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