As anglers idled out to begin Day 1 of the St. Croix Bassmaster Open on Toledo Bend Thursday morning, the magic possibility of catching a giant on any cast was more than a dream, but instead a growing reality.
Toledo Bend tournament weights are the best they’ve been in five or six seasons, and the number of giant largemouth entered into the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass program currently stands at 51 giants for the 2022-23 season, more than double what it was two years ago.
The program is coordinated by the Toledo Bend Lake Association with the goal of encouraging anglers who catch a bass weighing 10-pounds or more to have it weighed at one of several certified locations around the lake, released alive back into Toledo Bend, and then be rewarded with a fiberglass replica of their trophy catch.
Bassmaster Open anglers Frank Williams, Darold Gleason and Teb Jones were asked how many bass over 10 pounds they guessed would be weighed-in the next three days, and their answers varied from one to seven.
Williams was the most optimistic, saying seven big ones would be brought in because lake levels are up, the spawn is on, and a wide range of shallow water habitat is accessible.
Highly likeable Toledo Bend resident, former Bassmaster Open Series champion, and current Bassmaster Elite angler, Darold Gleason was less hopeful than Williams. Gleason guesses just one lunker will be brought to the scales, and his longtime best friend Teb Jones pretty much agreed, guessing just two giants will come to the scales.
“The biggest baddest mommas in the lake tend to spawn first, and we are way past that time period in my mind. So, that makes those giants a lot less accessible up shallow this week in my opinion,” explains Gleason.
Water levels have been fairly stable in recent years, allowing healthy amounts of offshore hydrilla in 8-12 feet of water to prosper, and when that happens, the entire aquatic ecosystem generally flourishes.
“There’s no doubt Toledo Bend is the best it’s been in five years, but April is a bit of a wildcard month here. Fish can be doing a wide variety of things. That makes me a little nervous, but one thing’s for sure, the 225 anglers in this field can fish their strengths and still have a legit chance to catch a Toledo Bend Lunker on any cast,” smiles Gleason.
The numbers prove he’s not wrong. The question is how many we will see added to that growing list of 51 giants for the season as this event unfolds the next three days.