If only the last bass Gerald Swindle caught had just inhaled, say, a big crawfish, he might have won the Bassmaster Elite Series title on Toledo Bend Reservoir in 2011.
But Swindle lost by 1 ounce to Dean Rojas. That heartbreaker for Swindle and joyous victory for Rojas marked only the second time in Elite Series history that a single ounce determined the winner. (John Crews over Skeet Reese in 2010 on the California Delta was the other 1-ounce nail-biter.)
And then in the 2012 Elite event on Toledo Bend, Brent Chapman shut out Marty Robinson, who trailed him by 1 pound, 6 ounces going into the final round. Chapman’s win propelled him toward taking that season’s Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
That’s the kind of drama that Toledo Bend has dished up both times the Elite Series has been to the Louisiana-Texas border fishery. There’s every chance for more of the same at the May 1-4 Evan Williams Bourbon Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend at Cypress Bend Park in Many, La.
So what is it about Toledo Bend that produces such tight weights and down-to-the-wire finishes?
Robinson’s take on that question: “Toledo Bend has a ton of bass, probably as many as any lake in the country. And it’s a huge lake, so you can catch them anywhere. You can fish your strengths. When everybody catches fish, the weights are going to be close.”
The easygoing Robinson was happy with his eventual third-place finish in 2012, as close as he’s come to an Elite trophy. But the memory of the lost opportunity still nibbles at him.
“I really thought I had a legitimate shot at winning that tournament,” he said. “That situation doesn’t come around often. This time? You never know what can happen.”
The first-of-May fishing conditions won’t match those of the June 7-10 Toledo Bend event of 2012, Robinson pointed out.
“I think a lot of the fish will still be scattered and in different phases of the spawn. I’m sure there’s still a lot of spawners; I’d guess about 30 percent of the fish are still spawning. I’m expecting some sight fishing bags to come in the first days,” he said.
“Hopefully they’ll get grouped up as the week goes on. (In 2012) the fish were grouped up in early summertime positions, with postspawners starting to feed up — my style of fishing,” Robinson said.
Robinson and the other 107 Elite pros are after a first prize of $100,000 and an instant qualification for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic. The pros are also competing for points that count toward a Classic entry and the 2014 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. Because the Toledo Bend event will be the fourth of eight in the regular 2014 season, points earned next week could set the course of the AOY race for the rest of the season. Only the Top 50 after eight events will advance to the season finale, the Sept. 18-21 AOY Championship in Michigan.
All activities of the Evan Williams Bourbon Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend will be at Cypress Bend Park (GPS help: 3463 Cypress Bend Drive, Many, LA 71449). Takeoffs will begin at 6:20 a.m. CT; weigh-ins will start at 3:15 p.m. CT.
Besides the competition, the event will feature the Bassmaster Elite Series Expo with demos, giveaways and products from the tour’s sponsors, food and merchandise vendors, a festival for kids, screening of the newest GeoBASS video from Costa, and a Jason Cassidy concert and fireworks after Saturday’s weigh-in.
There’s no admission charge for Bassmaster events, and free shuttles from parking areas will be provided.
The local hosts include the Sabine Parish Tourist Commission, Louisiana Office of Tourism, Sabine River Authority, Cypress Bend Resort, TanMar and other local businesses.
The Bassmasters on ESPN2 will feature the Toledo Bend event May 18 from 8 to 9 a.m. ET.