishing is not entirely out of Clausen's reach today.
Strictly in terms of Lake Fork trophy bass – or "overs" measuring over 24 inches long, today was a good day. It started with leader Keith Combs who had 3 overs in a row. First he caught a 7-8. Next a 9-8 and finally a 10-4 that Combs brought back to the weigh-in to wow the large crowd in attendance. Toyota pro Terry Scroggins followed with a 9-8, Kevin VanDam with an 8-8, Russ Lane with a 10-0, and John Murray with an 8-4. Stetson Blaylock had an 11-0 that he released. There were also several other fish caught and released over 24 inches – a case of too many to mention!
Needless to say, the eighth annual Toyota Texas Bass Classic world championship on Lake Fork in Quitman, Texas got off to a very giant start today.
KEITH COMBS – 1st
Texan Keith Combs, winner of 2 of the 3 last TTBC world championships commanded the day's attention with his incredible first day five-bass limit of 42 pounds flat.
Combs is far ahead of the pace to break his own TTBC record set in 2011 for the heaviest 3-day total of 76 pounds 12 ounces on Lake Conroe in Conroe, TX.
Combs feels confident he can – and must – keep up the pace of well over 30 pounds of Lake Fork lunkers per day for the next two days of this event.
Lane worked the same school of big bass all day today, catching over 40 of them. He plans to return to the same school again tomorrow and see where the school takes him. Several other competitors came into Russ Lane's area today but when they saw what Big Russ was doing, they graciously conceded the field to Lane.
STETSON BLAYLOCK – 3rd
Today was the best day Blaylock ever had on the water. He caught multiple fish over 5 pounds. "I know Lake Fork's such a legendary lake, but still it's the b-e-s-t day of fishing I have ever had!"
Blaylock caught most of his fish offshore. "It's no secret – that's where this tournament is going to be won and where most of the big stringers are coming from. It's a timing thing; you just have to hit the right spot at the right time to get those Fork lunkers. You can catch 4 and 5 pounders at quite a few different places – but the really, really big bass seem to be on certain spots. You just have to hit those spots at the right time."
RANDY HAYNES – 4th
Haynes' day was better than he expected. In practice, he mainly idled around and looked around with his eyes and electronics, not fishing much in practice. It was a grind for Haynes on the water today, having to catch and release 4 pounders all day. Haynes spent part of his afternoon prospecting for tomorrow, bouncing around, figuring out some of the schools he hadn't hit hard today, figuring out the casting angles and keying into how they want to be triggered into striking. He feels he will have to work hard tomorrow if he wants to stay ahead of the pack of 14 other pros that had 30 pounds or better today.
LUKE CLAUSEN – 5th
Clausen fished shallow today using a new, unreleased model of Megabass swimbait. He did not get as many fish as some other pros, but the Megabass swimbait attracted the heavyweights that pulled Clausen into fifth place and kept him in the race for the TTBC championship. Clausen feels secure that he can maintain the heavy weight he had today for the next two days of this event.
The Toyota Texas Bass Classic continues tomorrow, Saturday May 10th when all fifty contenders will compete again on Lake Fork. The field will be cut to 10 who fish on Sunday when one will be crowned the new world champion!
By: Russ "Bassdozer" Comeau, PAA