How Combs Won the TTBC at Lake Fork
by Full Limit Outdoor Media
The annual Texas Toyota Big Bass Classic recently concluded on famed Lake Fork in north Texas. Monster weight after monster weight was the resounding theme at weigh in. When the dust settled, a usual suspect was standing atop the stage with the trophy held high: Strike King pro Keith Combs. The event could easily be renamed the Keith Combs Big Bass Classic. No disrespect to anyone, but Keith owns this event. He took the title this year with an astronomical 3-day weight of 110 lbs! (Let that sink in for a minute – that's just 15 bass!) He's won two in a row and three of the last four. One of his competitors said this the day after the event, which pretty much sums up the general consensus: "As long as this event is in Texas and it’s held when they eat a crankbait, we may never beat him." Keith pocketed a cool $100,000 cash and $50,000 worth of prizes, but what anglers everywhere want to know is how he caught 'em. Here are the details straight from him.
He started his practice targeting shallow late-spawners and the shad spawn. Although quality bites were there, Keith opted to spend his last practice day searching out deeper spots for post-spawners – and found fish that were fed up and healthier than the shallow fish. In other words, the shallow and deep bass were about the same length, but the offshore fish were much healthier and therefore heavier.
Keith’s main deal the first two days was a typical summer post-spawn strategy: fishing a series of main lake points that dropped into the river channel. He caught all his fish with a lethal one-two punch of a Strike King Series 6XD crankbait (chartreuse/powder blue back) and Series 10XD crankbait (Tennessee shad).
Most of his monsters where caught using a technique called "strolling" or "long-lining." This done by basically emptying the line off of your reel by casting, then with a free spool you engage your trolling motor to let the remainder of your line out. By doing this you're able to retrieve your bait over a long distance and thereby achieve a deeper-than-usual running depth for the bait. It's legal for tournaments because you're not using your boat to move your bait. Keith was targeting fish in the 25-30’ range. In order to get a crankbait in front of them, he would stroll the 10XD down the points and then turn around and stroll the 6XD up the points. Most of his fish came on the 6XD while his two biggest fell victim to the 10XD. He felt that the two-bait combo gave the fish a different look in terms of color, size, depth and action.
The third and final day, Keith pulled up to one of his best offshore spots, caught a big one right off the bat on a 6XD, then made a key switch: He picked up a Strike King 6.5” Shadalicious swimbait rigged on a 1-oz jighead and went to work. Combs worked the area over for around 2 hours, catching 4- to 6-lbers with ridiculous ease. He managed to compile a final day weight of 34-08 ounces that gave him the win. “In hindsight, I kind of wish I had thrown the Shadalicious more throughout the event," he said. "It was more efficient than strolling, which takes a ton of time. But the 6XD and 10XD did all I could ask of them." There's no denying that Keith Combs plus a Strike King crankbait on a Texas lake equals money! And did we mention that 6 other anglers in the top 10 at this event – including Strike King pros Todd Faircloth and Mark Rose – also fished a 6XD and/or 10XD as their primary baits?
Keith threw the two cranks on Power Tackle KC170 rods with high-speed Shimano reels spooled with 15-lb Seaguar Tatsu Flourocarbon line.