Combs Says Conroe Will Provide a Big Bite
Published on 02-21-2023
By Pete Robbins
Imagine coming to the scales at a Big Bass Tour event with a 10 pounder and not cracking the top six. That’s what happened in 2018 at Lake Conroe, when three bass over 11 pounds and three more over 10 were weighed in.
Imagine catching a 14 pound fish in a tournament. That’s what happened in March of 2021, when Scott Stephens weighed in a 14.24 pound Toyota Share Lunker. The top prize of a boat and cash would’ve been good enough by itself. So too would have been catching the bass of a lifetime and getting rewarded for it by the state. Stephens, however, got all it all in one fell swoop, and beat his nearest competitor by well over 4 pounds.
That’s always the mystery at Conroe – is “big” truly “big enough”?
East Texas pro Keith Combs knows all about giant Lone Star State largemouths. He’s won hundred of thousands of dollars while staying close to home, including a record-setting three-day catch at Lake Fork. He’s won at Conroe, too, and while it’s not the biggest fishery he plies, he knows that it can produce the fish of a lifetime – or several of them – on any given day. That possibility is particularly pronounced in the spring. While February is known for lunkers, March, when the upcoming Big Bass Tour event will take place, offers more varied fishing options.
Combs is noted for his deep water offshore excellence, but at Conroe he’d spend some time up along the bank.
“One thing that I would definitely look for is any kind of shoreline grass,” he said. “There’s lots of manmade cover including seawalls and docks, but not so much bank grass. If you can find some of that in protected waters it’ll be key. Those are prime areas and there should be fish constantly coming and going.”
If a warming trend precedes the tournament, then he might go all-in on this strategy. “They spawn earlier there at Conroe than on most other lakes in the region,” he said. “We’ve had a fairly cool winter, but if that water temperature gets up near 60 degrees, I’d expect to see a lot of spawning activity. He’d start off by covering water with his favorite power fishing techniques like a 2.5-sized square bill crankbait, likely in some shade of red. “Big ones are caught that way this time of year every year.” In the thicker stuff, or if he locates some recalcitrant fish, he might look to a variety of soft plastics, typically I like black and blue, or flipping jigs the same color.
He'd also look for big girls outside of the major spawning areas, gravitating to riprap and shallow points that serve as transition zones. On the shallower side of things he’d likely use the same crankbait, but in deeper zones Combs likes a Carolina Rig for tempting giants.
Indeed, it should take a giant to claim the top prize for this event, or even some of the top hourly prizes. In 2021, when Stephens set the record, there were no other double digits caught, but there were two over 9 pounds brought to the scales. Last year there were three double digit and three over nine. Every year between 2017 and 2020, however, there were multiple double digit Texas largemouths that made an appearance. As noted, there were six of them in 2018 and four in 2017. You have to bring your “A Game” at many BBT tournaments, but this one is always something special – no big fish is safe to take top honors.
Top Berkley Lures for Lake Conroe
If you’re headed to the Big Bass Tour event on Lake Conroe the first weekend in March, there are tons of fishing options open to you – everything from dirt-shallow to deep, from laser-fast power fishing to deadsticking a soft stickbait. Here are five options from Berkley to get you started:
1) Your workhorse for covering water, everything from shallow flats to riprap to seawalls, should be a hard-charging square bill crankbait. Tie on a Berkley Squarebull in Ghost Red Craw or Special Red Craw, turn the trolling motor to high, and get cranking.
2) For plying deep structure in search of pre-spawn giants, nothing beats a Carolina Rigged Berkley Powerbait Power Lizard. Try Watermelon Red if it’s clear, and Pumpkin Chartreuse if the water has a little bit of stain.
3) If the shallow fish are spooky and need to be coerced to bite, a wacky rigged or Texas Rigged Maxscent The General Worm should be your workhorse. Green pumpkin and simple black get bit every day of the year.
4) Another option for covering water, particularly if there’s vegetation around, is the Berkley Powerbait Swim Jigs, in some sort of shad- or brim-imitating pattern.
5) Finally, if you’re targeting giants and giants only, the Powerbait Hollow Belly Swimbait catches magnums from shallow flats to the deepest points. Swim it, hop it, kill it, and use heavy Trilene 100% fluorocarbon to ensure you’ll get that double digit into the boat.
By Pete Robbins
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