Keith Combs Wins TTBC by More than 12 Pounds

Bucks Skeeter Yamaha

By Matt Pangrac

Conroe, TX – Entering the final day of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic (TTBC) on Lake Conroe, tournament leader Keith Combs was comfortably on edge. He led his closest pursuer by 7 pounds, 8 ounces, but on a lake where a 9 pound largemouth crossed the stage on Friday, he knew that it would be a mistake to relax on the final day and coast to his second TTBC victory in the past three years.

After opening round limits weighing 24 pounds, 8 ounces on Friday and 23 pounds, 4 ounces on Saturday, the Texas pro went to work on Sunday and put together a 15 pound limit on Lake Conroe. Combs’ cumulative weight of 62 pounds, 12 ounces easily outdistanced the 2nd place weight of John Murray by 12 pounds, 8 ounces.

The wire-to-wire victory this week capped off a stellar 2013 season for Combs that included a Bassmaster Elite Series win on Falcon Lake

this past March and a 5th place finish in the Elite Series Toyota Angler Of the Year point standings. Combs also became the first angler to earn a second TTBC championship ring after winning on Conroe in 2011.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” said Combs after lifting the TTBC trophy. “I know how good the other anglers in this tournament are, and it’s very humbling to come out on top. Winning this title for the second time is definitely a major career accomplishment for me.”

Combs began the week as one of the tournament favorites, and he went on to execute his Lake Conroe game plan to perfection. “My entire week was incredibly smooth,” he explained. “I never lost a single bass the entire week, and I was able to fish anywhere I wanted from the first cast of the tournament to the last cast.” 
Just as he did in his 2011 TTBC victory, Combs primarily targeted main lake structure throughout the tournament. He caught the majority of his offshore fish throwing a crankbait in 8- to 15-feet of water. “I was fishing trash that was located on sand flats,” explained Combs. “I fished rock piles, brush piles, stumps, gravel, and anything that would hold a fish. It took a lot of patience because I spent a lot of time hung up.” Combs used a variety of deep-diving crankbaits including a Strike King Series 5XD. He cranked with a Power Tackle rod and Seaguar fluorocarbon line. He also caught some deep fish on a Strike King Rage Recon Worm.

When the wind was blowing, Combs spent some time cranking shallow rocks, docks, and seawalls with a Strike King KVD 1.5 crankbait in chartreuse/black.

Combs was quick to point out the benefit of the Humminbird bow mount 360 Imaging. “That unit was definitely a huge asset this week. Yesterday, I was looking at a brush pile in front of me and I noticed a brush pile on my left that I didn’t know was there. I cast to it and caught a 7 pounder.

“What a way to end the year,” concluded Combs, who earned $100,000 and a Nitro boat powered by Mercury.

2nd Place: John Murray

John Murray started Sunday on Lake Conroe with nothing to lose. Tied for 9th place with a two-day total weight of 28-8 and nearly 20 pounds out of the lead held by Keith Combs, the Arizona pro had nowhere to go but up.

Murray took full advantage of the opportunity, boating the heaviest limit on the final day weighing 21 pounds, 12 ounces to climb all the way up to a 2nd place with a final weight of 50 pounds, 4 ounces.

With overcast skies, cooler temperatures, and a stiff wind to start the final morning of competition, Murray went to work early and boated a small limit within first two hours. After a mid-morning lull, Murray realized that the wind had positioned the bass higher in the water column.

“At 1:00, I pulled up to a spot where I had been catching fish on a drop-shot, and I never got a bite,” he explained. “I picked up a ChatterBait and immediately caught a 6 pound, 12 ounce bass. I caught a 6 pounder two casts later and lost another big one on the following cast. I caught 13 pounds in the span of about five minutes.” Murray stuck with the ChatterBait for the remainder of the day and was rewarded with a 4 pound, 12 ounce bass that bit within sight of the check-in point at the end of the day.

On Friday, Murray caught his two biggest keepers drop-shotting a Gene Larew Tattle Tail Worm on deep brush piles. On Saturday, he alternated between a drop-shot, crankbait, and River2Sea Bumbershoot umbrella rig. “I had about 20 rods on the front deck,” he stated. Murray would start each day fishing deep water and then transition to shallow water as the day progressed. He fished with Lew’s rods and reels and relied on Toray fluorocarbon line.

“I lost three giants yesterday, but other than that I’m really pleased with my week,” he concluded.

3rd Place: Jacob Powroznik

Virginia’s Jacob Powroznik bounced around the top five in the standings for the duration of the tournament. He landed in 4th place on Friday, moved up to 2nd place on Saturday, and eventually finished the tournament in 3rd place with a total weight of 47 pounds.

Lake Conroe was not kind to Powroznik on Sunday, as he managed just 6 pounds, 12 ounces for the day. “I knew that today was going to be a struggle for me when I didn’t get my first bite until an hour into the morning,” admitted Powroznik. “The fish should have been biting early and they just didn’t show up.”

Powroznik fished two main patterns throughout the week that included targeting isolated rock piles in 18- to 25-feet of water and flipping shallow docks that were located over subtle depressions in the bottom. The majority of his big bites came from the offshore rock piles. “I had to fish extremely slowly to get a deep bite,” he explained. “I didn’t get many fish to commit to my bait, but when I did get a bite it was a big one.”

He primarily used a ½-ounce football jig with 17-pound-test Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon line, but also mixed in a 12-inch Berkley Power Worm in Blue Fleck and a large trick worm. When he was flipping docks, Powroznik relied on a ½-ounce flipping jig.

“I did the best that I could,” he concluded. “It was a great tournament, and I can’t wait to go to next year’s TTBC on Lake Fork.”