By BassFan Staff
Keith Combs had a 3 1/2-hour stretch today without a bite at Lake Conroe.
Some of his competitors are hoping he has a couple such dry spells tomorrow. That might be the only way he can be caught.
Despite the sour stretch, Combs, the Toyota Texas Bass Classic winner 2 years ago, is just a ho-hum day away from having to make more room on his mantle at home after catching another giant stringer at the TTBC.
The Huntingdon, Texas, angler followed up his 24 1/2-pound effort on day 1 with a 23-04 stringer today. His second straight 20-plus pound bag gave him 47-12 through 2 days and, more importantly, a 7 1/2-pound lead over his nearest challenger.
To close out the win tomorrow would mean the world to Combs, who posted his first Bassmaster Elite Series win at Lake Falcon back in March. Another TTBC title would make for a nice bookend triumph in 2013, not to mention $150,000 in cash and prizes.
"I want to win," Combs said. "I don't care if it's by an ounce. I just want to win."
Jacob Powroznik is within shouting distance of Combs after catching 22-04 today to push his total to 40-04 and advance two spots to 2nd. Kevin VanDam sacked 19-00 and moved up to 3rd with 35-04, but he's more than a dozen pounds behind Combs.
Jason Christie slipped a spot to 4th while two-time TTBC runner-up Mike Iaconelli relinquished the No. 2 slot, but his 9-pound stringer was enough to keep him in the Top 5.
Here's a look at the Top 10 after day 2 of competition, with deficit margin from Combs indicated by red numbers in parentheses:
1. Keith Combs: 47-12
2. Jacob Powroznik: 40-04 (7-08)
3. Kevin VanDam: 35-04 (12-08)
4. Jason Christie: 32-04 (15-08)
5. Mike Iaconelli: 30-08 (17-04)
6. Mike McClelland: 30-04 (17-08)
7. Bryan Thrift: 30-00 (17-12)
8. Chris Zaldain: 29-04 (18-08)
9 (tie). Bobby Lane: 28-08 (19-04)
9 (tie). John Murray: 28-08 (19-04)
Reigning TTBC champ Bryan Thrift, who rallied from 9th place after 2 days to win last year, jumped 10 spots today behind a 16-pound bag that had him 7th with 30-00. Chris Zaldain and John Murray also fished their way into the Top 10. Dropping out of the Top 10 were John Crews (6th to 22nd), Shin Fukae (9th to 20th), Cliff Crochet (10th to 29th) and Fred Roumbanis (10th to 12th).
Justin Lucas' big push toward the Top 10 fell just short after a tough day 1 when he bagged just 3-08. He caught 23-04 today, sharing big-bag honors with Combs, but finished tied with Roumbanis for 12th with 26-12.
It appears that junk-fishing will have been the dominant theme once the scales close tomorrow with a mix of jigs, crankbaits and worms catching the majority of the better fish. Cranks and frogs around docks have also produced well.
What will be the ticket on the final day will depend somewhat on the weather, which is expected to take a windy turn. Adjusting to how it changes the fish and where they set up could go a long way in determining if anyone can track down Combs.
The TTBC will shift to the spring in 2014 when the event will move back to Lake Fork on May 9-11. Lake Fork hosted the first two TTBC tournaments.
Table Set For Combs
> Day 2: 5, 23-04 (10, 47-12)
Combs said today was more "typical" of Conroe fishing in that returning to spots that produced yesterday resulted in no bites today, but he was still able to get a couple solid fish in the boat early on to build some momentum.
"I caught my fish today on all new water, but now I've run everything," he said. "It ain't easy."
He caught 10 fish today. Half of them were less than 2 pounds and the other five accounted for his weight, including a 7-pounder that he caught at the end of the day.
"I have high hopes for that spot," he said. "I hadn't fished it until today, but when I pulled up on it, I caught a 4-pounder and then a couple small fish and then I realized there was a little school there. I moved off of it for a while and came back and on my first cast, I caught that 7."
His good starts haven't forced him to hit any shallow areas yet, but he senses that'll change tomorrow.
Kevin VanDam caught 19-00 today to move into 3rd place.
"Today, I caught a keeper and a 4 1/2 pretty early," he said. "A lot of times here I don't have a fish at 2 o'clock. In those situations, I'll scramble around and fish some real specific shallow cover. I haven't had to go to any of that stuff yet, but tomorrow that will definitely come into the mix. You have a chance to catch a good one up there, but more than likely it'll just be 2-pounders. I plan to go through my whole rotation of big-fish stuff before I go to that stuff."
He's expecting the wind tomorrow to help the bite across the board, including his areas.
"I'm fishing offshore, but not particularly deep," he said. "The fish are there, but they're hard to catch. It'll open up opportunities for guys back in the pack to catch a big bag. But it makes my fish bite, too."
In the places he's had success, he's caught them on a mix of a worm, jig and various crankbaits.
"It is junk-fishing at its finest," he said.
2nd: Powroznik Not Quitting
> Day 2: 5, 22-04 (10, 40-04)
Powroznik came up empty on day 1 when he decided to fish shallow first thing in the morning. Today, he opted to fish much deeper and it resulted in a 22-pound limit.
"On my fifth cast, I caught a 5-pounder and then caught another good keeper at my first spot," he said. "That was it for a while. I came back a bit later and caught a 1-12 there, then I fished some docks and caught a 4-pounder and was up to about 15 pounds."
He got on a consistent bite from there before pulling into an area where he'd caught a 6-pounder Friday. Today, it produced an 8.56-pound fish that was among the biggest caught today.
"The first time it jumped, it must've come 3 feet out of the water and my judge was hollering that it was a 10-pounder," he said. "It looked like it could've been, but once we got it in the boat, it looked more like a 7 1/2. It was fun, though."
He's interested to see how the wind affects the lake in the morning, which is why he's not conceding anything just yet.
"It will affect everybody's game plan and I think whomever makes the right adjustments could win this thing," he noted. "Everybody still has a chance. Keith, obviously, has figured something out."
Powroznik's key bait so far has been a 12-inch Berkley PowerWorm (blue fleck) threaded on a 1/2-ounce football jig. The key, however, has been fishing deeper than most.
"If you just drag something big around, every hour or so, you're bound to bump into one," he said. "I had heard through the grapevine that everybody catches them in 8 to 12 feet cranking brush. I hate fishing behind people, so I'm fishing deeper than most everybody. I'm out in 20 to 30 feet. There's nobody in my way and I think it has something to do with it. Is it the winning pattern? We'll see."
3rd: VanDam Moving a Lot
> Day 2: 5, 19-00 (10, 35-04)
VanDam commented on stage that Conroe has been a bit of a thorn in his side in the past, so he's happy that he's had a strong tournament so far.
But wins are what matter most to the richest angler in the history of the sport and he'll go into the final day trailing Combs by more than 12 pounds.
"Keith is making it look easy," he said. "It's hard. I'm having to fish really hard to catch what I've caught so far. The lake does set up to my strengths which is to cover a lot of water and I'm pulling up on the trolling motor a lot in a day's time and fishing a lot of different stuff."
He's anticipating the windy conditions tomorrow will change some finalists' strategies, but it could also level the playing field as it relates to Combs.
"It'll make some areas hard to fish because it'll be harder to position the boat," he said. "To be honest, it's probably the best thing for the rest of the field and what Keith didn't want to see because I'd bet that if it were stable, none of us would be able to catch him."
4th: Christie Down, But Not Out
> Day 2: 5, 12-08 (10, 32-04)
Christie caught about the same number of fish as on day 1. The only glaring difference was he didn't catch another 9-plus pounder.
"Everybody knows those bigger fish are out in that deeper water," he said, "but I just don't know where they live at nor do I have the confidence to sit out there and try to find them. It's supposed to get windy tomorrow and that could help the bite the way I'm fishing."
His best fish today was a 5-pounder and he had a 4-pounder get away from him.
Despite trailing Combs by 15 pounds, he believes Conroe is a lake where such a deficit can be erased.
"If there ever where a lake where I was down that much, I'd want it to be this one," he said. "You catch a couple 5s and a 7, it can add up quickly. From what I know of Keith, he's a good enough fisherman that if they're not biting out deep, he'll go shallow and catch a limit that way. He won't sit out there and live or die doing what he's doing. He's smart enough."
No matter what the outcome, Sunday will be the final tournament day of the year for Christie, as it will be for many of the Top 10.
"I'm looking forward to it for two reasons," he said. "One is I have a chance to win and two, win, lose or draw, it will be the last tournament fishing day for me for the year. It's been a great year, but it's been a long year. I'm ready for deer season and just sitting in a tree with my phone off and relaxing."
> Day 2 stats – 50 anglers, 35 limits (2 fewer than yesterday), 7 fours, 4 threes, 2 twos, 1 one, 1 zero (same as yesterday).
> Mark Rose, who cut his day-1 fishing short to return home to Arkansas so he could escort his daughter during her high school homecoming festivities, got back on the water late this morning and caught three keepers for 4-08 and finished tied for 34th with 19-04.
> Sun., Oct. 6 – Partly Cloudy - 78°/48°
- Wind: From the N at 12 to 22 mph
Day 2 Standings
> For complete day-2 results, click here.