Holy Toledo! ‘Bend’ has a different look

What a difference a couple of years can make.

That’s never more evident than what we’re seeing here at Toledo Bend this week.

The lake is about 7 feet higher than it was when Brent Chapman won here in 2012, and more importantly, the grass is far more prolific than it was back then. We’re seeing milfoil, hydrilla and peppergrass plus a lot of flooded bushes that developed during previous low water periods.

As good as Toledo has been over the years, that combination of new habitat bodes well for this fabulous lake.

I’ve said this before in this blog – a biologist once told me that an acre of water with vegetation can support 10 times more poundage of fish than an acre without it. While the grass is excellent habitat for bass, all species, including the forage, benefit.

I’ve even noticed a new type of grass growing around the shore that looks like the Kissimmee grass we see in Florida. The proliferation of that will provide a buffer for shorelines and reduce erosion.

Grass not only provides young bass a place to hide, but it also triggers more production of the lower end of the food chain which enhances young fish development.

All sport fish grow fast in Toledo, so look for this place to be incredible in a few years.

The grass also helps filter the water of siltation stirred by wind and rain. As a result, the lake is clearer this year.

We’re finding grass from the shore out to 20 feet of water. Of course, that gives the fish a lot of different places to be, especially now during the postspawn period.

We just came off a tournament at Table Rock where you could easily develop a pattern and fish the conditions. Places like Toledo Bend make it tougher because of the grass, and the fact that the fish are in many phases of the spring. While it’s heavy postspawn, there are still some fish bedding and yet early spawners are already moving toward deeper water.

To pattern fish here, you have to read the grass in the areas where you find a few bass. You have to figure out the type of grass they are using and the preferred depth zone. Sometimes it can be as simple as fishing one type of grass, but oftentimes it’s more a matter of finding where two different types of grass come together.

It’s been tough practicing all the different possibilities because of the winds we faced this week. There’s so much to look at on this huge lake, but the wind blew 25 mph out of the north the last two days so it made it difficult finding anything off shore.

Furthermore, the wind has really muddied up some areas that might have been productive, so you have to factor that in as well.

The wind is supposed to let up during competition, so I not only will be trying to catch fish on Thursday but I’ll continue to “practice,” hoping to expand on what I’ve found.

Tournament fishing is like a giant puzzle and the tougher pieces usually don’t come together until after competition begins.

That’s why an angler has to stay tough mentally, and, of course, remember that it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.