COMBS EDGES IACONELLI FOR TTBC TITLE
Photos courtesy of PAA Communications - Story by Matt Pangrac
CONROE, TX – After jumping out of the gates with an impressive 28-8 limit of largemouth at the Toyota Texas Bass Classic on Lake Conroe, Texas' Keith Combs found himself in a battle for the lead with Mike Iaconelli who weighed 26-12 on the first day of competition.
The pair of Elite Series pros pulled away from the rest of the field on Day Two in a big way. Combs brought in 27-4 on Saturday for a two day total of 55-12 and Iaconelli kept pace with a limit weighing 25-0 for a two day total weight of 51-12. With South Carolina’s Todd Auten sitting in distant third place (10-pounds behind Iaconelli), it became apparent that the TTBC crown would be a battle between the quiet Texan and the outgoing New Jersey pro.
Sunday provided the most suspense in recent tournament history, as Combs weighed in his lightest limit of the week weighing 21-0 for a total weight of 76-12 and Iaconelli brought in another 25-0 limit to tie Combs for the lead.
With the TTBC championship, $100,000 cash, and a $50,000 boat package on the line, Combs and Iaconelli returned to Lake Conroe to determine the championship in a sudden death fish-off where the first angler to catch a 14-inch keeper would take the crown.
Over 30-minutes into the sudden death period, Combs connected with a 2-pounder and took the TTBC title.
Todd Auten maintained his 3rd place position on Sunday, finishing with a total weight of 50-0 - over 25-pounds behind Combs and Iaconelli.
Ott DeFoe finished in 4th with 48-8, and Alabama’s Steve Kennedy rounded out the Top 5 with 44-12.
Here’s what Combs Told The BASS ZONE about his TTBC victory:
1st Place: Keith Combs (76-12)
“You might look at the weights and think that it was an easy tournament but the truth is that it was a grind from start to finish. I had a hard time catching a limit every day and I was just fishing a pattern that got me some bigger bites.
“I had two little skinny fish today that weighed maybe 3-pounds at 2:00. I pulled up on a spot that I’d fished every day and there was a whole school of them that I got fired up. I caught them every cast for 30-minutes.
“When Mike (Iaconelli) and I tied and had a sudden death fish-off, I thought that I could just run back to that spot and catch a keeper really quick. When I got back over there, the school had shut down. I started running around and pulled up on a spot with 15-minutes left in the fish-off and caught one.
“I spent a lot of time pre-practicing over here finding all the brush that I could that I thought would be in the key depth. I threw a Norman DD14 in six- to eight-feet of water. I used a Power Tackle rod and I think that it was a pretty good set up because I never really lost a fish all week and that was a key for me.
“I threw the bait one 10-pound test line. I just like cranking on 10-pound test but that rod really made a difference.
“I learned last year that I needed a lot of water. I didn’t think that you could catch them all off one spot, but I guess that Iaconelli proved that theory wrong. I just ran as much as I could and had really good lineups where I’d make five to 10 casts through the brush and move on to the next one.
“By doing that, it let me hit on average about 50 places a day. I never knew when I was going to get a bite and I never caught more than one fish from the same brush pile except for today when I found that school on one of my spots that I’d fished the first two days without a bite.
“I fished some of the stuff that I found last year that was way too deep last year but perfect this year. I had a better idea of how I needed to practice for this thing and I fished the same way this year as I did last year when I had a good finish. That being said, if someone had told me that I’d catch this type of weight each day and be sweating out the win, I would have never thought it would have happened. I think that I was able to find a way to catch bigger bass but I just wasn’t catching very many. Each day, I caught between seven and nine keepers.
“This is an awesome win close to home for starters. Against that field, it makes it even sweeter. With the big pay day, it’s huge with the deposits and everything for next year’s Elite Series. This win means the world to me. Coming into this I would have thought that the winning weight would be somewhere around 55- to 60-pounds.
“In the fish-off, it took about 45-minutes to catch my 2-pounder. Iaconelli and I were fishing about a mile away a few times and I thought that I’d hear Ike yelling and screaming and it would be over for me. The whole time I was on pins and needles because you know that all the other guy has to catch is one.
“I was throwing big baits and I thought that I needed to scale back and retie and I just didn’t have anything like that in the boat for the fish-off. I just had to go with what I had. Without a doubt, this is the most satisfying tournament of my career so far.
For a complete list of standings, visit www.toyotatexasbassclassic.com