Fourteen pounds isn’t really that much in terms of big-time bass fishing tournaments. That is unless you’re talking about the margin of victory. Keith Combs of Del Rio, Texas won the PAA event on Tawakoni this past weekend by that margin, 14.23 pounds to be exact. A big part of that was made up in one huge bass, a 9.23-pound largemouth Combs caught the first morning of the tournament.
His three day total of 60.48 pounds set the record for tournament weight for a PAA event. This all happened on a fishery that most pros found to be fishing a little tougher than most would prefer. We talked with Combs yesterday about his dock strategy and specifically how he was able to catch the fish so much better around docks, when much of the field was on the exact same pattern.
“It was kind of weird that I fished the same stuff as a lot of guys but won by that big a margin,” Combs said. “I think having that big fish early the first day gave me a lot of confidence in my area. Sometimes in practice I find too much and I have too much stuff to fish. But in this event I really didn’t have much so I really worked my area over thoroughly.”
Specifically speaking Combs win came through a process of elimination in practice. When he got to the lake and scoped it out, he figured that most guys would be hitting the docks and because there weren’t many good docks in the right water, he figured that everyone would be on top of each other. So he went looking to the pad fields.
There were more than enough pads to spread the field out and make fishing vegetation a viable option for the whole event. That was if the fish had cooperated around the pads, which they did not. So Combs burned his whole first day of practice on a pattern that never developed.
The second day he decided to spend his time offshore. He found one school of bass but the fish were just small keepers. He figured maybe he could pull in there and catch a couple to fill out a limit if necessary. Another day down and not much to go with for a tournament plan.
The final day he went to the bank, specifically some rocky shorelines and the best docks with the best water on them. The first dock he pulled up to he caught two good keepers. He caught several more fish on the docks and also some fish on a rocky shoreline. It wasnâ€™t much but it was enough for him to have a little confidence to start the event.
“The skies were dark and the fish bit really well that third day of practice,” Combs said. “I think that was the key to me figuring out the fish, because if I had fished the docks the first or second day, they might not have bit as quickly. That third day I’d make one pitch on a dock and the fish were all over it. So it really keyed me into the bite. It definitely didn’t go like that in the tournament. I had to really work the docks to catch a fish.”
Early the first morning, Combs pulls up on one of his best docks and flips a jig. Moments later he’s wrestling a big bass to the boat. He went to flip the fish in, something he does often with 6- or 7-pound bass on his home lake of Amistad. The fish, however, had an awfully big head and he decided to not take too many chances with it and dipped it in and put in the live well as several of his competitors were around.
He continued running what he thought were the best docks on the lake. This is where his tournament came together. It’s how he fished and managed docks in a tournament that gave him the convincing win.
With a big bass in the livewell, he started rotating on the best docks. He again hits another big bass weighing more than 5 pounds. He was pitching and skipping a 3/8-ounce Oldham’s jig with a Zoom Super Chunk Jr. under and around the docks.
Later in the day he hit his rocky shoreline and caught a good keeper on a Lucky Craft RC1.5 in Copper shad and then another good fish under the docks again.
Basically he would spend as little as 5 minutes on a dock or as much as 20 minutes on a dock. Some docks had lots of brush under and around them and some just had one small piece of brush. So the fewer the targets, the less time he spent on them. And heâ€™d rotate back through the best docks several times in a day, rotating around other anglers fishing the same docks.
Introducing the Lateral Perch
On day two, because he’d taken two quality bass off his rocky shoreline, and figuring the docks would be fished out, he decided to dedicate his time to his rocky shoreline. Unfortunately, after wasting almost half the day, he hadn’t caught any fish off the rocky shoreline and he only had one other option, to return to his docks.
His timing was off on day two as he tried to get on a few docks only to find other anglers already fishing them. So he had to just work in behind them. Knowing everyone was pitching jigs around, he focused on getting his jigs back under the dock further and he broke out his ace in the hole, the new Power Tackle Lateral Perch.
With the Lateral Perch, he would skip the bait up under the dock and the bass were actually eating as it was skipping, taking it off the surface at times. The bait has a hard lead and resin head with a soft plastic body. There is a big meaty hook with a weed guard and it fishes a lot like a jig. Itâ€™s the perfect eating size for bass at 3-inches.
Judy and Tim Reneau, owners of Power Tackle have had the bait in prototype for more than two years and winning a bunch of tournaments fishing the bait deep around grass. It fishes well hopped and also drug like a football jig offshore. But it hadnâ€™t really been tested in shallow applications until this dock experiment.
Combs caught several key bass on day two fishing minutes behind a competitor on the same docks they just fished. He opted for the Lateral Perch and the unique presentation and was amazed at how well they ate the bait.
“They would kill this thing,” Combs said. “Every fish had it way back in his throat. I used the same tail the whole tournament, because they would get it so deep the tail wouldn’t get touched much. It just skips amazingly well and four of the five bass that ate it, I saw them come up and take the bait before it even started sinking.”
His ace in the hole bailed him out late in the day on the second day, accounting for five bass on highly pressured docks.
Bringing it home
On the final day, he decided to do or die on the docks and he definitely did. He pulled up to his first dock and caught two 3-pounders and knew it was going to be a good day. He caught two more good fish weighing more than 5-pounds. Most of his fish the final day came on the jig.
“I was meant to win that last day,” Combs said. “I only had seven bites, and five of the bites were more than 3 1/2 pounds in weight.”
Combs narrowed down his docks to five key docks, and he caught all but one of his fish on the jig or Lateral Perch under the docks. His timing on the first and third days were perfect. He’d pull up to one of his key docks, work it from multiple angles and then move to his next productive dock.
The fish weren’t replenishing immediately, but it would take him about an hour to an hour and a half to make his rotation through the five docks, and then he would work back to the first dock and start again.
Keys to dock success
The docks were key but how he got his bait back under the docks and thoroughly fished the brush underneath each dock was pivotal. Being able to skip his Lateral Perch and Oldham’s jig way up under the docks got him close to fish others might have missed and thoroughly covering each piece of brush as well as giving each dock several chances to produce each day put him at the top of the leaderboard. The water around most of the docks was just too skinny Combs discovered, so as he caught multiple fish off docks, he narrowed his search each day until he was only fishing five docks by the end of the event.
Combs fishes his jig and Lateral Perch with 25-pound Seaguar Abraz-X fluorocarbon on a 7-foot, 6-inch Power Tackle Paragon PG104.5-76 rod.
The Power Tackle Lateral Perch was originally designed in a 1 3/4-ounce model. But it now comes in 1-, 3/4- and 1/2-ounce sizes. It is available in Blue Streak (pumpkin with blue swirl), Hard Candy (watermelon candy) and Pumpkin Perch (green pumpkin). But there will be at least five more colors soon. The bait sells for $10.99 which will include one rigged bait and replacement tails.