The sponsorship will include an exciting social media component called "Fishing Tip Friday" on Old Town's Facebook page, a monthly kayak bass fishing video series hosted by Combs. The series will cover everything from seasonal tactics to specific bass techniques for kayak anglers.
"Fishing from our Old Town Predator Pedal Drive PDLs is like being kids again. Jennifer and I explore new waters, catch fish, and get exercise all at the same time. It's a stress relief valve from the pressures of professional bass fishing... and we've fallen in love with it." - Keith Combs, BASS Elite Pro
So why would a bass pro choose to fish from a kayak? For exactly the same reasons all anglers are taking to the sport. To begin with, accessibility.
"My wife and I were tired of daydreaming about all the hard-to-access bass waters within 50 miles of our house. Some of these lakes you just can't get a big boat into, so I gravitated to the Old Town Predator PDL, which is made in the U.S. It's fast, quiet, and the pedal drive makes it super fishable from a standing or sitting position, even for a bigger guy like me," says Combs.
To kick off the relationship right, Old Town staff recently met with Combs near his home in Huntington, Texas, spending two days on the water exploring the kind of Texan big bass waters anglers only dream of... and sampling some world-class barbecue at the day's end.
Especially for us Yankees, it's hard to visit the Lone Star State without noticing all the spirited bumper stickers. "Everything's Bigger In Texas" originated as a reference to geographic enormity, but also describes the state's legendary bass fishing.
And then there's "Don't Mess With Texas," a slogan with origins in a 1986 anti-littering campaign; but in recent years, it's become a declaration of Texas pride that encompasses everything from the state's sports teams to barbecue... even political campaigns.
Better add Keith Combs to the do-not-trifle-with list, too.
The kind of gunslinger whose mere presence empties saloons, competitors know that no tournament is complete until the steely-eyed Texan hefts his bag onto the scale. Recent 2011 and 2013 Toyota Texas Big Bass Championship wins on Lake Conroe are proof of that.
While his impressive tournament history factors big with pundits and fantasy fishing folks, fans can relate to the School of Hard Knocks graduate. Loyal like an old dog to long-term sponsors and approachable by fans, Combs has time for everybody with a fishing question, especially up-and-comers.
It wasn't that long ago that Combs was just another kid with dreams to fish pro.
From his early years working full-time in a machine shop and fishing club tournaments to sleeping on a roll-out couch while guiding on Lake Amistad and Falcon, Combs has earned every career win the hard way.
"While I was guiding, I had a couch but no TV, and it remained that way for four years. It wasn't that I couldn't afford a TV - I just didn't want to have any distractions from tournament fishing. If I wasn't on the water, I was either working on tackle or studying for the next tournament. It was all that I wanted to do. I've always done it the hard way. That's the only way I know how to do it," says Combs.
Recently married and now sleeping in a proper bed, Combs says he's fishing more than ever, adding a new kind of "practicing" to his on-the-water regimen.
"A lot of times we keep it simple, just load up with a couple rods each, a small selection of tackle, and go. On bigger waters - or when bass are out deep - we attach Humminbird Helix 7 SI GPS GEN2 fish-finders to RAM mounts - but most of the time it's about sneaking into shallow cover and throwing a lot of spinnerbaits, just like I did when I was a kid. Pretty hard to beat fish blowing up on a spinnerbait!"
Along the way, he says kayak fishing has taught him a few things he may utilize on tour.
"You see a lot when you're that stealthy and close to the water. I can get up into some pretty tight places and watch how the fish behave. These are the kind of spots I'm trying to pitch or flip to from a big boat, but with the Predator PDL I'm practically on top of them, watching how the bass behave. Let's just say I've learned some things from that."
Although it's hard to turn off the tournament fishing part of his brain, he says he and Jennifer typically "fish for fun."
"Fact is, pro bass fishing is a job. It's a job I love, but there's a lot of pressure to do well and make a living. Some days Jennifer and I get competitive, but mostly it's about exploring new waters, catching some fish, and taking in the beauty of what's around us. And in Texas there's not shortage of that with all the birds and critters. I definitely see why this sport is taking off - fishing from a kayak lets you explore your own backyard in a way that's eye-opening, relaxing, and without a lot of expense."
And the Predator PDLs don't get put away when Keith's on tour.
"I do a lot of fishing when Keith's on the road," says Jennifer Combs. "I'll call up a girlfriend who likes to fish and we'll go explore a lake, get some exercise, and catch bass. We have our Predator PDLs on a Yakima Rack & Roll Trailer that's is easy to pull, load, and unload, even with my smaller vehicle. It couldn't be easier to go for fishing for a couple hours or the entire day. I love it."