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Feast or Famine at Toledo Bend

Feast or Famine at Toledo Bend

It’s been nearly six years since the Toyota Series has been to Toledo Bend, but this week the Sabine River impoundment takes center stage to kick off the Southwestern Division season.

While the lake may be a little different than it was back in March of 2014, the similarity will be that Toledo Bend isn’t likely to give up giant bags easily. The lack of grass, lower water level and a recent cold snap are all going to add up and make the field earn their catches over the next three days. That being said, those same conditions could set up for one heck of a prespawn slugfest for the anglers willing to adjust and adapt each day of the event.  

Complete details

 

About the fishery

Toledo Bend is a legendary reservoir that straddles the border between Texas and Louisiana. It runs some 65 miles along the Sabine River, which runs north to south, and sprawls across about 185,000 acres at full pool. Though Toledo Bend has a number of major tributaries along its length, the bulk of the reservoir is its straight, wide-open main-lake span.

While Toledo Bend’s deepest water surpasses 100 feet and anglers frequently catch bass deeper than 20, it’s well-known for its shallow stump and timber fields that are home to some real giants. The fish benefit from Florida-strain genetics thanks to stocking programs and frequently surpass double-digits.

 

Current conditions

Recent years of high water – especially after last year – has left Toledo Bend fairly void of and grass to speak of at the moment. Add in that the lake is about 4 feet below the full pool of 172 feet and it makes for a tough shallow water recipe.

Last week in the Bassmaster College Series event on Toledo, Bethel University’s Cody Huff and Dakota Pierce took advantage of big bass chasing bait offshore to grab the win with 60-pounds, 7-ounces over three days. After driving home to Tennessee to drop Pierce off, Huff decided to come right back down and try his luck again this week.

“Right now on Toledo the water was starting to warm up last week and the water temperature was in the upper 50s – 58, 59,” says Huff. “But we got a hard cold front last week and I went out [Wednesday morning] and the water temp was 52, so the temperature has dropped big time. The bait was starting to pull up in the creeks, but now things are starting to change and everything is starting to pull back out to those wintering areas and I’ve had to fish deep to catch ‘em.”

The rumblings throughout practice hinted at the bite being tough, with the offshore game likely to be a key player. Huff proved that last week and local hammer Cody Pitt of Many, La., certainly believes it’ll go down offshore.

“It’s close,” Pitt says of the offshore bite being on the verge of busting wide open. “I’ve told everyone that’s asked me this week, I think everything’s behind two or three weeks. Reason I say that, I caught them really good last year at this time, but this year they aren’t on that same stuff yet. The fish are still scattered following bait.

“The shallow guys can catch some good ones, but they’re going to have to work for their bites. I feel like it’s probably going to be won offshore. Somebody is going to find some good bags of prespawners doing the right thing. But it’ll be won offshore, I’d put my check on it.”

While the offshore bite may be the deal, Pitt points out that the water level doesn’t make it any easier to find schools of fish hiding in the timber offshore.

“On this lake, the worst water level is 167 or 168 because all of the stumps are literally at the surface,” Pitt adds. “It makes it tough to idle and check stuff so you may just have to pull up and fish instead of scan it.”

 

Tactics in play

It should be a pretty straightforward approach to catching bass this week. While Huff leaned on a jigging spoon to win last week, expect to see plenty of crankbaits, umbrella rigs, Carolina rigs and football jigs from pros fishing hard spots, stumps and brush anywhere from 15 to 30 feet.

If the shallow bite happens to fire, or doesn’t receive as much pressure as it does in high-water years, a spinnerbait and square-bill crankbait could be hard to beat around the plentiful stumps lining the shallows of Toledo.

 

Critical factors

  • The wind – The vast expanse of Toledo can get nasty given a north or south wind. It can make navigation tough through the stump-laden flats, but it can also help fire the offshore bite. Too much wind can be tough, but just enough can get the bite rolling.
  • Timing – Like with any offshore bite, getting to the right spot at the right time is crucial. That certainly can be the case on Toledo Bend. Make the wrong decision and you can go from hero to zero in a hurry.
  • Lack of grass – Depending on who you ask, there is still enough grass to be found on Toledo to make things interesting and if somebody found enough of it they may be able to have it all to themselves. On the flip side, it also forces more fish to push offshore and in turn can add pressure to groups of fish that are easier to find.

 

Darold Gleason

Dock talk

Most of the anglers this week were left scratching their heads after practice. The fish seem to be in a bit of a funk, much like we saw last week in the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit season opener on Sam Rayburn. The difference being that there seems to be more fish concentrated on bait in the main lake. With stabilizing water, that could help anglers get off to a good start.

“From what I’ve seen, anything could change in next two or three days, but I think it’ll take at least 20 pounds a day,” says Pitt of a winning weight estimate. “Maybe 22 to 23 a day. And it could be way more than that though, because I know what this lake does this time of the year if everything gets right and I know it’s right there at it. If it happens it could be 28- to 30-pound bags.”

Local guide and Pro Circuit rookie Darold Gleason also has high hopes for this event.

“Wintertime at Toledo Bend can be outstanding, but it’s typically feast or famine,” says Gleason. “We’re going to see some really big weights – 25-pound limits and the possibility of a 10-pounder or two weighed in – but it can be really hard to get a lot of bites. The key to this tournament will be capitalizing on the opportunities that you get, because you might not get many.”

 “I think the three-day winner will probably end up right around 60 pounds,” Gleason says. “But, there haven’t been many tournaments here lately and the water is low, so the fish are pretty fresh. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see it take up to 70 pounds to win. It’s going to be a very fun tournament.”

 

Tournament details 

Format: All boaters and co-anglers will compete for two days. The top 10 boaters and co-anglers based on cumulative weight after two days of competition will advance to the third and final round, with the winner in each division determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.

Takeoff Time: 7:00 a.m. CT

Takeoff Location: Cypress Bend Park, 3462 Cypress Bend Drive, Many, La.

Weigh-In Time: 3:00 p.m. CT

Weigh-In Location: Cypress Bend Park

Complete details

Tags: kyle-wood  morning-story  2020-01-30-toledo-bend 

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