Two Bassmaster Elite Series anglers will be keeping a close watch on the weigh-ins the next three days at Lay Lake, but for entirely different reasons. Keith Combs still has a chance to qualify for the 2021 Bassmaster Classic, but he needs help from someone in the Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open. Wes Logan, who is from Springville, Ala., is interested simply to see how well so many fellow Alabama anglers do on this Coosa River reservoir that he knows well.
Combs and Logan, respectively, are the first two Elite Series anglers outside the Classic cut line in the Angler of the Year standings. Combs has two scenarios that would put him in the Classic: 1) If an Elite Series angler who has already qualified for the Classic wins, like for instance Scott Canterbury, the Classic berth from this tournament would go down the Elite Series AOY list from 42 to 43, where Combs finished; 2) If an angler who has not fished the previous three Eastern Opens wins, the Classic berth again goes to the Elite Series AOY list and Combs.
Logan’s possibilities for a Classic qualification vanished in the last Central Open at Lake Lewisville, when Tommy Williams won, qualified for the Classic and kept Combs as the first man outside the Elite Series AOY cut. There is no scenario this week at Lay Lake that could help Logan get in the Classic.
Combs, the Huntington, Texas, pro, has qualified for eight Classics and won more than $1.2 million in B.A.S.S. events. He’d cherish a ninth Classic appearance, but he’s not optimistic about his chances.
“I’ll be anxiously watching the weigh-in every day,” Combs said. “I’d put my odds at very slim. Nobody can ever predict who is going to win one of these tournaments. It’s not something you want to be counting on.”
Combs had an up-and-down season on the Elite Series. He started hot – 28th at the St. Johns River and 14th at Lake Eufaula. He was still in decent shape until the fall transition swing of Guntersville (67th), Santee Cooper (60th) and Chickamauga (51st). Combs rallied at the end of the season, finishing second at Lake Fork. It left him one AOY point behind Shane LeHew for what is, now at least, the last Elite Series Classic spot.
“It was never about not being in the right area or not getting bites,” Combs said. “I had five events in a row where I hooked fish, and they came off. You just have to chalk it up. I’m glad I got to go into the offseason with a couple of good events. That really helps.”
In addition to the runnerup finish at Lake Fork, Combs also finished 11th in the last Central Open at Lake Lewisville.
Logan, the 26-year-old Elite Series rookie, had a season similar to Combs’, filled with lost fish nightmares.
“I can lay in bed and count lost fish that cost me from the St. Johns River to Lake Fork,” Logan said. “It’s the worst year of tournament fishing I’ve ever had.”
That doesn’t keep Logan from being interested to see what happens on Lay Lake this week.
“This is a true fall tournament, not one of those fall transition tournaments like we had at the end of the Elite Series,” he said. “I think the whole lake is going to be in play. You might see a 20-pound bag of spots. But I think a mixed bag (largemouth and spots) will win it and about 17 pounds a day should do it.”
As for who he’d pick if he had to bet on a winner, Logan said, “Scott Canterbury. He was winning tournaments on Lay Lake when I was still in kindergarten.”
And that would be very good news for Keith Combs.