Combs Wins in 2011: A TTBC Look Back

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The 2012 Texas Bass Classic kicks off on Friday morning at Lake Conroe Texas. The TTBC brings together most of the top 15 qualifiers from each of the BASS Elite Series, FLW Tour and PAA tours from the 2012 season. With the best of the best in attendance, the TTBC crowns an overall champion. In 2011 the event came down to a sudden death fish off between two of the best anglers anywhere.

As the 2011 event kicked off anglers were met with record low water levels. The lake which is generally surrounded with hundreds of docks that typically hold quality fish. With no docks and not much off shore structure the fishing was tough and the lake fished small. Anglers were literally marking single sticks or branches for possible fishing spots during the event. King’s Home Pro Randy Howell explains, “I drove around for two solid days without making more than thirty casts. I marked hundreds of single branches, rocks, anything a fish might hold on. There just wasn’t much out there for the fish to use as cover.”

Day one had Biobor pro Keith Combs in the lead when he boated 28 pounds, 8 ounces of bass. On day two his weight slid to 27 pounds, 4 ounces which left him in the lead by four pounds over Toyota pro Mike Iaconelli.

With live scoring at the event Combs had his lead slip out of his hands and into Iaconelli’s by noon on the final day of the event. Combs rallied late and finished the day with his strong afternoon bite which brought him back to the top of the leader board and into a tie with Iaconelli. After the weigh-in, in front of a very large, Texas crowd, Combs and Iaconelli returned to the lake for a 60 minutes fish off. The first angler to boat a keeper fish, 14 inches or better, would be the 2011 TTBC Champion and take home the over $100,000 payday.

After relaunching the boats the two anglers took different approaches. Combs ran to some of his main spots, while Iaconelli stayed close to the ramp. Iaconelli hooked up early and boated a fish, but it didn’t keep. Iaconelli continued to fish local to the ramp for another 15 minutes before heading off to his main spot. Neither had boated a fish for the first 30 minutes of the sudden death fish off.

Tensions and pressure were high and Iaconelli’s spot was no long producing, “I’ve caught 2000 fish here this week, I just need one,” Ike yelled to his spectator boats.

Combs was later quoted, “I’ve never experienced something so nerve-racking.”

Both anglers had officials in the boat and once a fish was boated a call was to be made to announce the catch. While the anglers fished each had one ear glued to their officials phone. No calls, no fish for over 40 minutes. Finally, with just under 15 minutes left to fish combs boated a keeper and put the event away. With Combs’ keeper fish he bested 49 of the best anglers in the world and became the 2011 Toyota Bass Classic Champion.

Following the event Combs expressed what was going through his mind, “Words can’t describe what I was feeling. I was thinking ‘Gosh, I came this far and I didn’t have a catch on my first four stops and I know they are going to call at any minute and say (Iaconelli) got one.”

Months after the event Combs expressed his feelings on the event, “It was nice to get a big win like that. Although the win was great, there were some misconceptions about it. I live in Texas and I have spent hundreds of days on Conroe in the past and for people to say I got weigh points from locals is crazy. I put my time in on the lake and it paid off.”

Combs is returning to the 2012 Toyota Bass Classic as the defending champion and is looking to go back to back for the first time in TTBC history. “It’s a new lake from last year. The water is back up. Not all the way, but its up enough that the fishing is going to be good. I think the weights can be even bigger this year and that’s right up my alley. I enjoy catching big fish and big fish are something we don’t see everyday on any of the tours. I really think I am one of the best big fish tournament anglers and that should help.”

This years event also features many of the most talented anglers in the world. Some anglers to keep an eye on are:

David Dudley: Dudley is the number one angler in the world and back to back Angler of the Year for the FLW Tour.

Randy Howell: Howell is coming off a red hot 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series campaign and a runner up finish on Lake Oneida.

Aaron Martens: Martens is on a roll. He just took home the 2012 Bassmaster All Star title four days ago, following a strong second half to the Elite Series.

Luke Clausen: Luke Clausen is one of five anglers to win the Bassmaster Classic and Forrest Wood Cup. Could Clausen be the first to win all three major titles?

Clent Davis: Davis is the young gun in this event, coming into the event as the reigning FLW Rookie of the Year and an 11th place finish in the Forrest Wood Cup.

Dave Lefebre: The 2009 TTBC Champion is said to be on them during practice. Reports are he boated a nine pound bass and several more good ones on Monday.

Mark Rose: Fresh off a FLW Tour Open victory just days ago on Lake Wheeler Rose is primed for a solid tournament.

Follow the TTBC on the PAA website at FishPAA.com

Photos by Professional Anglers Association (PAA)