MANY, Louisiana – A half-century history on Toledo Bend Reservoir is punctuated with momentous moments.
There’s the first B.A.S.S. tournament held on the reservoir in 1970 that boasted a field that would become a Who’s Who of fishing greats. There’s the decision in 1989 to begin stocking Florida-strain fingerlings that eventually supplied the lake with championship-caliber catches. Then only a few years later, Cypress Bend Park and Resort were built and provided anglers from around the world attractive facilities to enjoy after trekking here for world-class bass.
Linda Curtis-Sparks grew up in tiny Sabine Parish, in the heart of Toledo Bend’s Lake Country. She witnessed the reservoir’s birth, and she’s helped manage its rise to destination fishery. And the impact she’s had on the success of the mammoth, 185,000-acre waterway cannot be understated.
Toledo Bend was an underutilized gem a couple decades ago, even as the fifth-largest body of water in the U.S. (when measured by surface area). But under Curtis-Sparks’ watch, it was named by Bassmaster Magazine as the nation’s best lake in both 2015 and 2016. The area regularly hosts tournaments for anglers of all abilities, and they collectively have funneled millions of dollars into the historically humble Sabine Parish.
Signs abound that business is good too, as new restaurants and office spaces have popped up on Louisiana Hwy. 6 that cuts across through “Toledo Town” and across the reservoir. Every parking lot of every gas station or motel in town has been filled during a week of college and high school tournaments with pickups trucks and bass boats, too.
Trophy bass are credited for the success here, and rightfully so. Curtis-Sparks, however, has without question helped pen this success story. She previously served as Director of both the Sabine Parish Chamber of Commerce and Sabine River Authority, the latter of which helps manage Toledo Bend. She held that job for 13 years before “retiring” to helm the Sabine Parish Tourist Commission.
After 13 years in that position, Curtis-Sparks is retiring soon, and it’s a bittersweet moment for her and many in the sport who know the role she’s played in growing one of America’s favorite lakes. She helped ready things to host the 2020 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series at Toledo Bend presented by Bass Pro Shops, but she’s handed off most of the work to other tourist commission staff.
“Toledo Bend has been a passion of mine for a long time,” she said by telephone from her office on Day 1 of the college series tournament. “I’m 72 now, and I’m transitioning out, training my staff to handle things. I could go down (to Cypress Bend Park), but my energy level and my balance aren’t what they used to be.
“But I’m always paying attention to what’s going on at Toledo Bend.”