Cave Run Lake bass tournament about more than just fishing

Cave Run Lake bass tournament about more than just fishing
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 4:30 PM EDT
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ROWAN COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - Cave Run Lake in Rowan Co. may be known for its muskie fishing, but this weekend an annual bass tournament will take over the water there.

The tournament is not just any bass tournament. Sure there are bragging rights on the line, but it is the meaning behind the event that is about more than just fishing.

As the old saying goes, there is no such thing as a bad day when you are on the water. And from the moment his boat hits the water at Cave Run outside Morehead, there is no truer saying for Mike Combs, except he would maybe say there is no bad day when you are fishing.

“If they told me tomorrow I could never fish again, I don’t think I could live,” said Mike Combs.

Combs grew up on Cave Run Lake, and knows all 8,270 acres of it like the back of his hand.

“When everything is the worst I can come out here and forget it,” said Combs.

Like so many out here on this blue lagoon nestled in the mountains, fishing is what helps him leave his stress on the boat ramp. For Combs, there is nothing like having a rod and reel in hand and he even admits his wife is a better fisherman than he is.

Combs is not alone in his love of fishing Cave Run Lake.

“It gets in your blood, this stuff gets in your blood, it is like somebody golfing, somebody racing. Well, we like to fish, we like chasing these bass around,” said Steve Caudill.

Over the years fishing has helped the anglers that troll these waters forge a special friendship, so special that in 2009 Combs started the Friends of Cave Run Lake Bass tournament.

“It’s a fun tournament. It’s the biggest tournament on Cave Run Lake. Every year, soon I get this tournament done, my phone will start ringing wanting to know what day next year it’s going to be,” said Combs.

Its purpose is to remember good friends of the fishing community.

“It’s about our fallen friends, people we knew around the lake, “said Caudill.

But the tournament is also is a chance to raise money for college scholarships.

Education is something that is particularly important to Mike Combs. He comes from a long line of educators.

“It’s the everyday working man’s kids and we give one scholarship to each county and that’s Menifee, Bath, Rowan, Montgomery and Morgan,” said Combs.

Each scholarship is $1,000.

In 14 years, the tournament has raised $150,000, helping to hook countless students on furthering their education. Combs also has an endowment set up with Morehead State University for the scholarships.

“It just means so much to me that we can help five kids a year in this area,” said Combs.

But it is still a tournament with big money on the line and one Steve Caudill has been fortunate enough to win.

“Everybody wants to win this, not just the money, but it’s the bragging rights saying you won it,” said Caudill. So come June 3 and 4, 2023 Cave Run Lake will swell with boats, everyone looking for that big fish.

But what is not just a fish tale on this lake is how much this tournament means to the man who started it.

A man that hopes to fish this lake until he cannot, hoping he will have been the ultimate friend to Cave Run. “I just hope that when I leave here whenever it is that these guys will remember me,” said Combs.

Combs credits the tournament’s success to the help of Ralph Stokley of Stokley’s Marine and his sponsorship over the years.