QUITMAN, Tex. – Top pros from the Bassmaster Elite Series, the PAA, and FLW who were on the fish Friday stayed locked on them – and it appears no one's going to stumble Day 3. It's going to be a rumble Sunday on Lake Fork.
Pros in Friday's top ten – Keith Combs, Stetson Blaylock, Russ Lane, Justin Lucas, Jason Christie, Randy Haynes, Matt Reed, Brandon Coulter – stayed on the short list Saturday.
Mark Rose stepped up from 11th as Todd Faircloth hotfooted from 14th into 10th.
Ladies and gentlemen, those are your 2014 Toyota Tundra Top Ten that made the cut and will fish Lake Fork for one last exciting round, Sunday, May 11th when one of them will be crowned the undisputed new world champion of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic.
If Texan Keith Combs was to win Sunday, he may possibly also be crowned some kind of king or legend in Texas by the many Lone Star fans expected to turn out to cheer on the weigh-in and awards ceremony at the exciting conclusion of the eighth annual Toyota Texas Bass Classic on Lake Fork in Quitman, the Bass Capital of Texas if not the world! Combs has won 2 of the last 3 TTBC’s and has a deserved reputation for being the man you can’t beat on Texas lakes.
Day 1 was a surreal experience none of the FLW, Bassmaster and PAA pros will soon forget. The top three Day 1 – Keith Combs, Russ Lane and Stetson Blaylock – had the single best day of their respective careers – and 14 pros had 30 or more pounds – an unprecedented tally!
On Day 2, the unreal catches subsided…only slightly. There were 8 pros with 30 or more pounds Saturday and the top nine pros had 60 or more pounds total for two days – with the top two over 70 pounds. Justin Lucas had the heaviest bag of Day 2, weighing in 35-8.
Many pros had an early morning bite while others enjoyed a mid-to-late afternoon flurry of fast action. Timing proved paramount – being able to pull in on a school that's active and catch a few fast before they shut down.
KEITH COMBS IN 1ST WITH 75-8
Keith Combs had the biggest bag of his pro career, 42 pounds, on Friday and sacked 33-8 Saturday for a two-day total of 75-8. In two days, he almost eclipsed his own TTBC record weight of 76-12 set in 2011 for the 3-day event.
Combs caught all his weight (a 6-4, 7-0, 5-12, 6-4 and 8-4) before 9 a.m. this morning. "It's pretty hard to cull a 5-12 you know – we don't do that very often!" laughed Combs.
"I'm going to have to pull 30-something to have a chance tomorrow – or else Blaylock, Lane or Lucas is going to smoke me," said the leader seriously. "You never know, you can pull up on something that's not even in your routine – and catch them big time. Somebody can time it right here and catch 50 pounds. So don't put the guy that's in 9th or 10th out of this thing – because most of the guys that made the top ten are fishing where I'm fishing. Being there at the right time is critical."
Combs will be doing the same thing Day 3 as the first two days – slinging it out there and praying for five big Lake Fork lunkers!
STETSON BLAYLOCK IN 2ND WITH 71-8
Blaylock's 35-0 limit backed up his 36-8 Friday for a two-day total of 71-8.
"The key to my day today was sticking with my places, the areas I've got have a lot of fish on them, and it's just getting those five good bites, those 7 and 8 pounders are key. You've got to get those big bites in this event tomorrow."
All Blaylock's fish were deep. He had two sevens and several six pounders first thing this morning. He's going to change up a few things Day 3 to try to get a few more of the bigger bites in order to see if he can't get a giant stringer – because he knows it's going to take that. "They're going to catch them really big tomorrow. No one's holding anything back. I've got to go and swing just as hard as I can."
RUSS LANE IN 3RD WITH 69-12
Russ Lane didn't get quite as many bites Saturday, but still caught some solid sixes staying in the same area and fishing the same schools of bass using the same tactics as he did Friday. Nothing changed on him from day to day. "I'm going to stick with it and catch as much as I can tomorrow. It doesn't look like anyone here is going to stumble at all – so it all comes down to the last day," said Russ Lane with resolution in his voice.
JUSTIN LUCAS IN 4TH WITH 68-0
Justin Lucas amassed the biggest limit of Day 2: 35-8.
Lucas hit some of his same spots – but was more attentive to his timing, especially when he visited his big bass spots. He kind of created or optimized his own timing. "I kept hitting the same spots today, but let them rest – I knew that the fish were not going to be hitting again after that for another hour or so, which is when I would come back and pop a big one. The one spot where I caught the 8 pounder and 9 pounder today, I caught them at totally separate times. I just don't know what time they're going to bite, so I let them rest for a little bit. They can feel your boat on top of them – they know when somebody's there. When somebody's not there, they let their guard down, get fired up themselves – and you show up, get in there and catch one right away or even 3 or 4 real quick before they shut down again."
Justin Lucas is using swimbaits and crankbaits, depending how deep the bass appear on his graph. He'll use the swimbaits both above and on the bottom, varying the jighead weight to do that.
He's not planning anything different for Sunday. It's Justin's first time ever on Lake Fork, and he's just been having a really good time. "Tomorrow, I'm going to go out there and have fun, keep throwing my swimbait – and try to catch 40 pounds."
JASON CHRISTIE IN 5TH WITH 64-8
Christie's bite is better later in the afternoon. "There are not that many schools out there. You just have to keep bouncing around until you hit a school that has rested (from fishing pressure) for a while and then you can catch 2 or 3. The thing about me is I haven't caught any over 7 pounds here yet. I'm catching all good, solid fish – but no giants," Christie informed us.
He's starting out shallow, getting some good ones early – and fishing deeper later in the day. "I need to catch 40 to 45 pounds tomorrow – and I might have to strictly fish deep all day to do that," said Jason with conviction.
RANDY HAYNES IN 6TH WITH 63
With four monster graphs optimized for offshore angling, there's nothing that swam under Randy Haynes boat undetected. He had a good morning that started off hot and heavy. "My judge and I were pretty busy with the radio this morning calling in early catches. Later in the afternoon, fishing through the same hole again, we woke them back up and I learned a little sumpthin-sumpthin about this lake; if I can make that work again tomorrow, I'll be fixin' to catch 40 pounds," predicted Haynes.
MATT REED IN 7TH WITH 62-12
PAA President Matt Reed caught a lot of fish Day 1 but Day 2, only seven. Those were good for 30-12 but took him all day to catch them. Like many other pros, Reed had a mid-afternoon flurry of hot action. Reed caught them in a different spot Saturday – and may try different spots (including one of his best spots) Sunday that he didn't get to fish yet. "I'll just keep rotating through my areas and try for some big ones," he said.
MARK ROSE IN 8TH WITH 62-8
"This has been fun. God bless Texas and Lake Fork," said Mark Rose jovially. "I didn't get any really big ones – just four 6 pounders and a 6-1/2 today. It's a blast to be here and catchin' what I caught." Rose is on a deep deal that's obviously working – he just needs to turn those sixes into eights. Rose is running the gamut with offshore lures – deep cranking, spoons and other stuff. Nothing was different for Mark Day 2 from Day 1. He's just going to keep doing the same Day 3 – and pray for all eights!
BRANDON COULTER IN 9TH WITH 60-4
Coulter lost a few big ones just before he had to weigh-in. "I feel like I have a good place to start tomorrow anyway," laughed Brandon. He caught his fish the first day on a big hard swimbait, concentrating on the mid-depths from 8-12 feet. Most other pros were fishing deeper or shallower than Coulter. "I had a lot of water to myself which was nice. However, the overcast conditions made the fish in the mid-depths move out deeper – because I moved out deeper later in the day and caught them pretty decent again once I made the move."
TODD FAIRCLOTH IN 10TH WITH 57-0
"Legitimately, I don't think I have a shot at winning this event. I am 18-8 behind. I made the top ten and I am happy with that. Anytime you can do that well against this group of guys – the best from the Bassmaster Elites, the FLW Tour and the PAA Series – you've got to consider that an accomplishment. I am a competitor, and when I go out there fishing, I try to catch as much as I can – and that's what I am going to do tomorrow. I'm going to try to move up some spots; I'm in 10th place so I can only go up! I'm going to try to put together the big Lake Fork bag tomorrow," said Faircloth.