By BassFan Staff
Regardless of how day 1 unfolded, Keith Combs knew he’d get asked questions about his performance at Lake Conroe.
It he’d have caught 30-plus pounds and held the lead, he’d be asked if he can keep it up for two more days. If he struggled, he’d be asked to explain why and what he needs to do to turn it around. Such is life for the pre-tournament favorite.
For months, Combs has been the focus of much of the pre-Classic hype, a product of his winning two Toyota Texas Bass Classics at Conroe. Today was hardly the start he was counting on with three keepers for 7-11, which had him in a tie for 40th. Of the five Texans in the field, only Takahiro Omori is lower on the leaderboard.
“It was frustrating,” Combs said as he plowed through a plate of pasta while seated in a lounge section of the Diamond Club at Minute Maid Park on Friday afternoon. “It hasn’t been an easy week of practice, but I’ve been catching quality. It hasn’t been a situation where I didn’t think I was going to catch five. Doing what I’m doing, I feel like seven to 10 keepers is what you’re going to get and they’re going to weigh 18 to who knows what.”
There were few, if any obstacles, for Combs to deal with.
“Today, I just didn’t get bit,” he said. “Nobody is fishing any of the stuff I’m fishing. I have it all to myself. It’s wide open. The wind didn’t hurt me. The spectators were great. I have no excuses. I just had three bites today.”
He thinks his downfall was bad timing. During practice, he caught an average of 20 hybrid stripers that were mixed in with largemouth. Today, he caught one striper in the morning and that was it.
“I don’t really understand,” he added.
Lee’s Day-1 Blues
Make it three straight Classics without a day-1 limit for Jordan Lee, who brought in three today for 8-06. It’s a head-scratcher for the former Bassmaster College champion.
“Maybe it’s the practice and how it’s so split up,” he said. ”I can make all kinds of excuses, but I haven’t gotten dialed in.
“The last two Classics have been tough places to catch limits. Grand (Lake) was tough and here, half the field won’t catch a limit. I’m not the only one. It’s tough to get bit and in the Classic, the hardest thing to do is slow down when the fishing’s tough. I haven’t figured that out yet. Maybe one day I will.”
Martens was Exposed
Four-time Classic runner-up Aaron Martens isn't completely out of contention after a four-fish, 10-10 bag that has him in 32nd place, but he'll need a huge rally to get back into the mix. He said the wind got him on day 1.
"Spawning fish get weird in that wind," he said. "They guys who caught them where I was were behind islands. What I thought was my best spot was useless. It was just rolling mud and whitecaps.
"I actually chose to start on an offshore spot, but I never had a bite. I didn't waste much time on it – maybe 30 minutes. I don't think they were there."
Skylar Hamilton had chills going to sleep each night since last Saturday. That’s because he felt like he’d found the potential winning area. He had 25-plus pounds worth of bites and couldn’t wait to go back there.
“At night, I would get scared because I knew I could win out of that spot even if there was someone else in there,” said Hamilton, the only angler in the field running an aluminum boat.
When he returned to the spot Friday morning, his high hopes were dashed when he realized a group of carp had moved in and were going their spawning ritual.
“I went back to that same stretch and me and Bill Lowen were actually sharing it and he only caught three out of there and I only caught two,” Hamilton said. “It was all I had. It was out of the wind. It was perfect. You could win the tournament out of there if it weren’t for the carp.
“I hadn’t seen any carp in there Saturday and it never went through my mind that that was going to happen. It happens at Douglas (Lake) a lot, but by then the fish are out deep so we don’t know how to fish around them or if it affects them, but apparently it does.”
Kennedy Famed a Few
Steve Kennedy (15th, 17-07) expected to catch 20 to 25 pounds and said he would have had he not lost three big ones.
"You're fishing all day for five to seven bites, that's what we're all doing," he said. "I'm usually pretty good at that, or at least I like to think I am, but today I lost three big ones. It wasn't one of my better efforts."
Christie Caught Bottom-Lippers
Jason Christie (22nd, 15-03) said his fish seemed non-committal about inhaling the baits he offered.
"There's an old wives' tale that if you're catching them in the bottom lip, they don't really want to bite. That's what was happening today."
Swindle's Struggles Continue
Reigning Elite Series Angler of the Year got only three keeper bites and lost two of them, leaving him tied for 50th place in the 52-angler field. He's yet to be a factor in the Classic since it moved to a winter/spring timeframe in 2006.
"I think I fished smart and I fished slow enough, but it just didn't click at the time I needed it to," he said. "I just don't like being anywhere that I can't figure them out. I'll probably do something totally different tomorrow, but I don't know what."
> B.A.S.S. officials were told in plain language by the officials at Minute Maid Park that there is to be no contact made with the grass portion of the field, which is home to the Houston Astros. Extreme caution was used as the boats were towed onto the field through the right-field wall and then along the warning track before pulling up to the stage in front of the third-base dugout. There was one area of the grass that needed to be covered by boards so the truck tires didn’t harm the playing surface.
The stage was built completely on the infield dirt between second and third bases and bridges were built over certain grass sections so nothing would contact the playing surface, which was replaced in mid-February. The Astros’ home opener is Monday, April 3.
> This is the first Classic without a competitor who’s a current resident of the state of Arkansas.
> Charlie Hartley, a former Elite Series competitor who qualified for the Classic via his win at the James River Northern Open, rode a skateboard down the runway to the stage at weigh-in today.