By BassFan Staff
There have been six Toyota Texas Bass Classics prior to this year. Nobody has won it twice.
Nothing would mean more to Keith Combs than to be the first two-time winner and the Texan got off on the right foot today, catching a 24-08 stringer to set the early pace at Lake Conroe, which is hosting its fifth straight TTBC.
"It was an exceptional day and everything went perfect," Combs said. "I didn't lose any. I didn't miss any. I didn't even get hung up and that's saying something for some of the stuff I was fishing around."
The 2011 TTBC champion has a familiar face in his rearview mirror in Mike Iaconelli. Sure, the two both compete on the Bassmaster Elite Series, but it was Iaconelli whom Combs beat in a sudden-death fish-off two years ago to claim the title. Iaconelli's 21-08 bag today made him the only other angler to crack the 20-pound mark.
Jason Christie, the current top-ranked angler in the BassFan World Rankings presented by Livingston Lures and winner of three tour events this year, is currently 3rd with 19-12. Nearly half of his weight came from a 9-pounder he caught in the middle of the day that stands as the biggest fish he's weighed in a tournament.
Jacob Powroznik, making his TTBC debut, is 4th with 18-00 while Bobby Lane caught 17-08 to round out the Top 5.
Bryan Thrift, last year's winner, is in a three-way tie for 17th with 14-00.
Here's a look at the Top 10 after the first day of competition, with deficit margin from Combs indicated by red numbers in parentheses:
1. Keith Combs: 24-08
2. Mike Iaconelli: 21-08 (3-00)
3. Jason Christie: 19-12 (4-12)
4. Jacob Powroznik: 18-00 (6-08)
5. Bobby Lane: 17-08 (7-00)
6. John Crews: 17-04 (7-04)
7. Mike McClelland: 16-08 (8-00)
8. Kevin VanDam: 16-04 (8-04)
9. Shin Fukae: 15-04 (9-04)
10 (tie). Fred Roumbanis: 15-00 (9-08)
10 (tie). Cliff Crochet: 15-00 (9-08)
The steady refrain from anglers this week was that Conroe can be a stubborn lake, but the trade-off is knowing there are plenty of giant bass swimming in its waters, so the next stop or cast or flip could result in a difference-maker. To finish at or near the top is going to require one or more kicker-quality fish per day and it appears those types of fish are going to be caught deep this week.
The thermometer climbed into the mid 90s today as the field fished under bluebird skies with a slight breeze. A cold front is expected to start moving through the Conroe area Saturday and some are hoping the cooler temperatures trigger some of the fish to start their fall transition and possibly turn on some areas.
> Day 1: 5, 24-08
While Combs admits feeling a bit of pressure this week being close to home and having already claimed a TTBC win, he's confident in the places he plans to fish tomorrow as well as some of the spots he visited today that he hopes to hit again.
"I think I have everything marked that's offshore on this lake on my Humminbird unit," he said. "The big deal is getting a bite and rolling with it. Essentially, it's junk-fishing, but at the same time if you can catch one in one creek, chances are you go to the next creek and catch one off something similar.
"To catch a 20-something pound bag here, you usually have to have two giants, but today I caught five good ones. When I launch my boat here, I don't expect to catch five big ones. You maybe expect one big one and a good limit."
Mike Iaconelli is in the hunt after catching two kickers late in the day.
He got off to a good start with a 6-pounder in the first hour, then made a short move and caught a 4 1/2-pounder not far away. Another move resulted in a 5-pounder off a deep spot where he caught just one 2-pounder in practice. He finished his limit at his next stop and then started running areas, catching upgrades along the way.
"After that, I decided that was enough and just doubled back through the same stuff," he said.
While there are 2 days remaining, he can't help but think about hoisting another TTBC trophy.
"It's a huge payday and it's a tournament for me that a lot of my friends and family watch because I've done well here before," he said. "I do feel some pressure to win it, but you can't think about that on this lake. There hasn't been a TTBC that I've fished where I haven't had a stretch during a day where I didn't go 6 hours without a bite.
"I know what I need to do to win, but I need to generate the bites."
2nd: Late Surge For Ike
> Day 1: 5, 21-08
In years past, Iaconelli said he's been able to discover a key area or develop a strong pattern in practice for the TTBC. This week has been different in that no one area really bubbled to the top at least not yet and none of the three patterns he had going in practice really showed itself to be the ticket. That was until today.
While he caught fish on all three patterns, he said his best fish came doing one particular thing (he didn't care to share at this point).
"It was kind of a weird day," he said. "I got off to a fairly good start with a couple decent ones in the first hour. I had a terrible middle part of the day. I just had bad timing and some bad decisions and lost one around 6 pounds at noon. I kept pressing and in the last hour, my timing started clicking. I made the right moves to the right places."
It resulted in two key upgrades for him a 5- and 6-pounder that jumped him into the Top 2.
He said he'll head out tomorrow focused on trying to expand on the pattern that produced his key fish today.
"That's the thing I'm most excited about," he said. "I started to build on what I found in practice and that's the most exciting thing about tournament fishing, when stuff happens during the tournament like that and you're fishing live."
3rd: Giant Made Christie's Day
> Day 1: 5, 19-12
Things started slowly for Christie, but any time you can catch a 9-pounder it's a good day.
The fish officially weighed 9.4 pounds and was his third fish. It stood up as the biggest fish of the opening day.
"It took about two or three trips around the boat before I finally got her in," he said.
His next biggest was 3 1/2 as he tried to get on some deep-water fish, but eventually punted on that strategy.
"I had an area where I thought I could catch some and I had some bites, but I lost some there," he said. "It just didn't go well. I made a move and caught a couple, but it was just kind of slow."
He found the most success in 10 feet or less.
"It was just random," he said. "That's the best way to describe this place. You don't know where or when you're going to catch one. I had a decent stringer early and thought I could fish for big fish, but I went 4 or 5 hours and didn't catch much of anything. I went back shallow and caught a couple more. It's hard to duplicate anything here. If you catch one on a certain bait, you might as well put it in your rod locker because you're not likely to get bit on that bait again.
"I don't know what I can catch tomorrow. It's just so random. You can catch 18 or 19 (pounds) one day and 6 or 8 the next. I don't have a single place where I know I can get a bite tomorrow."
Jason Christie took big bass honors on day 1 with this 9.4-pound brute.
4th: Powroznik Has A Plan
> Day 1: 5, 18-00
Powroznik's catch today was anchored by a 6-pounder caught off an isolated brush pile.
"It was just a grind," he said. "I was fishing out deep like half of the field seems to be. Bites can be few and far between, but in a day's time you can get seven or eight bites and the hope is a couple of those will be big ones. For the most part, it's a first-thing-in-the-morning deal and then in the afternoon, the big ones seem to bite better. That's when my two biggest fish came."
He's not sure if he'll be able to duplicate today's results tomorrow.
"I don't know what's in store, but I'm going to put my head down and go fishing," he added. "Anything can happen on this lake. After what today brought, I'm probably going to start tomorrow on my deep holes first. I think there's a lot of fish there. Then I'll move shallow and hope to secure a spot in the Top 10. I'm shooting for at least 10 pounds tomorrow because based on what I know, it takes about 26 pounds to make day 3 here.
"If I can catch five and know I have 10 pounds, I'm going deep and I'm not leaving."
5th: Clean Day For Lane
> Day 1: 5, 17-08
Lane's practice was limited to 1 day after he drove from Michigan where he participated in the Elite Series All-Star event last weekend. It didn't seem to hamper his ability to catch quality fish today.
"I had three good bites today and landed every one," he said. "That's tough to do when you're fishing how I'm fishing. I feel fortunate for that. I was actually really surprised. I only caught one 4-pounder in practice."
He's become so accustomed to not using a net in Elite Series events, he landed three fish today all 3 1/2 pounds or better before it dawned on him he could scoop them up rather than lip or boat-flip them.
"It was quick and enjoyable for a while," he said. "I think I just got around them, but I'm not sure there are any more in that area."
He's targeting shallow areas and thinks some cloud cover could be beneficial to him.
"There are a lot of guys out deep and I don't think that bite is going away," he said. "The only advantage I would have is if it got cloudy and cool and some of the brush fish swim off."
He didn't catch any upgrades after 1:30 despite landing 15 to 20 more keeper-sized bass.
"It was the cleanest day I've fished in a long time," he said. "Every bite I felt that was worth setting the hook on, I landed them. I caught a lot of fish under docks and one good one off a sea wall. I'm just skipping a jig around and keeping my head down."
> Day 1 stats 50 anglers, 37 limits, 4 threes, 3 twos, 5 ones, 1 zero.
> Sat., Oct Cloudy, Thunderstorms Possible - 87°/58°
- Wind: From the WSW at 3 to 6 mph
> Sun., Oct. 6 Partly Cloudy - 78°/48°
- Wind: From the N at 12 to 22 mph
Day 1 Standings
> For complete day-1 results, click here.