Combs Crushes Em’ for the Win!

Submitted by Full Limit Outdoor Media

Keith Combs is a Texan through and through. He has pretty much owned the Texas Toyota Bass Classics in his home state. He has consistently performed on the BASS Elite Series and is an annual Classic qualifier and AOY contender. He has become a highly-touted name among consistent anglers at the highest level.

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One of the things that stands out about Keith and his tournament record, is that his southern-learned style of fishing is very adaptable to northern waters. A quick look at the stats from his pro career show that almost half of his 20 top 10 finished have come from north of the Mason-Dixon line. Translation = this country boy can catch smallies.

A great example of that is yesterday as Keith won the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on Mille Lacs lake in Minnesota. He won the event by two pounds, which is a sizable margin in a primarily smallmouth derby. What is perhaps more awesome than the 72 pound 5 ounces of smallmouth that he weighed over the course of 3 days (that’s nearly a 5-pound average, think about that for a second….), is how he did it.

Keith fished this same event on the same lake last year. He finished 30th place out of 50 with 15 smallmouth that weighed 57 lbs. 2 oz. Although he took home a nice check of about $55,000, he didn’t get to hoist the hardware on the final day. This year, he’s headed home with one of those big checks and “Winner’s Trophy” firmly buckled in the passenger seat of his Tundra.

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Here’s how Keith took a lifetime of what he’s learned down south. Mixed in a little bit of what he learned up north. And put together a win that would be an exclamation point on his season.

“When I was up here last year, after I caught my fish on the last two days using finesse techniques, I would pick up a Tour Grade Football Jig with a Rage Craw trailer and cast it around. Each day I ended up catching a couple of my better fish on it. That got me thinking about how I could apply that technique to this fishery and show the fish something different than the dropshot rig that most everyone throws here.”

“When we got back up here this year, one of the first things that I noticed was that the fish seemed a little more skittish. I’m sure it’s from the pressure that Mille Lacs received since we were here last, but this time they reacted a lot different than last year. I would mark a fish on my electronics and get over them and drop a drop shot on them and they would move off. But, if I got out from them a little bit and cast a jig to them, more times than not, they would eat it as I was dragging it back.”

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“The cool thing about this tournament was that once I got the jig deal dialed in, it was a lot like fishing stuff that I’m used to on Rayburn or other southern lakes. You ride around using your mapping and sonar and find hard, rock bottom on points and ridges. It was really just text book structure fishing.”

“I started off throwing a ¾ oz. Tour Grade Football Jig with a Rage Craw trailer and was catching bigger fish than on the traditional finesse stuff that most use there. I decided to try a 1 oz. version of the jig and it ended up making a difference. Not only could I feel the bottom better in deep water, and not only could I keep it down while moving it faster and covering more water, the bites were actually bigger on that larger profile bait.”

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“I used a 6XD crankbait a lot in practice. I would find something that looked good on my electronics and instead of spending time dragging a jig, I would run through it with the 6XD. It allowed me to investigate more spots in a shorter amount of time. If they were there, they would eat the crankbait, but then I could pick up the 1 oz. football jig and get the bigger fish to bite.”

“I was basically making long casts and dragging it back. It was a typical “drag and reel” retrieve. I was using 15 lb. fluorocarbon and really trying to feel the rough bottom. It was basic football jig fishing.”

I relied exclusively on a 1 oz. Tour Grade Football Jig in Green Pumpkin. I was using a Bama Craw Rage Craw as the trailer. I don’t believe there is a better football jig/trailer combination on the market. This jig and trailer gets so many bites, and big ones too, that it has become a staple for me and many other serious jig fishermen.”

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