Here's what Keith Combs had to say about the biggest tournament of the season, and how he felt leading in.
The 2020 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk is finally here, and the excitement in the air is palpable for all competitors.
Keith Combs, a Huntington, Texas native, is fishing the "Super Bowl" of bass fishing in his eighth all-time Classic appearance.
We caught up with him to talk about how he thought the weekend would go, and how he felt about his chances.
The windy forecast for Friday morning delivered rough conditions, but he kept a good perspective on the matter.
"Man, it's March in Alabama, it could be a lot worse," he said. "Practice hadn't been extremely good for me, so changing conditions are not gonna hurt my game plan. I don't have a set-in-stone thing I'm gonna go do, so I'll fish some new water and look at different things."
Combs has been a part of the pro tour for 12 years, so he's no stranger to Guntersville. But the fact that this time it's for all the marbles has to add some increased pressure, right?
Not so much, as the laidback Texan seemed unworried about the things he's unable to control.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "No script this time, just go try to win."
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The weathers been cold but it’s been a great week here at the Strike King Lure Company writers conference at Grosse Savanne Lodge. Despite the cold conditions, the fish were smokin’ a @strikekinglurecompany Tour Grade buzzbait! Special thanks to my friends at @grossesavanne for hosting us this week. I’m all tuned up and ready to go to the St. John’s River! #StrikeKing #FishShimano @fish_shimano_north_america
The fact that this milestone 50th Classic is being held on the famous Lake Guntersville, with festivities in B.A.S.S.'s birthplace of Birmingham, Alabama, didn't escape Combs.
"It's a huge sigh of relief the minute you know you've qualified for the Bassmaster Classic, because that's your goal all year long," Combs said. "For me, it's been my goal my whole life, so every one of these I make, it's a big thing. And I want to try and win it, but you've got to get here to win it."
How about his thoughts on Guntersville, specifically? Did he think the lake played to his strengths?
"When go to Hartwell and lakes like that, I feel like I'm a little out of my wheelhouse," said Combs. "But I hate missing one on a lake like Guntersville. You know, it's like some of the lakes that I grew up fishing in Texas, and of course you want to be part of milestone events. I'm proud to be here, and excited about the 50th."
When asked about the gear, tackle, and electronics he was excited about applying to the tournament, he was quick to mention one thing in particular.
"I'm running the Humminbird 360, and that's a tool right there, man," he said. "Once you have MEGA 360, you wonder how you ever caught one without it. I'm also throwing Shimano's new Metanium MGLs, and the ones that I have will be in my hand all day long."
Most of all, Keith's humbleness comes across any time you get a chance to talk with him, and it shined through when he was asked why a Bassmaster Classic fan should root for him.
"I like the fact that I've been in the game for a while now," he said. "I've always tried to do everything the right way. I practice hard, I work hard, and I put in long days, which a lot of these guys do. That's the norm out here, but I've kinda had that mentality my whole life. I think that's something that I look for in an individual. Who does it the right way and puts in the most work? And I try and do both those things."
Of course, winning the Bassmaster Classic would be more than a blessing, and it's easy to assume it would change the life of whatever participant took home the trophy. But Combs told us he really didn't think it would change him as a person, and there's little reason to doubt him.
"I've talked to some guys who've won it, and it changed everything they do," he said. "For me, I don't know that it would change that much. I'm pretty happy in what I'm doing. It's a goal that I've had my whole life, and you set those goals because you want to accomplish them. I haven't gotten that one done yet, so like I said, I don't think it would change me personally, but it's a goal and I want to get it done."
As a final thought, what did Keith Combs think it will take to walk away as the winer of the 50th Bassmaster Classic?
"It should take mid-60s, I don't think we'll see it exceed 70," he predicted.