Shimano Elite pro Keith Combs shows his smallmouth skills

MILLE LACS, Minn. -  While he’s known for his cranking skills to catch big largemouth bass in his home state of Texas and throughout the south, it sure does look like Shimano pro Keith Combs knows a little something about catching big smallmouth bass. At this past weekend’s Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the year Championship on Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota, Combs led wire-to-wire to best the 50-angler field with a 72-pound, 5-ounce total weight for 15 smallmouths. Not only does he take back to Texas the $52,500 in cash winnings and bonuses and the title of Toyota Mille Lacs Champion, Combs again become one of the top B.A.S.S. Elite anglers to watch at the 2018 Bassmaster Classic next March on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina.

“While I’ll always be proud of my big wins in Texas, I was able to prove something to myself that I can compete - and win - on any lake I fish,” said Combs. “On Mille Lacs, making extra long casts with the new Shimano Curado K baitcasting reel was a key to my success, giving me the advantage to work lots of water while dragging big one-ounce jigs and craw trailers deep.”

Prior to the Mille Lacs tournament, Combs spent two weeks on a 5,000-mile trek tackling the Curado ‘Bass Slam’ Challenge. Along with Shimano’s Kurt Mazurek, they targeted and caught all nine species of black bass, all to show the versatility of Shimano’s new award-winning baitcasting reel. While the Bass Slam Challenge enabled Combs to dial in the right Curado for techniques needed to catch everything from seven-pound largemouths to finicky Guadalupe and Suwannee bass, he relied on a Curado 200HGK with a 7.4:1 gear ratio - paired to a heavy power, fast action G. Loomis GLX 894C rod - for his Mille Lacs smallies.

Along with Combs, more Shimano and G. Loomis pros did well on Mille Lacs. Oklahoma pro James Elam finished less than two-pounds shy of besting Combs and finished second, while Michigan pro Jonathon Van Dam placed eighth. Van Dam’s finish qualified him for this week’s Bassmaster Classic Bracket tournament on Pokegama Lake in Minn., where a win means earns him a ticket into the Bassmaster Classic field. His smallmouth fishing expertise makes him one of the favorites.

Anglers nationwide are invited to compete in Shimano’s ‘Curado Bass Slam Challenge’ to win a Curado reel and more, or the Curado ‘3 Bass Combo’ challenge through December. Visit the Shimano Facebook page at - or Shimano’s web site at - for all the details.