Combs Says Conroe Offers Options Inshore and Offshore

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Combs Says Conroe Offers Options Inshore and Offshore

By Pete Robbins

Last year’s Big Bass Tour event on Lake Conroe was one for the record books, with weigh-ins that featured three bass over 11 pounds and another trio over 10. It took an unheard-of 9.48 pounds to qualify for the overall top ten, and no top hourly finisher was under the 7-pound mark.

With this year’s Conroe tournament taking place on the same weekend, Huntington, Texas pro Keith Combs expects that the event will be every bit as strong and require the same high standards to take home the available cash. The biggest questions, he believes, are whether to fish shallow or deep, and up the lake or down near the dam.

“The fish will definitely be in a pre-spawn to spawn mode, even if it’s cold,” he said. “Those Conroe fish want to go up shallow as soon as possible. We’ve had a lot of rain and a lot of high water this year in Texas and the lake will be plenty full.”

With those fish moving up, anglers should have no time finding them in the button willows and flooded shoreline grass. Combs said that BBT competitors will get plenty of bites by gluing their pitching sticks to their hands and hitting obvious shallow cover with a green pumpkin red flake full-sized Strike King Game Hawg, lizard or Ocho. For those who find the fish to be aggressive and not buried in the heavy greenery, he’d suggest taking a Strike King KVD 4.0 Magnum Squarebill and covering water, looking to trigger aggressive bass. “It’s the real deal, the perfect size for Conroe.”

While those two techniques may prove to be the winning strategies, Combs is a master of the offshore game, and believes that the fish that are still “outside” will be both heavier and less-pressured.

“I believe the biggest fish will probably be caught throwing a crankbait or a Carolina Rig,” he said. “They’ll be sitting off staging areas – secondary points, main lake points, and riprap will be your best options. You won’t get as many bites, but that’s what I’d do for a big one.”

While the Carolina Rig might not be sexy, it’s a proven winner and he’d once again employ a green pumpkin red flake full-sized Game Hawg behind a 1-ounce sinker. “It’s a big profile and it catches big ones no matter what time of year,” he explained.

He’d also have two deep-diving crankbaits on his deck – a Strike King 5XD and 6XD.

“Those are staples,” he said. “The 5XD shines in that 8 to 12-foot range. It has a little bit wider wobble. It’s shorter in body size, rounder and fatter, and it’s a pretty aggressive bait. You can immediately feel the difference in the side-to-side action.” Other than its shallower diving depth, the only other limitation it has is that it won’t carry #2 trebles as well as its bigger brother.

Whether he’s cranking shallow or deep this time of year, Combs often puts away the Chartreuse/Blue and Sexy Shad patterns that have earned him so much money during other months. Instead he favors craw colors, including gaudy patterns like Chili Craw and Delta Red, but his absolute favorite “sleeper” is “DB Craw,” which is not quite as loud as the others, but seems to consistently trigger bigger-than-average bites, especially in the Lone Star State.

While big bass can be caught from one end of the lake to the other, and Combs might fish for a five -bass limit in the zone from Caney Creek up to the second jungle, he opined that “some of the biggest fish are down at the dam or near the dam.”

Of course, this is an event where a trophy-hunting mentality is critical. There were only a couple of hours last year where anything under 8 pounds was top dog, and then only by ounces. At the same time, there is also a huge element of strategy and need to pay attention to the Live Leaderboard. It’s not just a matter of weighing in a big fish, but also weighing in that big fish at the right time. Last year, during Friday’s 11am to 12pm scoring period, Brandon Sheridan brought in a 10.16-pound beast, probably assuming he’d be claiming the hourly prize, and then saw his dreams dashed when Michael Burks brought an 11.32-pound monster to the scale. In most other periods Sheridan would’ve come out on top, but not that one. Burks got a taste of that for sure the next afternoon when Langston Johnson weighed in an 11.92-pound beast.

The lesson? You can’t rest on your laurels or assume that you’re done for the weekend at any point. The fertility and superior genetics of Conroe’s fish mean that every angler is just a cast away at any time.