Keith Combs — grassy reservoir
BAIT: Punch rig with creature bait
WHY: Imitates bream in grassbeds
WHERE: The thicker the grass, the better
Completely ignoring the more visible fall schooling activity, Elite veteran Keith Combs sets his sights on the unseen giants holding in thick, matted grassbeds inside major creek arms. His game plan may take time to develop and his numbers won’t be high, but the fish he yanks out of the salad are the ones he wants.
“I think a lot of the big ones that time of year are still around bream,” Combs said. “You’ll have big ones in open water, too, but that time of year, they get a lot tougher to catch because they’re very dialed in to the bait they’re feeding on. Those fish that are in the grass are easier to catch because they have cover around them and they can’t see you.
“Your average-size fish in the grass will be bigger because the forage I’m seeing that time of year is bluegill or big gizzard shad. So, the ones that are in there can eat big meals.”
Combs obliges these fall studs by offering a hefty punch rig comprising a 1- to 1 1/4-ounce Strike King Tour Grade Tungsten weight, a punch skirt and a Strike King Rage Bug with a 4/0 Strike King Hack Attack Heavy Cover Flipping hook on 65-pound Seaguar Smackdown braid. In the heaviest grass, he’ll switch to the slimmer Strike King Rage Craw, but with both, Combs employs a clever rigging tweak.
“I’ll peg my weight over the punch skirt, but I leave a very slight gap so the punch skirt can move up and down,” Combs said. “This allows it to rattle between the weight and the hook; it’s surprisingly loud. This creates a lot of noise when I’m yo-yoing the bait, and that often triggers bites.”
Noting this pattern’s requisite diligence, Combs adds, “You have to get in those areas and fish around. There may not be a rhyme or reason for where you get bites, but they tend to stay put, so there may be more than one in an area. You have to commit to this because you may not get bit for an hour, and then you might get three bites in one little area.”
Originally published in Bassmaster Magazine 2019.