By BassFan Staff
Despite living just 2 1/2 hours away in Huntington, Texas, Keith Combs hadn't fished Lake Fork in well over 20 years prior to this week.
"I came here when I was 15 years old and fished for 2 days, back when they were catching all those 17- and 18-pounders," he said. "Then I came here for 2 days in January and just rode the lake and didn't even fish.
"I need to get back here more often. This is a heck of a place."
The two-time Toyota Texas Bass Classic champion had a heck of a day to begin this year's event as he caught a 42-pound stringer to grab the early lead. His bag was topped by a 10-14 behemoth that took big-bass honors for the day.
He had a 1 3/4-pound advantage over Russ Lane, who boxed a 10 1/2-pounder to anchor a 38-04 haul. Stetson Blaylock was 3rd with 36-08, followed by offshore ace Randy Haynes with 34-08.
Luke Clausen completed the Top 5 with 33-12. Clausen is the lone angler in the 50-man field who's won both the Bassmaster Classic and the Forrest Wood Cup, so he's gunning for the trifecta of the sport's major championship events.
Here are the totals for the remainder of the Top 10:
6. Terry Scroggins: 33-00
7. (tie) Brandon Coulter: 32-12
7. (tie) Justin Lucas: 32-12
9. (tie) Matt Reed: 32-00
9. (tie) Jason Christie: 32-00
The field showed today that game-changing hawgs can be caught everywhere from the skinniest shallows out to 25 feet. Combs pulled weigh-in fish from three different depth ranges using three different baits, while the anglers in the 2nd- through 4th-positions worked offshore haunts. Then there was Clausen, who spent the entire day in water that he could've stood in without getting the bottom of his shirt wet.
There were 14 bags caught that weighed at least 30 pounds and 36 stringers that exceeded 20 pounds. Three 10-pound fish (Scroggins also had one) made their way to the weigh-in stage.
It was an ideal fishing day – mostly overcast with a light breeze. Similar conditions are in the forecast for tomorrow, although there might be a bit more sun (which could make the offshore action even better).
The field will be reduced to the Top 10 following the day-2 weigh-in, with the winner determined Sunday based on highest cumulative weight.
Combs Crushed 'Em
> Day 1: 5, 42-00
Combs' sack was the biggest he's ever caught, topping a 41-01 haul from Falcon Lake.
"I had a really good practice," he said. "I spent one day shallow, one day deep and one day at the mid-depths and caught them every day. They're biting.
"Today I caught one (weigh-in) fish from 2 feet of water, one from the mid-depths and two really deep. They came from four different locations."
He shared one of his most productive places with Scroggins and said they hope they can continue to divvy up the fish there.
"Coming in I thought there was a good chance that a guy could win with 85 pounds, but that's not going to happen," he said. "It might take 100 pounds on 15 bass and there's a good chance it'll take 90 just to get in the Top 5.
In addition to the 10-14 monster, his bag also contained a 9-12, an 8-10, a 7 1/2 and a 6 1/2.
"The unique thing about what's going on is there's still a lot of fish on beds and some coming out, so a place where somebody caught 20 pounds today, they might catch 40 tomorrow. I think a lot of places will replenish and these weights aren't going anywhere.
"These fish are big and healthy and I wouldn't be surprised if somebody caught a 15-pounder."
2nd: Lane's Move Paid Off
> Day 1: 5, 38-04
Lane started the day in a "sentimental place" where he'd caught some good ones in the 2007 TTBC. When that was unproductive, he moved to a location where he'd found quality fish during practice and loaded up.
"That was more than I expected to catch, but with those (offshore) schools of fish, you never really know what's there," he said. "I knew I had a couple of places with a bunch of fish, but I wasn't counting on 38 pounds."
He had a quartet of 7-pounders to go with his 10 1/2.
"It was on fire when I got there early and it really didn't let up until 10:30. Then they moved around a little bit and I figured out where they were and started catching them again.
"I've got some other places that have potential, but again, you never really know."
He strongly considered pulling off his best area when he surpassed the 30-pound mark.
"If you'd asked me before the tournament started, I would've said 25 pounds would've been in the Top 10. After today, there's no letting up."
3rd: Blaylock's Timing was Right
> Day 1: 5, 36-08
Blaylock had a good practice, but his day-1 weight far exceeded his expectations.
"You can't really practice for 30-something pounds," he said. "I thought if I could catch in the high 20s, that would be great."
He caught fish throughout the day, but his best five all came in a 90-minute span at mid-day.
"That's just the way those type of fish are here – you have to be sitting there when they're ready to eat to catch them."
He said his odds of catching another massive sack on day 2 depend on how much company he has.
"Maybe if I can get on my spot and not have a bunch of locals and the other tournament boats let me have it and I don't have to double up. I only really caught them at one point during the day, and the rest of the day they didn't bite much.
"You've got to be there when they bite and be right on top of them."
4th: Haynes Stayed in Comfort Zone
> Day 1: 5, 34-08
Haynes has built a reputation as one of the top deep-structure anglers on the planet, and he naturally spent his day far away from the banks.
"I really didn't fish much in practice – I mostly just looked around trying to find places," he said. "I caught a few 4-pounders and one 8, but I really didn't know what I could catch (once the tournament started).
"I was just fortunate today that there was nobody out there with me and my timing was right. It might be off tomorrow."
His biggest fish of day 1 was an 8-pounder.
"I lost a 5 early this morning and I thought that was really going to hurt, but it was kind of silly to think that. I ended up throwing back two or three 6s.
"I probably only hit about half of my places, but the scary thing about it is the fish are moving so much. Two or three places I went to they were gone, and a couple places had more fish than I thought they would. I'll do a little more looking around tomorrow and hope I can keep it rolling."
5th: Clausen Stayed Shallow
> Day 1: 5, 33-12
Clausen was an anomaly among the leaders in that he caught all of his weigh-in fish from less than 3 feet of water.
"I was totally surprised," he said. "I thought I might be able to get 25 to 27 pounds, but nothing like that.
"A lot of it was the bait I was using (a new Megabass swimbait that will be introduced at ICAST in July). I picked it up on the last day of practice and got a bunch of bites. It just smokes them."
His biggest fish was an 8-04 and the other four were all over 6.
"(The action) was spread throughout the day – it was kind of a grind. At 9 o'clock I only had two fish and then I just started catching one here and one there. I don't think I did the best job of being in the right place at the right time, but it ended up working out. I'll definitely have to make some adjustments for tomorrow.
"I don't know how long this shallow stuff will last, but I'll just keep running new water and see what happens. I never lost one today – everything went just right and I can't complain about anything. There were some fish I should've lost that I ended up catching."
> For complete day-1 results, click here.