LAKE FORK — The top of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic leaderboard not only is challenging to break the three-day tournament record weight in two days, some made a run at beating its lowest championship total in one.
Two-time winner Keith Combs of Huntington took the first-day lead with 42 pounds, including a 10-4 big bass.
Combs won the TTBC in 2013 and 2011 when it was held on Lake Conroe. He won with 62-12 in 2013 and set a tournament record at 76-12 in 2011. The 2011 total could be in danger from Combs and several other fishermen Saturday, and obliterated during Sunday’s finals.
The tournament, which was held in a team format on Fork in 2007 and 2008, went to an individual format in 2009 when it moved to Conroe. That first year FLW pro Dave Lefebre won with a three-day, 15-fish total of 48-4, the lowest weight ever in a TTBC tournament, and less than five pounds better than Combs first-day catch.
The 39-year-old native Texan had held the lead most of the afternoon, but extended it about 2:30 p.m. when he caught a 10-4 and was able to cull a smaller fish. He said he left the fish biting in hopes of finding them Saturday and Sunday.
“I felt I could have caught another pound or two, but I got off of them some. That was the thing to do. I don’t want to cull a 6-pounder on day 1,” said Combs, adding he caught about 18 bass Friday.
He said the caught primarily post-spawn bass with two coming from one hole, two from another and one out of shallow water. Along with the 10-pounder, the fisherman also had an 9-8, 8-4, 7-8 and 6-8.
Besides Combs’ total, 12 other fishermen weighed in more than 30 pounds on a day after the lake received 1.8 inches of rain and the lake level was rising. The rain and strong winds throughout the day turned Fork murky.
Alabama fisherman Russ Lane jumped out to a blistering lead with 34-8 pounds in the first 90 minutes of fishing.
However, for the next six hours Lane’s big fish bite slowed and the field started to quickly catch up. Lane came back in the after with a 10-pound fish to jump back into second place at the weigh-in with 38-4.
“If it was any other lake in the country I would be surprised. This lake is amazing,” Lane said of the 3-pound, 12-ounce deficit.
The angler said his first 90 minutes were as good as it gets for a fisherman. It just improved with his late catch.
“That was awesome. It is even more awesome when you cull a 6 with a 10,” he said.
Lane said he really wasn’t fishing a pattern as much as he was fishing a spot.
“I let the fish tell me when they are tired of me messing with them. This lake is known for big schools of fish and I was catching some massive fish,” he added.
There were five bass topping the lake’s 14- to 26-inch slot limit brought to the weigh-in. Arkansas fisherman Stetson Blaylock actually had the an 11-9, but opted to release it in hopes of catching it Saturday.
Rounding out the top five behind Combs and Lane were Blaylock with 36-8, Tennessee fisherman Randy Haynes with 34-8 and Luke Clausen of Washington, who came on late to finish with 33-12.
Several of the tournament fishermen, including Kevin VanDam, Mike Iaconelli, Kelly Jordon and Terry Scroggins all made pre-tournament predictions that it would take at least 85 pounds to win the event, and that more than 90 pounds-plus was a real possibility. The fishermen also noted that windy conditions, which are predicted for the final two days, shouldn’t impact weights.
“I am not going to say I am going out there and catch 30 every day, but I might need to,” Combs said. “Twenty-five and 25 the next two days is not going to win it.”
His closest challenger agrees.
“I am going to guess it is going to take 100 pounds. If you had asked me before today I would have said 90,” Lane said.
The field is made of top points leaders from 2013 from the Bassmaster Elite Series, the Walmart FLW Cup and the Professional Anglers Association. The full field will compete the first two days. Only the top 10 fishermen will be on the water Sunday competing for the $150,000 first-place prize package.
The TTBC, which benefits fishing outreach programs of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, will continue through Sunday.
Gates open at 10 a.m. today and Sunday. Weigh-in is at 5 p.m. today and 4 p.m. Sunday. All activities are at the Sabine River Authority headquarters of Texas 154.
Daily admission is $25 for those 18 and above. Those 17 and under will be admitted free with an adult. Admission gains access to a number of outdoor activities, Toyota and Yamaha test tracks, the weigh-in and concerts featuring Little Big Town on Saturday and Justin Moore on Sunday. There will also be daily concerts along with an outdoor expo. For more information go online to www.toyotatexasbassclassic.com .