BROOKELAND, Texas – Pro Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas, brought five bass to the scale Friday weighing 10 pounds, 15 ounces to go wire-to-wire and win the Toyota Series presented by A.R.E. at Sam Rayburn Reservoir Presented by Berkley. Combs weighed in 15 bass over three days of competition totaling 63 pounds, 3 ounces, earning the win by an 8-pound, 10-ounce margin over second-place angler Josh Bensema of Willis, Texas. For his victory, Combs earned the top payout of $36,764 in the third and final regular-season tournament of the 2021 Toyota Series Southwestern Division.
Combs said it was actually his first win of any kind on Sam Rayburn, which was surprising considering his Huntington, Texas, address, and his years as a top-level pro angler.
“I’ve fished very few tournaments and not had a top 10 or 15 on this place,” said Combs. “I’ve finished second and third, but never won one. That was fun, I always wanted to.”
Weighing 22-9 on Day 1 and 29-11 on Day 2, Combs staked himself to a lead of more than 17 pounds heading into the third and final day. After a weather delay at takeoff that lasted more than 2 hours, Combs was forced to scramble a bit Friday to make sure of the win.
“The first couple days were really easy, but today we just didn’t have enough time,” said Combs. “I went to try to catch a couple big ones, but I had to just catch some fish. I would have loved to have had a full day to go out and stand on ‘em and try to catch a big bag again. They’re definitely there.”
On the first two days, Combs did what he’s famous for – catching big bass offshore.
“I stayed out, I cranked, I threw a big spinnerbait and a big swimbait,” said Combs. “I fished a lot of different spots, some of them were shallow, 4- to 6-foot. Some of the fish I’ve caught this week have been as deep as 16.
“There’s just not many fish out there. I had a good bag the first day and moved around and checked on a bunch of places. I felt like if I stayed out all day and fished for those big ones, I’d have a chance to catch five. Thursday, I stayed out all day, and I only caught seven fish, but the smallest one was a 4-pounder.”
On Day 3, Combs ended up altering his strategy and put a jerkbait and a crankbait in hand to nab a limit.
“Friday I just went and caught schooling fish on a little gravel bar,” said Combs. “It has a ton of 2- and 3-pounders. I hadn’t fished there all week, but I felt like I just needed to go catch a limit of fish today, so that’s what I did.”
Combs said he targeted a mix of hard spots on points and flats and isolated stumps. For the stumps, he could often pull up and make just a handful of casts, but he found himself fishing around a little more on the other offshore areas.
“I used my Humminbird MEGA 360 a lot. The stumps I know about, but a lot of the stuff was real big flats, and main lake points,” said Combs. “I would pull up, and I could look at 360 and fish around, and eventually you might see a fish or two. Then at least I knew which direction to throw. They’re big areas, so it was very important to run that this week.”
For his baits, Combs said he used a big single swimbait, a 1-ounce Strike King Bottom Dweller Spinnerbait in blue glimmer, a Strike King Magnum Squarebill 4.0 in Tennessee shad and a Strike King 6XD in chartreuse and blue.
With his fourth-place finish in the Southwestern standings and his win, Combs is now qualified for the Toyota Series Championship this fall on Pickwick Lake. From the sounds of it, he’s going to be a handful.
“I’m excited about that,” said Combs. “That’s a big money tournament. It’s pretty good to get an opportunity to fish for that kind of money. To me, it’s pretty incredible to fish for that kind of jack without having to spend $50,000 in entry fees. I think it will be a really good tournament. I got the opportunity to see what really lives in Pickwick when we were there for the Elites, and I know it will be tougher in the fall, but I think I’ll get a lot of practice time and I’m excited about it.”
The top 10 pros on Sam Rayburn Reservoir finished:
1st: Keith Combs, Huntington, Texas, 15 bass, 63-3, $36,764
2nd: Josh Bensema, Willis, Texas, 15 bass, 54-9, $15,147
3rd: Jeff Bridges, Prosper, Texas, 15 bass, 52-0, $10,952
4th: Todd Castledine, Nacogdoches, Texas, 15 bass, 44-4, $9,127
5th: Cameron Mattison, Benton, La., 15 bass, 42-7, $8,214
6th: Troy Roder, Brookeland, Texas, 15 bass, 40-14, $7,302
7th: Mitchell Webb, Skiatook, Okla., 13 bass, 38-1, $6,639
8th: Shawn Temple, Krugerville, Texas, 15 bass, 37-12, $5,476
9th: Garrett Hilton, China, Texas, 13 bass, 36-9, $4,564
10th: River Lee, Nacogdoches, Texas, 14 bass, 35-11, $3,651
Results for the remainder of the field can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Combs also earned both of the Berkley Big Bass awards, weighing a 7-pound, 15-ounce largemouth on Day 1 to claim that prize of $128, then weighing a 7-14 on Day 2 to again earn the $128 awards.
Bensema took home an extra $1,000 as the highest finishing Phoenix MLF BIG5 Bonus member. Boaters are eligible to win up to an extra $35,000 per event in each Toyota Series tournament if all requirements are met. More information on the Phoenix MLF BIG5 Bonus contingency program can be found at PhoenixBassBoats.com.
Kevin Carter of Spring, Texas, won the Strike King Co-angler Division Friday with a three-day total of 15 bass weighing 36 pounds, 1 ounce. For his victory, Carter won the top prize package of a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard motor.
The top 10 Strike King co-anglers on Sam Rayburn Reservoir finished:
1st: Kevin Carter, Spring, Texas, 15 bass, 36-1, Phoenix 518 Pro boat w/115-hp Mercury outboard
2nd: Kevin Bonds, Cleveland, Texas, 15 bass, 31-6, $4,616
3rd: Robert Davis, Lufkin, Texas, 12 bass, 30-12, $3,693
4th: Jason Geesey, Heartland, Texas, 12 bass, 27-5, $3,231
5th: John Goebel, Lumberton, Texas, 14 bass, 26-9, $2,770
6th: Dustin Robinson, Glendale, Ariz., 13 bass, 25-1, $2,308
7th: Jason Cochran, Pearland, Texas, 12 bass, 24-11, $1,846
8th: Robert Spangenberg, Magnolia, Texas, 12 bass, 23-8, $1,616
9th: Mike Power, Conroe, Texas, 12 bass, 22-13, $1,385
10th: Kenny Moser, Alba, Texas, 10 bass, 20-5, $1,154
Co-angler Steve Baskins of Owasso, Oklahoma, weighed the largest bass of the day for co-anglers on Day 1, boating a 5-pound, 15-ounce bass to earn the $85 Berkley Big Bass award. Tristan Riddle of Nacogdoches, Texas, earned the $85 Berkley Big Bass award on Day 2 with a 6-pound, 8-ounce largemouth.
Despite the successful tournament on Sam Rayburn Reservoir, the fishing community was deeply saddened on Thursday after an accident at the event claimed the life of a co-angler. Major League Fishing (MLF) announced Friday that the identity of the co-angler that died after falling from the boat had been released. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) confirmed that co-angler Pete Lammons of Houston, Texas, fell overboard near the San Augustine Park area. Attempts to rescue Lammons were unsuccessful. Lammons was an experienced co-angler, competing in his 57th career MLF event. He was also a former NFL football player, who played tight end for the New York Jets from 1966-1971, including winning the AFL Championship with them in 1968 and Super Bowl III in 1969.
The Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. at Sam Rayburn Reservoir Presented by Berkley was hosted by the Jasper-Lake Sam Rayburn Chamber of Commerce. It was the third and final regular-season tournament in 2021 for Southwestern Division anglers. The next events for Toyota Series anglers will be a double-header, both held May 6-8 – the Toyota Series at Lake Seminole in Bainbridge, Georgia, and the Toyota Series at Lake Dardanelle Presented by Fenwick in Russellville, Arkansas. For a complete schedule, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com.
The 2021 Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. consists of six divisions – the Central Division Presented by Neat Companies, Northern, Plains, Southern, Southwestern and Western – each holding three regular-season events, along with the International division. Anglers who fish all three qualifiers in any of the six divisions and finish in the top 25 will qualify for the no-entry-fee Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. Championship for a shot at winning $235,000 cash, including a $35,000 Phoenix MLF BIG5 Bonus for qualified anglers. The winning Strike King co-angler at the championship earns a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard.
The 2021 Toyota Series Championship Presented by A.R.E. will be held Oct. 28-30 on Pickwick Lake in Counce, Tennessee, and is hosted by the Hardin County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
For complete details and updated information visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Toyota Series presented by A.R.E. on the MLF BIG5’s social media outlets at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.