Toyota, in partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), continued its generous support of quality of life in Texas - through the fishing experience - with their sponsorship of the Eighth Annual Toyota Texas Bass Classic (TTBC) that returned to Lake Fork, near Quitman, Texas the weekend of May 8-11.
What a humdinger of a return it turned out to be as a world record was set by two-time winner and defending champion TTBC Champion Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas who boated a whopping 110 pounds of bass in this three day championship bass fishing tournament with its 5-bass/day limit.
At the media preview Thursday afternoon, the anglers had speculated on what the 15 bass catch weight would be to win the coveted title and its $150,000 cash and merchandise prize. The consensus was that it would likely be in the 80 pound range with some, including Combs, suggesting that it would take more than 100 pounds to win this year. When day one completed Friday evening, Combs had 42 pounds for the lead and the speculation started to move to an expectation. When day two weigh-ins were complete, Combs was at 75 pounds, 8 ounces and the spectator buzz began to wonder just how far over 100 pounds the winner might go.
Combs was not going to be denied as he won it all and, as it turned out, the second place winner – Stetson Blaylock of Benton, Ark – boated an also record breaking 102 lbs. 12 oz. The fishing was so good in beautiful 27,000 acre Lake Fork that the next five anglers all broke the record with catches of over 90 lbs. of bass for their three-day effort. The previous record of 83 pounds, 5 ounces for a 5-bass limit tournament was set in 2000 at a tournament in California.
Not only did Keith Combs win the overall 2014 TTBC Championship, but he also ran off with the Heavyweight Award for the largest catch in a single day (42 pounds on Friday) and the Big Bass Award for the largest catch – a very hefty 10 pound, 14 ounce fish also on Friday. Many veteran observers and some competitors in this event were heard to remark that Combs “is a machine” when it comes to finding the fish.
The TTBC – considered the world championship of bass fishing – brings together the 50 best bass anglers in the world for two days of qualifying with a cut to just ten for the Tundra Top Ten competition on Sunday. Top anglers invited included the top professionals from the PAA Tournament Series, Bassmaster Elite Series and the FLW Tour. The total group also included the four members of the Official Toyota Bass Fishing Team who all drive Toyota trucks (Tundra pickups) to tow their boats and equipment across the country from event to event.
Due to the generosity of Toyota and the other sponsors, this is a non-entry fee event and all anglers are guaranteed prize money whatever their final standing.
But the real winners are the people and youth of Texas who benefit from the extensive array of educational programs and fish conservation/management programs of the TPWD. All of the proceeds generated by the TTBC Foundation at this event are passed to the TPWD for the support of their activities. The contributions in the first seven years now exceed $2 million. All funds are used to support youth education and outreach programs including the Neighborhood Fishin’ program which selects and stocks lakes in urban areas affording city youth the opportunity to learn and experience the world of Texas bass fishing.
The Toyota Texas Bass Classic was founded eight years ago by a group that included Dan Friedkin (an avid fisherman) who just happens to be the owner of Gulf States Toyota, headquartered in Houston, which is the distributor for Toyota vehicles in Texas. Mr. Friedkin is very active in the TTBC and Texas fishing serving as the Chairman-Emeritus of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.