A look at Toledo Bend 2024

And now for something completely different. That Monty Python catchphrase holds true for the Bassmaster Elite Series as the schedule doesn’t start in Florida for the first time in years. The Gamakatsu Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend kicks off the season this week from Many, La., and big bass and big bags are expected.
Toledo Bend, a 181,600-acre impoundment of the Sabine River on the Texas-Louisiana state line, is the fifth-largest manmade reservoir in the country. Toledo Bend has a long history with B.A.S.S. This will be the 19th pro-level Bassmaster tournament there and the fifth time the Elites have visited. After the 2016 Elite event, Bassmaster Magazine ranked Toledo Bend the No. 1 lake in the country.
Mike D. Bono won the first Bassmaster event there, the 1970 Toledo Bend Invitational. Subsequent champs include the likes of Larry Nixon, Roland Martin and Tommy Martin, and Kevin VanDam almost hit 100 pounds in winning the 2016 Elite. John Murray is the most recent Elite champ, taking the 2017 title after winning an Open there 13 years earlier.
Elite rookie Ben Milliken is among the favorites after winning last year’s three-day St. Croix Bassmaster Open with 77 pounds, 14 ounces. He was on pace to eclipse 100 pounds. That was in April, and many believe Century Club belts are an almost certainly for this prespawn event. Milliken recently predicted a winning weight of 116 pounds.
Toledo Bend guide Darold Gleason, who won the 2019 Open on his home lake, said he anticipates a big weight shootout. “I’d be more surprised if they didn’t break 100 pounds than if they did,” the Bassmaster Opens EQ angler said. “The fishery is just too good. This time of the year, our fish weigh more and are bigger than they will be all year. They are full prespawn.”
In Toledo Bend tournaments last year, there were several five-fish limits topping 40 pounds and numerous double-digit bass, including a lake record caught by Houston’s Bill Cook. Of the 53 Texas ShareLunker bass entered from Toledo Bend in 2023, 51 were double-digit fish.
The return of grass has been key. “The fish are good and healthy,” Gleason said. “We are starting to see some grass pop up in popular areas of the lake, and there are tons of baitfish and bream in there right now. Tournament weights have been really good. It should be one of the higher-weight events of the year.”
Gleason said he thinks the entire lake will be in play this week. “With it being such a big fishery and with it being in February, guys can literally fish to their strengths,” Gleason said. “Guys can catch them out deep with LiveScope, and there will also be lots of activity near the bank.”
Recent rains have stabilized the lake, which had been low. The forecast calls for daily highs in the 70s but winds is always key. North or South winds building on the lake have been known to make it difficult to reach some areas.
Gleason said anglers who can find the right area, whether deep or shallow, and have it to themselves, can be in for a bonanza. “I’m talking about 35-pound bags and stuff like that,” he said. “It is hard to find that special stuff, and you have to be fortunate to fish it effectively for several days in a row.”
The action gets under way at Cypress Bend Park, 3462 Cypress Bend Dr., in Many on Thursday. Daily takeoffs are set for 8 a.m. ET with weigh-ins at 4 p.m. ET. All B.A.S.S. events are free to attend. The 103 Elites fish two days, then the field is cut to the top 50 for Semifinal Saturday before the Top 10 battle on Championship Sunday for the $100,000 first prize.
Bassmaster LIVE returns for its 10th year and airs on Bassmaster.com all four days with weekend mornings on FS1. There are always good crowds at Toledo Bend weigh-ins, and this year the weekend “B.A.S.S. on the ’Bend” festival features live music and loads of vendors.
The season opener is always a great point of excitement for the anglers, fans and B.A.S.S. employees. There were daily and overall weight records set by Scott Martin in the St. Croix Bassmaster Open on Lake Okeechobee in the first pro event of the year, and big things could happen at Toledo Bend and the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at Lake Fork the following weekend.
Could Martin have started a record run? Lee Livesay busted into the top five five-fish limits in B.A.S.S. history with his 42-3 at Lake Fork in 2021, but it’s been 15 years since a single fish made the Top 10 heaviest. Mike Iaconelli has the latest entry, a 12-13 at Lake Amistad in 2009 that tied for fourth. An angler would need a 12-2 to make the top 10 list, and 14-10 would eclipse the No. 1 spot set by Mark Tyler at the California Delta in 1999. Let’s go!