Combs the climber

Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas, climbed a mountain in the March 15-18 St. Johns River Showdown.

From 46th place the first day, he pulled up to claim the third-place prize. Of the Showdown’s Top 12, Combs can claim biggest-mover bragging rights (although Terry Scroggins’ vault from 35th on the first day to sixth on the last was also dramatic).

Combs tried Lake George on the first day with the solid yet unremarkable result of 12-6 for 46th place.

Decision time: He moved to the small lake that he had fished in 2011 to finish ninth. This year’s result was 16-7 for 20th.

And then he really dug in. On the third day he had a 21-10 bag with a 9-9 anchor. Day 4 he brought in another big bag, 22-1. All were taken off beds with a Strike King Shim-E-Stik in green pumpkin, he said.

Two arm-busting bags still left him 4-7 behind winner Alton Jones and 2-10 in back of runner-up Todd Faircloth.

“I needed one more big one. I felt like if I could have culled my 2-pounder, then I would have had a shot at winning,” said Combs, whose tournament total was 71-2.

Two Top 12s in as many seasons can be best explained by his Texas training, he said.

“I think it’s the same as with Alton and Todd,” Combs explained. “We grew up fishing the same Texas lakes, like Toledo Bend, in a lot of one-day spring tournaments. To win those, you have to sight fish. It’s the same thing here in the spring. You’d better be sight fishing or, if you’re not, you’d better be after bedding fish you can’t see.”