When the Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend presented by Econo Lodge was announced on this year’s Elite Series schedule, a lot of us figured it would be a sight fishing derby. That’s because it takes place a month earlier than the Elite tournament at Toledo Bend last year.
Toledo’s bass were mostly postspawn then, and they were in the mood to munch topwater baits. Chris Lane finished second fishing topwaters almost exclusively. Kevin VanDam won by cranking offshore, but he also picked off some early morning bass on topwaters.
Sight fishing for spawners will be happening this time around. But given this year’s warm winter, I expect that the topwater bite for postspawners will be on again. During practice, I’ll be checking out four potential topwater patterns. I’m hoping at least one of them pays off, but it’s possible that all four could be in play.
Toledo Bend is 3 feet lower than it was last year, so there won’t be as much shallow cover to hold the bass. That includes the hay grass and cypress trees that produced last year. I believe that working a walking bait in open water over spawning flats and points near spawning areas could call up some heavyweights this year.
My bait for this pattern will be Yo-Zuri’s 3DB Pencil in the bone color. This walking bait has a weight transfer system so you can cast it a mile. That’s important, because covering water fast is crucial with this pattern. Once I get a bite or two, I’ll slow down and fish the area more thoroughly. The 3DB Pencil also has a single knocking sound that really ticks off the bass.
When I do come across a piece of cover in the shallows, I’ll switch to the Yo-Zuri 3DB Popper in the Holographic Ghost Shad pattern. The weight transfer system in this bait prevents it from tumbling so I can make pinpoint casts to targets. I’ll slow way down with the popper and walk it or pop it between pauses.
If the shad are spawning when we get to Toledo, I’ll tie on a white 3/8-ounce Lunker Lure type buzzbait. I’ll leave the skirt on and dress the hook with a Blue Pearl Silver Flake Yamamoto Swim Senko. I’ll trim this 5-inch boot tail bait down to fit the buzzbait.
I like a buzzbait for the shad spawn because the whole key with this pattern is to cover lots of water until you find shad that the bass are feeding on. Just because you’ve found spawning shad doesn’t mean that the bass are there.
I keep moving with a buzzbait until I find shad that are being hammered by active bass. I don’t slow down and concentrate on an area until I find this.
Shad like to spawn on hard cover, so I target marinas, individual boat docks and riprap banks. And, I purposely deflect my buzzbait against metal docks and rocks. I believe the noise sounds like a feeding bass and that this triggers them into action.
Once the bass leave their beds, the bluegill move into the same spawning areas to make their honeycomb clusters of nests. They usually spawn a little shallower than the bass, so their beds are easy to see. Bass like to hang around bluegill beds and pick off these panfish. This is another situation that lends itself to a topwater approach.
Because bluegill beds are typically in very thin and protected water, you need a subdued topwater bait that won’t alarm the bass. Yo-Zuri’s 3DB Prop bait in the realistic Bluegill pattern is perfect for this. It has a single polycarbonate tail prop that’s quieter than a metal prop. I work this bait with gentle twitches and pauses.
When I’m fishing bluegill beds, I keep my eyes open for spawning bass. I just might happen upon a heavy female that arrived late to the party.
I fish all of the Yo-Zuri topwaters I mentioned with a 7-foot, medium action Veritas 2.0 casting rod with an 8:1 gear ratio Abu Garcia Revo MGX reel and 40-pound Duel Hardcore Super 8 Braid.
For the buzzbait I use a 7-foot, medium-heavy Abu Garcia Veracity casting rod, the same reel and 20-pound Yo-Zuri Top Knot 100 percent fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon holds up better than braid around docks where the line often contacts cables and sharp metal edges.
If I can get those big ones to bite any of my topwater baits at Toledo, I will be one happy camper. There is nothing better than catching them on top!