MANY, La. — Half Louisiana and half Texas, Toledo Bend Reservoir is host to the fourth Bassmaster Elite Series event.
This 181,600-acre lake was on the Bassmaster Elite Series trail as recently as 2011 and 2012. Not only did the tournaments fall in different times of the year, but no angler finished in the Top 12 in both events. So this year, I expect no different. There will be some fan favorites, but for the most part it’s anyone’s tournament.
Brent Chapman notched a win in June 2012 with 83 pounds, 9 ounces, including a 25 1/2-pound stringer on Day 2 of the event.
In contrast to Chapman’s win, Dean Rojas sight fished and threw topwaters to take the win one year earlier in 2011.
This event should fall somewhere in the middle of the previous two events, in terms of where the fish will be positioned. In the April event, the fish were shallow and spawning, and in the June event they were well into their summer postspawn pattern. This time around, I imagine the large majority of the fish should be getting into their postspawn pattern.
The safe bets when it comes to Bucket A are two of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year leaders: Mark Davis and Aaron Martens.
Davis is on fire to start the season (Top 5 finishes in all three events thus far) and last year's AOY champion, Martens, has started this season better than any of his seasons previously.
Greg Hackney is also in this pool of anglers, and the Gonzalez, La., native is one of the closest anglers to this fishery, which may give him an upper hand. Plus, coming off a Top 12 at Table Rock and a strong start to the season may make the Hack Attack ready to take a victory of his own.
Who I’m taking: When it comes to sleepers and the dark horse picks, you can’t go wrong with Keith Combs. Combs has proved his ability of finding offshore schools and dissecting them with his crankbaits — and even big worms, if they come into play here.
Kevin VanDam also is in this group. After a slow start to the season, he bounced back at Table Rock, so expect him to be even hungrier after making his first Top 12 this season.
Who I’m taking: When it comes to fishing grass this season, Brett Hite has been one of the best there is. With wins on lakes like Lake Okeechobee (first stop on the FLW tour) and Lake Seminole (the Elite Series opener), Hite is having one of his best seasons of his career. I could see Hite finding some grass flats near deep water and doing well in this event.
Marty Robinson isn’t a name that pops up on everyone’s radar, but in the last two Elite Series events on Toledo Bend, Robinson has the highest average finish, 10.5). Marty “The Party” took home third in 2012 and 18th in 2011. This lake may just fish the way he likes.
Cliff Crochet, like Hackney, is fishing in his home state, so he is also one to consider.
Edwin Evers and Brandon Palaniuk both had productive Top 12 finishes at Table Rock Lake and may carry the momentum over.
Who I’m taking: Kelly Jordon is a good postspawn fisherman, and he is under the radar in terms of the group. Jordon might be a great buy-low value pick.
Ish Monroe is a high percentage pick for many Fantasy Fishing teams, and rightfully so. Monroe produced a Top 12 on Toledo Bend in 2011.
Tommy Biffle should bounce back from a rough start to the season and have a good showing on Toledo Bend.
Who I’m taking: Josh Bertrand started the season great, making the cut at Seminole and coming ounces from the St. Johns cut, but a 104th-place finish at Table Rock set him back in the AOY standings. I think Bertrand will power fish and make another cut and have a good finish.
Jonathon VanDam and Dennis Tietje are the two fan favorite picks in this group. Tietje is somewhat of a local, while JVD has struggled to start the season. One can imagine that JVD will right the ship soon. Why not this event?
Who I’m taking: Chris Zaldain is far down the AOY list, but the California native is known as a strong power fisherman. He will turn it around at Toledo Bend. It’s ‘win or go home’ for him because his Classic berth depends on an Elite Series victory.