Posted by Z3 MEDIA TEAM on 05/02/2013

Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Dave Rush

LaGrange, GA – The first day of Elite Series competition on Georgia’s West Point Lake turned into a true grind, as only 13 anglers managed to cross the stage with a total weight of at least 10-pounds, and it took just 7-4 to finish the day inside the top 50.   

While all 100 anglers crossed the stage with fish, 53 competitors were unable to crack the 8-pound mark and 11 anglers weighed-in a five bass limit weighing less than 6-pounds.  

Finishing the day at the top of the leaderboard is Texas’ Keith Combs, who struggled all morning but rode an afternoon bite to the tune of 15-14.  Out of the total of 13 days so far on the 2013 Elite Series, Combs has led five of them after leading wire-to-wire on Falcon Lake in March.  

Sitting in 2nd place, just 4-ounces behind Combs, is Alabama’s Greg Vinson with a limit weighing 15-10.  After leading the first two days of competition at the last Elite Series tournament on Bull Shoals Lake, Vinson is off to another hot start.   2013 Classic Champion, Cliff Pace, finished the day in 3rd place with 14-2, and Aaron Martens finished in 4th with 13-5.  

The 5 Day One Facts from West Point Lake:
Tournament: Bassmaster Elite Series (May 2-5)
Location:  West Point Lake – LaGrange, Georgia 
Leader/weight:  Keith Combs (15-14)
50th place weight: Kevin Short (7-4)
Total weight separating 1st place from 10th place:  5-1

1st Place: Keith Combs (15-14)
What were your expectations heading into the day?
“I had a decent practice, but things really didn’t go that well for me.  During practice, I had some sight fish, I had some flippin’ fish, I had some fish in the current, and I had some cranking fish, so I can’t say that I was really planning on fishing a specific pattern.”    

Keith Combs How would you summarize your day as a whole? 
“I didn’t catch a fish today until 1:30 in the afternoon.  I ran all of my stuff and didn’t have a single bite, not even a short fish or a little spotted bass.  I really thought that I wasn’t going to catch a fish today. 

“At about 1:30, I went back to a fish that I had located on a bed and I caught it.   I made a move and put a small limit of spotted bass in the boat from an area that I had already fished earlier in the day.  At that point, I was happy that I had five fish, even though they didn’t weight that much.   I decided to try and catch a few more largemouth, so I went into a bay and saw a cruising bass.  They usually don’t bite, but I pitched to it and she ate the bait.  I ended up catching my biggest fish just blind casting shortly after that.

“I really wouldn’t say that the fish ‘turned on’ for me this afternoon – I’d just have to say that I’m probably the luckiest guy in Georgia right now.”

Was there a key moment for you during the day?
“The key moment for me today was catching my last keeper, which was a 6-9 largemouth that I caught with about 30 minutes to go.  That fish was big time for me and allowed me to cull a 1-pound spotted bass.

“I caught the big one out of an area where I caught a 2 1/2-pounder guarding fry in practice.  When I got the bite today, I turned to my marshal and told him that I had caught the same fish in practice. About that time the fish started ripping drag and I realized that it was a little bit bigger than 2 ½-pounds.”

What was the most challenging/surprising aspect of your day?
“It was just really weird to go through all of my primary areas one time and not catch a single fish and then go back through those same areas and whack them in the afternoon.  The difference had to be the timing.  When I did catch fish in practice, most of them came later in the afternoon.

“I probably made about 25 stops over the course of the day and I had 10 rods on the front deck.  None of them were rigged with what I really like throwing, so that’s why it was just a lucky day for me.” 

How would you assess your decision making and execution on the water?
“I really don’t think that you can make much out of what happened to me today.  I’m just tickled that it happened, but it certainly wasn’t any type of pattern – it was just a good day on the water.  I caught everything that bit today, with the exception of a 3 1/2-pounder on the bed.  I had just caught a 3-pounder and was fixing to catch the little male that was still on the bed when out of nowhere a 3 1/2 –pounder rolls up and sits on the bed.  She bit twice but I wasn’t able to hook it.”    

2nd Place: Greg Vinson (15-10)
What were your expectations heading into the day?
“I really tried to build off of the good tournament that I had on Bull Shoals and bring that same mentality to West Point.  I’m a lot closer to home here, and I’m on a lake that I’ve spent some time on.  To be honest with you, I thought that if everything went well for me today I could catch over 20-pounds.   The way that I expected to catch them and the way that I ended up catching them was totally different.”

Greg VinsonHow would you summarize your day as a whole? 
“At around 11:00, I only had two fish and I realized that my primary pattern was a bust.  I went to another little deal that was totally different than what I’d been fishing and it worked out.  I’m really hoping that I’m building a pattern that could possibly work out for me. 

“I think that I caught 10 keepers today, and eight of them came after 11:00.  This is a pattern lake, and I don’t think that you can win a multi-day tournament from any one spot – you really have to key in on a pattern and hope that you get the right bites.  I probably fished 15 or 20 places today.” 

Was there a key moment for you during the day?
“The key moment was one particular fish in a particular area.  That bite keyed me in on my secondary pattern.  Once I was able to get that pattern going, I was able to start catching fish fairly quickly compared to the first half of the day.”

What was the most challenging/surprising aspect of your day?
“The most challenging aspect of the day was realizing that the pattern I was planning to produce a really great day for me was essentially nonexistent.  Fortunately I was somewhat prepared for that possibility.  The water fell a good bit today and it really changed the bite.”
How would you assess your decision making and execution on the water?
“My decision making was great, because I just had to completely switch my game plan for the second half of the day.” 

3rd Place: Cliff Pace (14-2)
What were your expectations heading into the day?
“I didn’t really have that high of expectations, so I’m very happy with how things turned out.”

Cliff Pace How would you summarize your day as a whole? 
“It was a scramble all day long.  I didn’t catch many fish, but I caught five good ones.  I don’t think that the fish are spawning, because some of them are shallow and some of them aren’t.  I just junk fished my way through the day because I didn’t catch them how I really thought that I was going to catch them.

“I just fished in areas where I knew there were some fish living there.  I probably had 15 rods strapped to the deck of my boat and I used all of them throughout the day. I hit at least 20 different spots and fished some new water.”   

Was there a key moment for you during the day?
“I caught two keepers early this morning and that really kept me from getting in a rush and allowed me to slow down and pick apart some areas.  I probably caught six keeper largemouth and a handful of Kentucky bass today.”

What was the most challenging/surprising aspect of your day?
“This is a pattern lake, but the pattern seems to change day by day.  It’s not a pattern lake where you can fish a whole tournament with one rod and one bait.  This lake fishes so small this time of the year, and that’s why you have to mix it up some.  That was unquestionably the most challenging part of the day.  I’d run five miles to one spot, and then have to du a U-turn and run five miles the other way.” 

How would you assess your decision making and execution on the water?
“Everything went great today, so I have nothing to complain about at all.” 

4th Place: Aaron Martens (13-5)
What were your expectations heading into the day?
“I really expected to catch what I ended up catching, but I was hoping that I’d be able to catch somewhere between 15- and 18-pounds. I really think that I could have had around 20-pounds today if it wasn’t for a couple other guys who were also in the area.”
How would you summarize your day as a whole? 
“There were actually a lot fewer boats in my primary area than I thought there would be, but quite a few of the fish that I had marked got caught today.  These fish take some time to catch, and the spawners are almost as tough to catch as they are at Bull Shoals Lake.  

“No matter what you throw, it’s still going to take you at least five to 20 casts to get the fish react. 

Was there a key moment for you during the day?
“I started in a creek where I had located a decent spawning bass that I thought I could catch. Within 10 minutes of fishing that bed, I saw a big flash that was a much bigger bass around 4-pounds.  I knew that I needed to catch that fish, but she would just bite the bait and not eat it really well.  After about an hour-and-a-half, I finally got her really mad and she ate the bait and I caught her. If you spend that much time on one fish, you better catch it.” 

What was the most challenging/surprising aspect of your day?
“I know that other anglers couple of the fish that I had waypointed during practice, but I actually planned on that happening.” 

How would you assess your decision making and execution on the water?
“I missed some just casting a worm, but I don’t know how big they were.  I was just throwing a bait out while I was looking for beds because I can’t just look for beds and not fish during the tournament.  I did end up catching all of the bed fish that bit, though.” 

5th Place: Skeet Reese (13-0)
What were your expectations heading into the day?
“I looked at how the fishing was, and I knew that if I could catch 12-pounds today that it would be huge.  I didn’t know if I could catch that much weight, but I was hoping that I could. 

Skeet ReeseHow would you summarize your day as a whole? 
“I’m tickled to death with what I did today.  I think that I had eight keeper bites today and I lost two decent fish, so I could have had around 14-pounds.  I caught them better in the morning and then I got a couple more bites in the last hour. 

“I was boat number 53, and I was fortunate that I was able to get in one little pocket in the morning.  I lost the first fish of the morning, but I cast right back in there and caught one over 4-pounds.  I went from cussing to being pretty darn happy.   I had all largemouth today and culled out my last little spotted bass towards the end of the day.  

“I’m fishing around a lot of other people, so I don’t know what will happen tomorrow.  I can’t see the fish, but I know that they’re on beds.”

What was the most challenging/surprising aspect of your day?
“It would have to be dealing with 15 other boats fishing in the area.  It was pretty cramped all day long, but I knew that it would be crowded.  I was fishing in the best pocket that I’d found (during practice) and it was where I’d seen the most fish.  It was pretty chaotic during practice, but it thinned out. 

How would you assess your decision making and execution on the water?
“Everything comes down to decision making, and I stuck with my strategy today and it paid off.” 


Place PRO ANGLER Day 1
1 Keith Combs 5 15-14
2 Greg Vinson 5 15-10
3 Cliff Pace 5 14- 2
4 Aaron Martens 5 13- 5
5 Skeet Reese 5 13- 0
6 Marty Robinson 5 12-10
7 Tommy Biffle 4 12-10
8 Hank Cherry 5 12- 4
9 Brandon Palaniuk 5 11- 5
10 Cliff Crochet 3 10-13
11 Andy Montgomery 5 10- 7
12 John Crews 4 10- 6
13 Dean Rojas 5 10- 4
14 Mark Davis 5 9-12
15 Takahiro Omori 5 9-11
16 Davy Hite 5 9- 9
17 David Walker 5 9- 7
18 Cliff Prince 5 9- 5
19 Ishama Monroe 5 9- 4
20 Casey Ashley 5 8-15
20 Boyd Duckett 5 8-15
22 Jami Fralick 5 8-14
23 Chris Zaldain 5 8-12
24 Pete Ponds 5 8-11
24 Brian Snowden 5 8-11
26 Derek Remitz 5 8-10
26 Fred Roumbanis 5 8-10
28 Gary Klein 5 8- 7
29 Greg Hackney 5 8- 6
30 James Niggemeyer 5 8- 5
31 Kevin VanDam 5 8- 3
32 Michael Iaconelli 5 8- 1
33 Morizo Shimizu 5 8- 0
33 Nate Wellman 5 8- 0
35 Scott Rook 5 7-15
35 Terry Scroggins 5 7-15
37 Chris Lane 5 7-14
38 Kevin Hawk 5 7-13
38 Rick Morris 5 7-13
40 Kurt Dove 5 7-12
40 Edwin Evers 5 7-12
40 Todd Faircloth 5 7-12
43 Rick Clunn 5 7-11
43 Clark Reehm 5 7-11
45 Billy McCaghren 5 7-10
46 Matt Reed 5 7- 9
47 Timmy Horton 5 7- 7
48 Stephen Kennedy 5 7- 6
49 Mike McClelland 5 7- 4
50 Kevin Short 4 7- 4
51 Jared Lintner 3 7- 4
52 John Murray 5 7- 3
53 Kenyon Hill 5 7- 1
54 Jason Williamson 5 7- 0
55 Shaw E Grigsby 5 6-15
56 Bill Lowen 5 6- 9
56 Chad Pipkens 5 6- 9
58 Scott Ashmore 5 6- 7
58 Cliff Pirch 5 6- 7
60 Britt Myers 5 6- 6
61 Kotaro Kiriyama 5 6- 4
61 David Smith 5 6- 4
63 Michael Simonton 2 6- 4
64 Jason Quinn 5 6- 3
65 Bobby Lane 4 6- 3
65 Gerald Swindle 4 6- 3
67 Randy Howell 4 6- 0
68 Kelly Jordon 4 5-13
69 Brent Chapman 5 5-12
69 Jonathon VanDam 5 5-12
71 James Elam 5 5-11
71 Casey Scanlon 5 5-11
71 Jeremy Starks 5 5-11
74 Matthew Herren 5 5-10
74 Keith Poche 5 5-10
76 Jeff Kriet 5 5- 9
76 Dennis Tietje 5 5- 9
78 Fletcher Shryock 5 5- 8
79 Bernie Schultz 4 5- 7
80 Jared Miller 3 5- 7
81 Byron Haseotes 4 5- 6
81 Kelley Jaye 4 5- 6
83 J Todd Tucker 4 5- 3
84 Bradley Roy 3 5- 3
85 Stephen Browning 5 4-15
86 Chip Porche 3 4-14
87 Alton Jones 4 4-12
87 Russell Lane 4 4-12
89 Ott DeFoe 3 4- 6
90 Yusuke Miyazaki 2 4- 1
91 Jason Christie 2 4- 0
92 Jamie Horton 3 3-10
93 Zell Rowland 2 3- 3
94 Charlie Hartley 3 3- 0
95 Matt Greenblatt 2 2-12
96 Brandon Card 2 2- 8
97 Kevin Ledoux 3 2- 7
98 Grant Goldbeck 2 2- 3
99 Paul Elias 2 2- 1
100 Josh Bertrand 1 1- 3