Catching 25 pounds in a single tournament day is a pretty rare feat, and catching five bass for 30 pounds in a tournament has been done fewer than 200 times in FLW history. Knowing just how special those giant limits are, we decided to dig into some of the top bags from years past. Some were caught pretty recently, but a lot of the biggest bags came in the heyday of Falcon Lake in south Texas. Here, we run through the top stringers of all time, from the very biggest to one of the most dramatic.
Keith Combs – 2010 – Falcon Lake – 41-1
When Keith Combs caught 41-1 out of Falcon Lake, he incredibly didn’t win the tournament. The bag came on the final day of an FLW Series Southwestern Division event in January. Combs had started the day in seventh, nearly 20 pounds behind leader Michael Yoder, who put 65-15 on the scale through two days of competition. Yoder weighed 27-9 on the final day to win with a 93-8 total, but Combs’ giant bag rocketed him up to second, exactly 11 pounds ahead of third place.
This blow-by-blow account of the day is a great read, but Combs’ bag boiled down to one incredible spot at an intersection of two roadbeds that he fished with a Carolina rig, plus an “extra” 8-pounder he caught off another spot on a spinnerbait.
Asked recently about that magic day, Combs recalled some pretty special memories about it.
“On Falcon back then, it was the norm,” says Combs, who currently fishes the Bassmaster Elite Series. “We hit that tournament with such bad weather that you would have seen a lot of 40-pound bags, but the weather was really bad. I’ve caught high 40s and even into the 50s there a few times on guide trips.
“For a period of five years, it was just really good. It’s still the No. 1 lake in Texas. It may be the No. 1 lake in the country, but it isn’t as good as it once was.”
Lower water levels in recent years are to blame for the change in the fishery. Before the drop, Combs says, the lake was simply a perfect storm for big bass.
“Falcon was getting a flush every day,” explains Combs. “We were getting a lot of rain, and they were pulling a lot of water for irrigation. It was pretty amazing. It doesn’t have that habitat in it now, but it will whenever it fills back up again.
“I think back then there was an FLW Tour event scheduled to come back there the next year, and they ended up cancelling it. If the Tour event would have been held there the next year, I think someone could have weighed in 150 pounds in four days.”
Combs says he’s a bit surprised that in 10 years nobody else has managed to top his day of fishing, especially considering the adverse circumstances of his day.
“The deal was, we had a huge cold front come through. The first day of the tournament, I could have had a much bigger bag. They were biting. My co-angler and I were catching them every cast, but the wind got so bad I couldn’t fish. The third day, when I caught the big bag, it was brutal cold for Falcon. My rod boxes were frozen. We had to just drag a Carolina rig and fish super slow. It took a while. You couldn’t catch them on a crankbait, and I got almost 40 pounds off that one area. I moved down the lake and caught a big one, and then moved back and got one more.”
Combs’ record had a scare this spring when Anthony Sharp weighed his 40-pound, 6-ounce mega-bag on Sam Rayburn, but considering that we’re out of the prespawn now, his record seems safe for at least another year.
“You’re proud anytime you can catch a bag like that. It was 10 years ago, and people still bring it up. Now, they think it’s like a 50-pound bag; it’s grown,” chuckles Combs. “But, it’s always something to be proud of. It’s a day I’ll never forget, and it’s always fun to weigh in a bag like that.”
Rogne Brown – 2013 – Lake Chickamauga – 40-14
The second biggest bag of all time is also the only one to feature an umbrella rig. Not that umbrella rigs can’t fell giants, because they’ve definitely resulted in some giant bags, but the advent of the rig hasn’t resulted in an all-out attack on the record books.
In March 2013, with Chickamauga kicking out giant bass on the regular, Rogne Brown blasted 40-14 to take the top spot in a Volunteer Division BFL event. In second, Andy Lusk put 31 pounds on the scale, and everyone else in the top 10 weighed more than 24 pounds.
Brown was quoted after the win:
“It was absolutely incredible,” said Brown. “I can’t even explain it. It’s been incredible here for the past five weeks or so. I found a really good staging area where they are getting ready to move up and spawn as soon as the conditions get right. The spot has scattered out stumps on it and quick access to deep water. It is also near a shallow flat where they can roam and feed.”
The next year, Brown and a buddy caught 49 pounds while fun fishing on Chickamauga, making his incredible tournament day look almost small by comparison.
Casey Martin – 2017 – Lake Guntersville – 40-11
Then a guide on Lake Guntersville, Casey Martin already had plenty of accolades to his name when he dropped 40 pounds, 11 ounces in a tournament. Still, the former star of Circuit Breaker and 2013 FLW Tour champion at Chickamauga was surprised by his mammoth day in a Bama Division BFL in March on Guntersville.
From the 2017 website article:
“It was pretty insane to weigh in those bass,” said Martin, who took home $6,859 for his win. “I’m still in disbelief. It happened so fast that it hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
Martin said he started out targeting both largemouth and smallmouth bass in different areas and was able to put together a limit fairly quick.
“At that point, I figured I had enough weight to earn my entry fee back,” said Martin. “So, I decided to swing for the fence at that point and run to some deeper water, near causeways. They can be good this time of year.
“I came across a school of fish at one point, looked at my graph and it was lighting up,” continued Martin. “I caught one bass that was close to 7 pounds, and within 10 minutes I had three more in the boat – a 9-pounder, and two in the 8-pound range.
“Later on I made a run to an area near Goose Pond and caught another 7-pounder out of some grass on a Rat-L-Trap,” said Martin. “I didn’t think I had 40 pounds. I thought I only had 33 or 34. I’ve seen those kinds of limits come in at BFL tournaments before.
“I put them on the scale and the weighmaster had his hand on it, so I figured the number would come down into the thirties,” said Martin. “But it stopped moving, and the screen said 40 pounds. I don’t think things could have gone any better – it was the perfect day.”
Anthony Sharp – 2020 – Sam Rayburn – 40-6
The most recent entry to the 40-pound club came from Anthony Sharp this spring on Sam Rayburn.
Fishing an offshore spot with a Carolina rig and a crankbait, Sharp blasted them and won by more than 21 pounds. His margin of victory is the biggest in BFL history, and he did it in about an hour.
From the initial report:
“We blasted off at about 7:15, and I made a 15-minute run up the lake,” says Sharp. “At 8:35, I called Mr. Callahan [the tournament director] and asked if I could use my co-angler’s livewell because I couldn’t fit all my fish in one livewell. So, in about an hour I was done.”
“It’s incredibly special. I can’t even describe it,” says Sharp. “I was just praying I could catch one or two fish like that. I really had no idea that was going to happen.”
Greg Hackney – 2008 – Falcon Lake – 39-11
Fishing in the FLW Series East-West Fish-Off on Falcon, Greg Hackney dragged a 10-inch Strike King Rage Anaconda for a whopping 109 pounds, 6 ounces over three days. For the top spot in the tournament, Hackney beat out Terry Bolton, who weighed 105-8 and caught limits of more than 35 pounds on two of the three days. Hackney himself topped 30 pounds every day of the tournament, with his massive 39-11 catch coming on day two.
The story from that tournament is a wild ride through big-bass-catching history. For Hackney, it was a dream week:
“What a week!” Hackney said after the win. “This is just unbelievable. To end my 2008 season this way makes it all worth it. I’m so pumped right now I can’t even explain it.”
“I’ll remember this week as long as I live,” he added. “The thrill of setting the hook into every one of those bass and just wondering how big it was – 9 pounds? 10 pounds? 12 pounds? – I still get chills thinking about it.”
Hackney had to fish extremely slow to get it done, which isn’t really what you’d expect from someone so renowned for power fishing:
“The whole key was to keep that worm in constant contact with the bottom,” he said. “I never lifted my rod or raised it to swim the worm at all. I held my rod in one position and barely crept the worm along the bottom with the reel only. If the worm lifted off the bottom, they would not eat it; it had to be crawling on the bottom.”
The Falcon effect
Past Hackney in fifth, the next five biggest bags all came from Falcon as well:
6th – Richard Cathey – 39-1 – 2009 FLW Series Southwestern Division event
7th – Terry Bolton – 38-15 – 2008 East-West Fish-Off
8th – Joe Don Setina – 38-14 – 2009 FLW Series Southwestern Division event
9th – Michael Yoder – 38-4 – 2010 FLW Series Southwestern Division event
10th – Greg Hackney (again) – 37-11 – 2008 East-West Fish-Off
Obviously, the fact that Hackney made the top 10 twice is pretty incredible, but all the records accrued on Falcon in the late 2000s almost seem surreal. Falcon only produced four of the next 10 biggest bags (11 of the top 20), but its effect on the stats is outsized, especially when you consider that FLW has only been to Falcon seven times – once in 1995 and then six times from 2008 to 2010.
Matt Reed, a Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit angler who has been fishing and guiding on Falcon since 2007, can barely explain how good it was back in the day.
“From 2007 until the middle of 2012 it was unimaginable,” says Reed. “That’s when I started coming – in that 2007 range. It’s hard to describe. It was crazy. For five years we averaged 100 fish a day, with at least one 10-pounder every other day. Fifty-pound days happened a lot. The biggest day I ever had, I had five for 56 pounds.
“Probably the craziest thing I’ve ever done here – I don’t even expect people to believe it – is I caught 11 over 10 pounds in a day. That was in 2012, and it was the best I’ve ever seen. I’ve had customers catch a 10 and a 9 on the same crankbait. It’s just a special place.”
Reed says that the reservoir is incredibly productive even with low water, but that the key to the heyday was the reservoir staying at full pool in new growth on the bank. Now, the lake is about 40 feet below full pool (just 28 percent full). The fishing isn’t bad now (Reed has 30- and 40-pound days regularly), but it’s not the same level of amazing.
“Water is the cycle of life and death down here,” says Reed. “When the Bassmasters came in 2008 and exposed it, it got tons of pressure, and it had no effect. The habitat was just so good. The fish down here grow like crazy. A 3-year old can be 6 to 9 pounds. There’s no lake in the country that has the food supply this lake does. There’s a massive threadfin shad population and tons of tilapia. And a lot of great big crawfish; they’re massive. They’re a subspecies of their own.”
Reed says that the lake wouldn’t fish particularly good in low water for a big tournament, but it’s still capable of pretty out-of-this-world fishing. If the lake fills up again, he thinks the fishing would quickly return to the unheard-of heights from 2007 to 2012. So, if FLW ever heads to Falcon again, there’s a good chance at another assault on the record books.
An honorable mention
Because the West Coast deserves a little love, we had to include a phenomenal day from Cliff Perch. Coming in at 11th on the list of heaviest all-time limits, Perch dropped the hammer on the final day to secure a win in the 2009 FLW Series Western Division event held on world-renowned Clear Lake. The tournament was a slugfest, but Perch stole the show with a 37-8 limit to jump from third to a blowout win.
Perch summed it up nicely in the recap article:
“It was the most incredible day I’ve ever had. It was just stupid.”
Fishing a handful of offshore rock piles with a football jig, Perch built his super-sized limit throughout the day. By the end of the day, he was literally laughing out loud as he came in early. If you want to see it all go down, you can watch the entire TV show below.