By BassFan Staff
Spring, late summer or fall; Lake Conroe, Lake Tawakoni, Falcon Lake or Lake Fork – it just doesn't matter. Keith Combs is the dominant force in Texas bass fishing, and he's unquestionably the king of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic.
The 38-year-old Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Huntington, Texas clinched his third TTBC victory in 4 years on Sunday with a 34-04 bag that gave him a preposterous 3-day total of 110-00. For those who are mathematically challenged, that's an average of more than 36 1/2 pounds a day and more than 7 1/4 pounds per fish.
He couldn't say whether this was the "best" of his three TTBC titles, but start to finish, it was certainly the most enjoyable.
"This one is so exciting just because of how good the fishing was," he said. "It just made it fun.
"I was definitely focused on trying to win today, but there was a period this afternoon when I was just having a blast. I got on a good school late and I don't know how many 5-pounders I caught – probably over 20."
Runner-up Stetson Blaylock also cracked the century mark as he caught 31-04 on the final day to finish with 102-12. Russ Lane narrowly missed triple digits en route to a 3rd-place showing as his 29-08 stringer gave him a 99-04 aggregate.
Jason Christie and Justin Lucas tied for the No. 4 spot at 97-00 after sacking 32-08 and 29-00, respectively.
Here are the final numbers for the remainder of the Top 10:
6. Mark Rose: 93-00
7. Randy Haynes: 92-12
8. Matt Reed: 85-08
9. Todd Faircloth: 82-08
10. Brandon Coulter: 78-00
Combs' two previous TTBC wins were in fall derbies at Lake Conroe. His home-state résumé also includes an Elite Series victory at Falcon last year and a PAA Tournament Series win at Tawakoni in 2010.
Stetson Blaylock's total exceeded 100 pounds, but he was still more than 7 pounds shy of victory.
The lake, which hosts few high-level tournaments due to its smallish size and rigid slot limit (fish measuring 16 to 24 inches must be released immediately) was also a winner. It displayed what a truly phenomenal big-bass fishery it is while hosting the top 2013 competitors from the three major circuits (Elite Series, FLW Tour and PAA Series) – there were 26 bags of 30-plus pounds weighed out of 110 angler days.
Six of the Top-10 finishers (Combs, Lane, Christie, Lucas, Reed and Faircloth) left immediately for Arkansas, where they'll compete in this week's Lake Dardanelle Elite Series.
Combs had Fun
> Day 3: 5, 34-04 (15, 110-00)
Combs came into the event as the only angler with multiple TTBC titles, and now he's two ahead of everybody else. If the event returns to Fork next year, as expected, he'll be the prohibitive favorite.
He got a little worried today when he had "only" 26 1/2 pounds during the lunch hour. He had a 3 3/4-pounder in the well that he knew he needed to cull in order to win.
"I caught a 6-08 at 12:30 that put me over 30 pounds and I knew I was back in it – before that I felt like I was giving it away. I still felt like I needed to catch more, though, because of how good the fishing was. I knew Stetson or somebody could have a good bag and catch a 12-pounder.
"Until I got back (to the launch) and found out what was happening, I was still concerned."
His final-day sack was topped by a 9-pounder.
He did the majority of his work throughout the event with medium- and deep-running crankbaits and picked up a few key fish on a swimbait. He focused on mostly barren points with sandy bottoms and pulled keepers from as shallow as 10 feet and as deep as 30.
Full details of his winning pattern, as well as those of the other top finishers, will be published in the coming days.
2nd: Blaylock Happy
> Day 3: 5, 31-04 (15, 102-12)
A week ago, no one could've imagined an angler surpassing the 100-pound mark in this event and not leaving with the trophy. That's exactly what happened to Blaylock, though.
"It's kind of frustrating to catch that much and not win," he said. "At the same time, you don't get the chance to catch them like that very often, if ever. I'm happy with it."
He boated about 20 keepers, including a 7 3/4-pounder.
"Today was my slowest day of the tournament – it was down to the last 15 minutes before (he had all of his weight). I lost fish every day, some that I saw and some that I didn't – but not enough to overcome what Keith beat me by.
"I thought I did all I could do. For me to have a chance, Keith would've had to give it away, and he wasn't going to do that. He's too good on this type of fishery."
A lost 6 1/2-pounder on the final afternoon prevented Russ Lane from eclipsing the century mark.
3rd: Lane Just Shy of Goal
> Day 3: 5, 29-08 (15, 99-04)
Russ Lane came up less than a pound short of achieving his objective of topping the century mark.
"That was my main goal that I set, to catch 100 (pounds)," he said. "I wasn't going to worry about what anybody else did. I lost a 6 1/2-pounder at 2 o'clock that would've culled a 5 and I said, 'Well, there went the hundred.' I'll take it, though.
"It was an awesome week and that lake is just incredible."
His second bite of the final day was a 7 1/2-pounder.
"Today they were scattered out and I'd catch two or three at a time in little spurts. I got three or four bites after I made my last cull and I kept thinking that I was fixing to catch a giant, but it never happened."
4th: Christie Had a Blast
> Day 3: 5, 32-08 (15, 97-00)
Christie was incredibly consistent – two of his bags weighed 32 1/2 pounds and the other scaled at 32 even.
"It was a lot of fun," he said. "I'd never caught them like that before. It's crazy how good that was.
"It's hard to be disappointed when you average 6 1/2 pounds per fish, and I'm not disappointed because I didn't do anything wrong. I just didn't get any of the 9- or 10-pound bites. The smallest one I weighed was 5 1/2 and the biggest was 7 and some change, and there were a bunch in between there."
He handled perhaps two dozen keepers on the final day, including a 7 1/4.
"Throughout the week I never could get them fired up to where I'd catch a 4-pounder and then another one and another one, and then get a big one. The big ones always bit first. Even if the bite was steady, if the fish weren't big, I'd move on."
4th: Lucas at Loss for Words
> Day 3: 5, 29-00 (15, 97-00)
Lucas caught more than 20 keepers on the final day and said at least half of them were 5 pounds or better.
"Words can't even describe how fun that lake is," he said. "You have to experience it. It was the most fun tournament I've ever fished.
"It was kind of slow this morning, but I knew it would be with the cloud cover. Once the sun came out, it was like somebody turned the light switch on. I think it was that way for everyone."
For the week he caught approximately 70 keepers and is certain that he never lost one that would've helped him.
"I caught more fish between 4 and 5 pounds this week than any other size class. There's just so many of them."
> To see the final standings, click here.