With the Bassmaster Elite Series stopping at Toledo Bend this week, it seems like a great time to look at what makes the lake so special and so legendary for bass anglers. You won’t be surprised to know that there’s a lot to recommend Toledo Bend and that the pros all look forward to coming here.
For starters, of course, there’s the fishing. It’s great. It seems that it’s always been great, but I think it may be better right now than ever before … and that’s saying a lot.
Toledo Bend was impounded in the late 1960s and almost immediately B.A.S.S. began holding tournaments here. Within just a couple of years, everyone seemed to recognize Toledo Bend as the best bass lake in the country.
Fast forward almost 50 years and it’s still one of the best lakes in the country (No. 1 on the 2015 Bassmaster Top 100 list, in fact), but a lot has changed. In the early days, it was a numbers place. A skilled angler could come here and catch 100 bass a day.
Now you can still catch good numbers, but it also produces some giants. Last year 86 bass over 10 pounds were registered in the Toledo Bend Lunker Program run by Toledo Bend Lake Country. This year, that number is already at 139 and we’re only in the middle of May. I wouldn’t be surprised to a few double-digit largemouth brought to the Elite scales this week.
That kind of success doesn’t happen by accident. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries “get it.” They know what they’re doing and understand the impact and value of the resource they have here. Their stocking of Florida strain largemouth has really taken off and produced bigger bass here than ever before. As a result, the fishing is better, and Toledo Bend is a “hot” destination for anglers all over the country.
For another thing, there’s the size and variety of habitat you have at Toledo Bend. The lake covers 185,000 surface acres, and it has just about anything a bass angler might want to fish — timber, vegetation, channels, points, you name it. There aren’t many places you can visit that offer so much room to spread out and so many choices of how to fish. There’s really something for everyone here, and we can all fish our strengths. Humminbird LakeMaster has done a phenomenal job of mapping the lake. It’s visually stunning and can show us much more than we could ever see before.
Toledo Bend and nearby Sam Rayburn Reservoir were the proving grounds for many of the early stars of our sport. There was the “Hemphill Gang” (named for the Texas town) that consisted of top talent like Tommy Martin, Larry Nixon, Jon Hall, John Torian and others. Plus, there were just as many top pros who lived in other towns nearby and made big names for themselves — Harold Allen, Bo Dowden and lots more.
Toledo Bend provided the perfect training area because it’s so big and so varied. The area still produces great fishing talent for that reason.
I remember the first time I came here in the early ‘90s. I fished and stayed with 1974 Bassmaster Classic champ Tommy Martin, and we fished Rayburn and Toledo Bend. It was an education for me. Tommy taught me all about “Rayburn red” lipless crankbaits and Carolina rigging inside grass lines. We enjoyed some incredible fishing, and he really helped me a lot early in my career.
The Elite pros look forward to coming to Toledo Bend as soon as it shows up on the schedule, and it’s not just for the fishing. The community here is great, too. They love fishing and anglers, and they know how to have a good time.
Elite angler Dennis Tietje hosted a crawdad boil the other day and more are coming. When the Elite pros get together for one of these, they usually figure on 5 pounds of crawdads per person. I’m usually good for about 8 pounds, but for that first one I probably had 10 pounds. I enjoy them that much!
Practice was a challenge this week at Toledo Bend because we had a lot of wind coming out of the south. Wind from that direction is tough to escape. If it will change direction or lie down a little, the fishing should be really strong.
Remember, it’s all about the attitude!