Next stop: The Big Bend!

I’m looking down the road and I see one of the Bassmaster Elite Series events I’m most excited about – Toledo Bend, May 1-4. I’ve only fished this lake on the Louisiana-Texas border a couple of times, but I know its reputation for big numbers and big fish, so I’m really looking forward to fishing there.

I think the timing of this tournament could set up an interesting mix that might give us anglers the option of fishing shallow or deep. I’m hoping that when we get to Toledo Bend, there will be a few fish in their shallow postspawn mode. Others will be offshore in their summer patterns, but I believe that there will still be a few fish on beds, too.

This will make the lake fish big. Toledo Bend is a giant lake anyway, but if we have all these different options, it will allow us to spread out and find fish throughout the lake.

Events like this are fun for me. I always look forward to the challenge of finding fish, but this kind of diversity allows me to try a lot of different things and know that any of them might produce a big fish. From a fan standpoint, I think an event like Toledo Bend can be very entertaining because there’s likely to a lot of big stringers weighed in and several anglers are going to bring in giant bass.

Of course, we won’t know until we get there exactly how this all shapes up, but based on this general projection, this is how I might approach Toledo Bend:

On the bank, I’d flip any beds with a 3/8- to 1/2-ounce jig with either a Yum Craw Papi or Craw Chunk. For the fish that have moved out to the 4- to 10-foot zone, I might try flipping with a Yum Christie Critter, but one of the best postspawn baits you can throw is a topwater frog.

I like the Booyah Pad Crasher, and it’s a good way to bust up that ball of fry and get those guarding fish mad. I’ll throw this around cover like grass and wood. The frog’s a good choice when there’s a lot of stuff on the water because it’s weedless.

Two other baits that are also productive for the postspawn period are a One Knocker Zara Spook or a Pop-R. I’ll throw these hard baits mostly in open water and around points off the bank. I like the Spook in calmer conditions and the Pop-R when we get a little wind.

Once I’m near a piece of cover, I’ll slow my retrieve and then speed it back up as the lure pulls away. This looks almost like that bait is trying to get away. Most fish can’t handle that and they’ll eat it before they lose it.

The good thing with these three topwater baits is that I can cover a lot of water. I can use those baits to find fish and then come back and try different techniques. Those are my three staples for postspawn fishing. If I can’t catch them on one of those three baits, I’m not going to catch them.

I fish my topwaters on a 6-foot, 8-inch Jason Christie Falcon rod with Lews 6.4:1 BB1 Pro reel and 30-pound Sunline Braid. I can throw my bait a mile on braided line and that’s a big benefit if a fish breaks water far from the boat. I can reach that spot without running up on the fish.

Also, I can get a hook in a fish way out there. Even with treble hooks, you still have to sink those hooks and that braid allows me to do that.

The only downside of braid is that it’s often visible to fish. That’s why I use a 3- to 4-foot section of monofilament leader. Mono floats, so it won’t pull my bait down.

If the bank isn’t producing what I need, I’ll go offshore and throw a Bomber BD7 crankbait in 10-20 feet. Honestly, I’d rather catch the fish shallow, but in a tournament, you always want to be fishing where the fish are coming to and not leaving from. The scary thing about fishing the bank is that I know the fish are leaving me.

Either way, I’m going to have to make the right decisions because this is one lake where you really have to sack up the weight. Toledo Bend has a lot of big fish in it and 12 pounds is not that good. You’ll need close to 20 pounds a day to be competitive.

I’ll see if I can figure out where to find a big stringer every day. I’m excited. This is Toledo Bend, and I’m ready to go.