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Nothing But Winners

Everything smells like roses at Elite event on Falcon Lake

Nothing But Winners
Keith Combs led the big bass parade on Falcon Lake. (B.A.S.S. photo)

ZAPATA, Texas - Ordinarily, there's only one winner in a bass tournament. This one was different. The Rigid Industries Falcon Slam produced way more than its share of champions.

Not necessarily in order and not all inclusive, the winners were:

Falcon Lake, which has now hosted only two Bassmaster Elite Series events, and both were off the charts. It holds the meanest and biggest bass in the land, unquestionably, and produced 100-pound bags in both.

"These fish are so big and so mean, they will just flat out kick your butt," said rookie Josh Bertrand, who finished fourth with 99 pounds, 2 ounces.

Added Cliff Crochet (9th, 82-6), "You don't understand it until you get here."

Click image for Brutish Bass of Falcon

Keith Combs, the 37-year-old Huntington, Texas, pro needed a win to solidify his career in his third season on the Elite Series, and he led the tournament from wire to wire.

Combs recounted how he replied Monday morning to a question about whether he was intimidated while having legendary Rick Clunn trailing him by only one pound to start the day: "No," Combs said, "more humbled."

Combs fits the bill: No brag, just fact.

Rick Clunn, the 66-year-old Master of B.A.S.S, who pushed Combs to the limit. Clunn may have done more for his already-stellar reputation by finishing second than he would if he'd finished first.

Clunn was the most vocal supporter of the 12 finalists Sunday morning when B.A.S.S. made the decision to postpone Day Four of the tournament, after 40-mile-per-hour winds strafed the lake at dawn Sunday.

"I had a 90 percent chance to win this tournament, if we had fished today," Clunn said at the time. "If we fish tomorrow, I've got a 50 percent chance. But I still thought it would have been a poor choice to fish today.


"There's no easy way to run this lake (in high winds). I'm not running, but the rest of them are. Everybody knows I'm fishing a half-mile from (the Zapata County Public Boat Ramp takeoff site). Today I might have been the only guy who could fish his stuff.

"I just hope we can fish tomorrow. I know it gives everybody else a better chance to win it."

Monday afternoon, Combs confirmed Clunn's thoughts. Combs was fishing all week at the south end of Falcon, near the dam.

"That day off saved me," he said. "If I'd been exposed to those big winds, I don't think I could have gotten it done."

Fittingly, Clunn didn't go away empty-handed. He finished with 105-6, earning himself a coveted BASS heavyweight belt for breaking the century mark. (He did it with only 18 bass, falling two short of a limit Thursday.)

The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, which made the decision Sunday to postpone Day Four, not cancel the tournament after three days. It takes a lot of money to put this Elite Series show on the road. An extra day is big bucks.

But everyone benefited by the postponement, with the exception of the B.A.S.S. accounting department. It's not often anymore that you see a decision made anywhere in disregard to the bottom-line.

Last but not least, Clark Reehm, the 33-year-old Shreveport, La., resident, who forfeited his chances to move up in the standings Saturday by coming to the aid of Keith Combs. 

Combs had suffered a mechanical boat engine failure when Reehm came to his rescue that afternoon. It was perfectly legal, under B.A.S.S. rules, but not required, by any means.

As it turned out, Combs didn't need that 3-pounder he caught in the final hour from Reehm's boat, which filled his limit Saturday. Combs' final margin over Clunn was almost six pounds.

Reehm was happy Saturday despite finishing 50th. By making the top 5O cut in 27th place with a 30-pound bag Friday, Reehm had assured himself a $10,000 check, no matter what he placed the next day.

Most importantly, Reehm's example of sportsmanship might well influence the sport for years to come.

Five days, instead of four, on Falcon Lake: Nothing but winners.

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