LAKE FORK, Texas — Photo courtesy of BASS
After catching two bass in the 8-pound range by 10 a.m., Brandon Cobb was already having one of the best days of fishing he’s ever had.
Then the bite of a lifetime at 2 p.m. moved the day to the very top of his list.
The giant afternoon bass, which weighed 11 pounds, 1 ounce and ranked as his biggest ever, lifted Cobb’s five-bass limit for the day to 37-15.
Now, with a three-day total of 84-1, he will enter the final day of Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on Lake Fork with margin of 7-5 over his closest competition.
“I’ve never had a day like this before — not even close,” said Cobb, who recorded his first Bassmaster Elite Series victory in April on Lake Hartwell. “A 29-pound limit was my best ever until the other day (Thursday), when I caught 31-11. Now this is without a doubt the most amazing day I’ve ever had on the lake.”
Cobb went into the day with two-part game plan.
He expected to spend much of his time fishing shallow shellbeds away from the shoreline where bass have been feasting all week on spawning shad. Then he planned to fish shoreline cover where he’s been catching good numbers of solid bass, but nothing huge.
The shad-spawn bite paid off big time, as he caught an 8-8, an 8-13 and a 4-4 — all before noon. Then when he moved to the shoreline, he found something he wasn’t expecting.
“When I went to fish the bank, honestly, I expected to catch 3-pounders,” Cobb said. “That was my goal for the day — to catch big ones off the shad spawn and then fill a limit fishing the bank.
“But then, when I went to the bank, I caught an 11 and a 5.”
The 11-1 monster not only helped Cobb jump into the overall lead, it put him in first place for Toyota Tundra Big Bass of the Week. The prize for that award is a new Toyota Tundra truck.
Cobb was fishing a frog down a shoreline when he noticed the big bass sitting on a bed. He dropped his Power-Poles, believing the bass weighed 7 or 8 pounds.
Then he proceeded to pester the fish until it bit.
“It was one of those fish that looked like it was gonna bite every cast,” Cobb said. “Every cast I would make, it would kind of nose down and look at it. It took about 20 minutes to finally get it to eat. But with the way she was acting, I knew I could catch her.”
Cobb’s meteoric rise was aided in part by the struggles of Michigan pro Chad Pipkens. After catching 30-plus pounds the first two days and entering Day 3 with more than an 11-pound lead, Pipkens caught just four fish Sunday that weighed 5-8.
That allowed Cobb, Garrett Paquette (76-12), Brandon Card (73-4), Micah Frazier (70-13), Drew Cook (70-5) and Keith Combs (69-10) to all move past him in the standings. Pipkens will start Championship Monday in seventh place with 68-6.
After catching 28-12 Sunday, Paquette, a first-year Elite Series pro from Michigan, said he believes he’ll need at least 30 pounds — and maybe a little luck — to catch Cobb and win the $100,000 first-place prize.
“Brandon caught an 11-pounder and two 8-pounders today, and you can’t bank on doing that every day,” Paquette said. “So if I can catch 30 pounds, I’ll feel like I did everything I could have done.”
Unlike Cobb, who is spending much of his time shallow, Paquette is fishing offshore areas in about 10 feet of water — and with the way the bite has been working, he could create some last-hour drama Monday.
“It’s been really slow out there in the mornings,” he said. “It seems like the longer I can wait to get on my best stuff, the better it works out for me. About 2 o’clock (an hour before quitting time) seems like the best time.”
Card caught 25-11 Sunday, but he has even more ground — almost 11 pounds — to make up during the final round.
“I have a few key areas, and if you pull up on them at the right time, you can catch a lot of weight in a hurry,” Card said. “I’ll probably stay with the offshore stuff all day tomorrow and just see what happens.”
The tournament will conclude Monday with the Top 10 remaining anglers taking off at 7 a.m. CT from Sabine River Authority in Quitman. The weigh-in will be at the same site at 3 p.m.
All fish are being weighed on the water and immediately released, but each angler is allowed to bring to the “weigh-in” one bass that measures more than 24 inches.