20 Questions with Keith Combs

If you don't recognize him, don't worry. You will and soon. Keith Combs won the points title in the Bassmaster Central Opens, qualifying for his first Bassmaster Classic in the process.

He'll be a rookie on the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2011, and likely a force to be reckoned with for many years down the road. Here's how he fared against our 20 questions.

1. Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Kentucky, but never really lived there. I've lived my whole life in Central Texas. Now I live in Del Rio.

2. How did you get started in bass fishing?

I've fished forever. There are family pictures of me in diapers holding up fish. I fished my first bass tournament when I was 13. My neighbor and I were striper fishermen, but we found some bass accidentally and decided to enter a tournament.
We did really well even though we didn't know how to measure a bass at that time. After that, I knew it was all I'd ever want to do.

3. Who were some of your earliest fishing heroes?

I remember watching David Fritts on a TV show, and he was fishing offshore and catching bass on every cast. I wanted to do that, too, so I tried to fish like him for a long time. Now I concentrate on being versatile, but I'll always remember watching David Fritts.

4. What's the biggest bass you've ever caught?

I've caught two largemouths that weighed 12-9. One came from Lake Amistad on a 1 1/2-ounce Oldham's Jig. The other came from Lake Falcon on a Texas rigged Yum Dinger.

5. What do you love most about bass fishing?

Well, the thing I love most about bass tournaments is the competition. I've always been competitive at every stage of my life — from T-ball to baseball to motocross. Another thing I love about bass fishing is trying to figure them out. It's one of the things I love about guiding (Keith guides during the offseason on Lake Amistad).

6. Where is your favorite place to fish for bass and why?

I guide on Lake Amistad, but my favorite bass water has to be Falcon Lake. It's the best bass lake in the country (Amistad is second best) and the only place you can go and expect to catch five bass that total 40 pounds almost any day of the week.
It's even better now than when B.A.S.S. was there a few years ago and broke all those records.

7. What has been your greatest accomplishment in the fishing industry?

I could say qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic, but I honestly think it's just being able to make a living as a tournament fisherman. This is my fourth year doing it, and I'm really proud of that.

8. What goals have you yet to accomplish in your bass fishing career?

Of course, I want to win the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year award — even more than the Bassmaster Classic. That's everybody's goal.

9. What keeps you motivated to reach those goals?

Motivation comes really easy to me. It's never been a problem. I love to fish and to compete. I always want to win and just catch 'em better than the next guy.

10. What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?

That would be the decision to do it — to become a tournament professional. Before I turned pro, I had a good job and a good life. I was fishing every weekend and doing well in team tournaments. I had stability. The hardest and biggest decision of my life was to turn pro, and I've never regretted it.

11. If you could do one thing over in your career, what would it be?

I'd have gotten into it sooner. It took me a while to make the jump to becoming a full-time pro. In retrospect, I think I could have done it a few years earlier. I convinced myself that I needed to learn more and get more experience, but the truth is that once you make that leap, you learn so much so fast that you forget a lot of the stuff you thought you needed.

12. What is the biggest lesson you've learned in your career?

That's easy, and it's one that I have to remind myself of from time to time. My biggest lesson has been to pay attention to and to trust my instincts. I need to trust myself enough to fish with an open mind. It's not as easy as it sounds.
Sometimes you want to do what sounds right instead of what feels right, but it's a terrible feeling to find out that somebody else won by fishing the way your instincts said you should fish, but you didn't listen.

13. What is your greatest strength as a professional angler?

My versatility. I'm not a specialist in any one thing. I always want to learn more, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to catch them.

14. What is your greatest weakness as a professional angler?

I need to improve as a finesse fisherman. I grew up fishing lakes where it would take 18 to 35 pounds a day to win, so finesse fishing never really was a factor. It's hard for me to go after the kinds of bass that are only interested in finesse tactics.

15. What question are you asked most by fans, and how do you answer it?

Living on Amistad, they usually want to know how the fish are biting or what I'm catching them on. It's a great conversation starter since so many people know about the great fishing here.

16. What is the biggest mistake you see from casual or weekend anglers?

They want to go back to what's been working rather than let the bass tell them what they want. It's an easy trap to fall into, but you have to get away from it if you want to reach that next level.

17. How big a part does luck play in tournament bass fishing?

Over the course of a four-day tournament, not much at all; and over the course of a full tournament season, luck is not a factor at all. But luck can be a huge factor in one- and two-day events where one or two big fish can make all the difference.

18. If you could only fish one lure for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Probably some kind of crankbait. If you had asked me this question three years ago, I would have picked a jig. But a crankbait really looks like something they eat, it's a great reaction bait, and a crankbait will catch fish that other lures won't.

19. What profession (other than your own) would you like to have tried?

There's nothing else I want to do. I used to work in a machine shop to pay for my fishing, but fishing is all I ever wanted to do. I can't imagine ever doing anything outside the industry.

20. When it's all over, how do you want the bass fishing world to remember you?

I want to be remembered as a guy who put everything he had into the sport. I want to be known as a hard worker and a guy who never got out-worked, whether it was in practice or a tournament or at anything else to do with the sport.