Figuring out the reaction of bass after a cold front this week should be the primary goal for competitors in the Bassmaster Central Open set for March 5-7 on Toledo Bend Reservoir out of Many, La., the Central Open division's first event of the 2009 season.
At stake for the pros is a top prize of $45,000 and valuable points toward qualifying for the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series season and the 2010 Bassmaster Classic, set for Feb. 19-21 out of Birmingham, Ala.
Co-anglers will compete in the Opens for the top prize of a boat/motor package valued at $32,000. After Day Two, the field will be cut to the top 30 pros and co-anglers, who will advance to Saturday's final day of competition.
Toledo Bend, which runs 70 miles along the Texas-Louisiana border, has long been a popular location for BASS events, starting with the 1970 Toledo Bend Invitational. The fishery, impounded in 1967, has more than 181 acres of surface area.
In late winter and early spring, slow fishing with spinnerbaits, preferably in bright colors, and crankbaits are the popular strategy for working flats. If water levels are high enough to reach the shoreline bushes, flipping a jig to them often produces solid results — however, Toledo Bend right now is about 3 feet below its normal pool of 172 feet.
The most recent BASS tournament at the fishery, in the 2005 Bassmaster Weekend Series operated by American Bass Anglers, was won by Phil Hennigan of Central, Texas, with a one-day weight of 17 pounds, 8 ounces in May.
Kurt Dove of Del Rio, Texas, a 2008 Bassmaster Elite Series pro who'll compete on the Central Open circuit this season, believes it will take about 20 pounds a day to win this weekend's three-day competition.
"We had a cold front move through, and the key will be what kind of reaction we'll see from the fish. Are they going to hit the beds again or be sluggish?" said Dove, who is fishing Toledo Bend for the first time. "The fish were up and spawning before, now they've been knocked back. I expect them to come up again really strong."
Dove said he'll throw a Chatterbait and a Rat-L-Trap type bait and will be looking at pre-spawn fish as well as some spawning, mostly in shallow water to 10-feet deep. He added that some sight fishing will happen during the tournament, with less clarity in the upper portions of the lake.
"Sight fishing will be predominant in the lower portions, where there's more grass," Dove said. "But if we get wind, it can make things difficult.
Another huge factor will be navigation, and patience. This is the stumpiest place — and you have to stay in boat lanes everywhere. When you get out of those, it's just like the Red River, you're bouncing around on all this wood."
Dove, who has four top-15 finishes in BASS competition, said he thinks it will take about 30 pounds through two days to make the top-30 cut for Saturday.
Fans are invited to attend the Open's Thursday-Saturday takeoffs and weigh-ins at Cypress Bend Park, 3462 Cypress Bend Drive, Many, La. Anglers will launch their boats at 6:30 a.m. CT and the weigh-ins are scheduled to begin at 2:35 p.m. at the park. All activities are free and open to the public.
The next stop on the three-tournament Central Open circuit is the Sept. 3-5 event on Sam Rayburn Reservoir out of Jasper, Texas.