Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series profiling 2014 Elite Series locations.
Toledo Bend was birthed in the late 1960s, as was the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.). This massive 185,000-acre reservoir, which straddles the Texas-Louisiana border, was part of the fishing tsunami that made professional bass tournaments a reality.
The largest lake in the South and the fifth largest in the United States, Toledo Bend was initially a flooded forest. Largemouth bass thrived in this new environment and fishermen flocked to Toledo Bend from across the country to get in on the bonanza.
The reservoir was a proving ground for many future bass pros, including Bassmaster Classic champions Tommy Martin and Harold Allen. Four time Bassmaster Classic champion Rick Clunn competed in his very first tournament ever at Toledo Bend in 1969 as a member of a bass club in Pasadena, Texas.
“Toledo Bend was an inundated forest back then,” Clunn remembers. “You couldn’t go anywhere except by following creek channels and road beds through the trees.”
Clunn fished his initial tournament in a runabout powered by an 85-hp Evinrude. A small gas kicker on the boat’s transom served as his “trolling motor.”
My how things have changed.
Much of the standing timber at Toledo Bend has broken off since, leaving vast stump fields. Pros that stray from the numerous well-marked boat lanes during the Elite tournament will risk having their outboard’s lower unit ripped off.
Although Toledo Bend looks different today, Clunn believes its bass fishery is better than ever.
“The lake doesn’t have as many bass now, but the population is more balanced,” Clunn says. “There are still plenty of bass and more bigger fish.”
The abundance of bass that weigh over 8 pounds is largely due to the introduction of Florida strain largemouths. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Division has stocked Florida largemouth bass here annually since 1990 with the exception of 2006. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries also stocks Florida largemouths annually.
Major spawning activity will be over when the Elite pros compete at Toledo Bend in May, Clunn points out. The bass will be chasing shad and moving out on structure.