Lake Fork has a reputation that other inland lakes envy. Bass are plentiful and can be HUGE. The setting is extraordinary and locals live to fish. It is no wonder that the 2014 Toyota Texas Bass Classic returned there this year to the joy of the 50 professional anglers who participated by invitation.
Toyota has sponsored the event since its inception and that support has only grown. The commitment, unlike many others, is more than slapping the brand on a banner. Founded by T. Dan Friedkin, CEO of Gulf States Toyota which is Toyota in this region, and Donato Ramos, eight years ago, he event (in Friedkin’s words), “….celebrates the outstanding fishery management provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department…inland fisheries division.”
Friedkin is Chairman-Emiritus of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and the event contributed $250,000 to TPWD this year, bringing $2-million in total from the eight years since its inception.
Anglers were not disappointed; Keith Combs wins third title
At the Press Briefing last Thursday, the panel of anglers estimated that it would take from 85 – 100 pounds to win the tourney. It took more than that and Keith Combs of Huntington, TX was up to the task. With 110 lbs. for three days of fishing, he again took the title that he held last year and in 2011 — both of which he won on Lake Conroe. This year’s number was a world record for a three-day professional bass tournament.
The previous record for a 5-bass limit event was set in 2000 at Clear Lake California with 83 lb. 5 oz. haul — a full 26 lbs. 11 oz. less than the new record. This was Combs second Century Bag (100+lbs.) of his 8-year career. He also claimed two other awards — his 42 lb. haul on the first day earned him the LEER Heavyweight award (largest single day weight) and his 10 lb. 14 oz. catch on the same day won the ATX Wheels Big Bass Award.
Top anglers had strategies
Keith Combs, the tournament winner, said that he used his three favorite crankbaits; a Strike King 2.5 KVD Suarebill in Tennessee Shad color when he fished shallow. a Strike King 6 XD in Blue Chartreuse was his preference in 10-15 feet of water; and he used the Strike King 10 XD in Sexy Shad for depths from 27 to 30 feet.
Runner up, Stetson Blaylock of Bentonville, AR, was also over 100 lbs. with 102 lbs. 10 oz. for the three days of the event. He used a Strike King 10 X crankbait and swimbaits on jigheads, mixed in with a Dive Master 20 from Livingston Lures. He said that more of his fish fell for swimbaits on jigheads including some in Basstrix and some on Yamamoto swimbaits.
A total of 99 lbs. 4 oz. should be enough to win a three-day tournament, but at the Toyota Texas Bass Classic this year, it was only enough for third place which went to Russ Lane of Prattville, AL. He says that he caught the majority of his fish on a SPRO Fat Papa 70 crankbait in Sneaky Blue, Mellow Yellow and Lavender Shad colors. Other fish fell to a 5/8 oz. Buckey6e Mop Jig in Green Pumpkin/Purple with a Big Bite Real Deal Craw for the trailer.
In an interesting twist, he also used a prototype rod by Castaway — 7′ long glass — along with a Castaway Skeleton DD22 rod.
The Toyota Texas Bass Classic will be at Lake Fork next year with the car and truckmaker’s continued support. Says Friedkin, “this event provides additional revenue that enables Texas Parks and Wildlife to enhance its youth activity programs.”
At a time when more families are looking for wholesome, cost-sensitive adventures, it has to be some of the best spent money in this country.