TTBC PREVIEW: LAKE CONROE
Photos by Matt Pangrac - Lefebre photo courtesy of FLW Outdoors Communications
Conroe, TX – The Toyota Texas Bass Classic featuring the top 15 anglers from the 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series, 2012 FLW Tour, and 2012 PAA Tournament Series kicks off Friday morning on Texas’ Lake Conroe. The tournament winner will take home the $150,000 top prize and the title of TTBC Champion.
Last year’s TTBC on Lake Conroe turned into an instant classic when Texas’ Keith Combs and New Jersey’s Mike Iaconelli finished the third and final day of competition in a tie for the lead with an impressive weight of 76-12. Both anglers returned to Conroe for a sudden death fish-off. Less than an hour into the fish-off, Combs boated a 15-inch largemouth and was crowned TTBC Champion.
There are two key differences this year. Last year’s tournament concluded on the first day of November, and as Texas’ Harold Allen stated, “The fish were more congregated and definitely on a pattern.” With the tournament kicking off in September this time around, the anglers that The BASS ZONE spoke with after three days of practice all said that the bites are much more scattered.
“It’s September, and for some reason, September and bass fishing just really don’t get along – they never have and I just don’t know why,” stated David Walker.
The second difference is water level. In 2011, low water levels all but took the shallow dock bite out of play. This year, there is some water under the docks but it’s still ultra shallow. “I think that the water is just high enough to keep people interested in fishing shallow,” said 2009 TTBC Champion Dave Lefebre.
The entire 50 boat field, which also includes four sponsor exemptions and the defending TTBC Champion, will fish or two full days on Conroe and the field will be cut to the Top 10 remaining anglers on Sunday.
Here’s what some of the competitors had to say about practice after three days on Lake Conroe:
“We’ve had a different water level each of the last three times that we’ve been here, and that’s what we are dealing with again this year. The water was extremely low last year and the year before that it was full.
“It’s sort of an awkward water level, because the docks are in the water but they’re not really deep in the water. They’re sort of a factor because there are some that are useable but most of them are still too shallow.
“We are also here a little bit earlier that we normally are. It’s September, and for some reason, September and bass fishing just really don’t get along – they never have and I just don’t know way. It’s kind of an end of summer pattern and it’s really tough.
“You’re liable to catch one deep and then catch the next one extremely shallow. It’s tough to get two bites doing the same thing, though. I keep pulling more rods out and I have as much confidence in any one of them. You just have to deal with it and fish what’s available.
“The good news is that the lake is fishing bigger. You can fish shallow or deep, so it’s not a deal where everyone is targeting the exact same fish.
“Catching a big stringer is definitely a possibility here, so I’d expect to see one or two this year. The problem will be duplicating it for several days. Right now, the guy to beat has to be Keith Combs. He knows this lake well enough that he has enough places to run to.
“I’ve fished the TTBC every year since it’s started, and I really like this tournament. You get to fish against some of the guys that you haven’t seen in a while and it’s not your typical bass tournament.”
“The water is a lot higher than it was last year but it’s also a lot lower than it has been in the past. It’s interesting because it makes the lake different every time that we come. I’d prefer the water level to be a little bit higher.
“There are a lot more targets in the water this year, but I think that the water is just high enough to keep people interested in fishing shallow. I think that this thing is going to be won with an offshore pattern.
“If you’re just junk fishing, you’re really going to have to work at catching a limit. When you combine the fact that it’s such a small lake and we have three full practice days and a pro-am tournament on Thursday, the lake is getting hammered.
“I don’t really know if you can catch multiple fish off of a single place because I haven’t tried that yet. It’s definitely tougher for me than it has been in past years.
“I’ve seen some fish bust baitfish, but I’ve not seen any big ones at all. The water is falling every day, so I feel like more fish will be pulling out. There’s a good chance that somebody like (Keith) Combs could repeat or someone who spent their entire practice out deep could really get on them. I don’t want to say that it’s not going to be like last year because the water is certainly dropping.
"The pro-am on Thursday is usually a pretty good prelude as to what will happen in the actual tournament. The last three years we’ve been able to look at the pro-am weights and see if the TTBC will be an absolute slugfest or if it’s going to be tough.”
“It’s a ton different than in the past and completely different than last year as far as I can tell. Last year, the water was lower and it was later in the year. The fish were more congregated and definitely on a pattern.
“From what I can tell, it’s helter skelter this year. You can get a bite doing something and then go two hours trying to duplicate it. I can’t get a rhyme or reason for each bite.
“After three days of practice, I only have one spot where I’ve gotten more than one bite. Everything else is one here and one there. I’ve fished from 20 feet deep all the way to the bank. I just can’t get a consistent bite in any one area.
“This tournament will be won in one of two ways. Either someone is going to find a little unique deal or somebody is just going to get really lucky. These fish are notorious for being there in a giant wad if you pull up at the right time. If you’re 30 minutes early or 30 minutes late, you won’t even get a bite.
“This is a phenomenal tournament. I haven’t fished against a field this small for $150,000 in a long time. I’m really honored to be here. I’m a little concerned that I can’t get something figured out on these fish. Friday looks like it’s going to be the fourth day of practice for me.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if someone catches 20 pounds a day, because the big ones live here in Conroe. If you stick a seven pounder and have four little dinks to go along with it, you’re already pushing 20 pounds. At the same time, if you only have five little ones, you’re right around 11 or 12 pounds. I hate to say it, but I think that luck is going to be a big deal in this thing.”