Toledo Bend Battle Attracted A Crowd
When the normal 185,000 surface acres of Toledo Bend Reservoir shrunk considerably over an 18-month period, the local economy took a hit. The lake dropped to an all-time low of 159 feet above sea level late last year. Many of the boat ramps were unusable on the 65-mile-long reservoir that forms part of the Texas-Louisiana border. Local businesses dependent on angler tourism dollars dropped as well, as much as 30 percent, according to Linda Curtis-Sparks, director of the Sabine Parish Tourist Commission.
It started raining in January and the lake filled up to its "normal" level of 168 to 172 feet above sea level. (The lake was at 163.5 feet for the Elite Series event here in May 2011; it was 169 feet last weekend.)
Curtis-Sparks was as excited as Chapman on Sunday, after 16,650 people had come to Cypress Bend Park over the four-day tournament. The Day Three weigh-in was followed by a Brush Hog concert and a fireworks display, all of which attracted 6,700 visitors to the park on Saturday.
"It was the highlight event of any we've ever held at Toledo Bend," said Curtis-Sparks.
All the big bass caught over four days – topped by a 9-pound, 3-ounce largemouth that Terry Scroggins landed Saturday – and several incredible one-that-got-away stories from the Elite Series pros showcased an area that has long seen the value of a big-time bass fishery.
The local tourism commission has kept a list of the "top 100 lunkers on Toledo Bend Lake" since 1993. It presents replicas to anglers who release those lunkers back in the lake. The fish are tagged before going back, allowing verification of some double-digit bass that have been caught more than once.
In addition to drawing a crowd, this event provided an opportunity to further publicize the catch-and-release program. Topping the list, by the way, is a 15.33-pounder caught on June 30, 2000. No. 7 on the list – a 14.2-pounder – was caught-and-released in February 2012. If Elite Series anglers David Walker and Fred Roumbanis had landed the fish that left them speechless last Saturday, a new lake record might have been set.
For more on the program, check out the website here.