MANY, La. — Go bass fishing in February on Toledo Bend Reservoir and expect two things to happen. The spawning cycle will be underway, and the weather will be unpredictable.
Both factors played into the strategies of the top finishers at the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Opens tournament held last week. Pinpointing migratory bass and dealing with inclement weather was already enough to deal with for the 214 pros and their co-angler partners.
What else happened was a weather-canceled day falling in the middle of the three-day competition. Patterns that got started on the first day — and during practice — got put on hold. Starting over again on the final day was a given for many anglers on the fence for making a check. The water level was rising, and the temp was falling.
Darold Gleason mastered it all with a winning weight of 40 pounds, 2 ounces, that included an impressive final day sack weighing 25-3. Gleason, who runs South Toledo Bend Guide Service, called it his best ever tournament day.
Gleason camped out on a ridge topping out at 10 feet and surrounded by 24 feet of water. To prompt reaction strikes he used a crankbait and then switched to a Carolina Rig or jig when the action slowed.
“I used the crankbait to keep them honest, make the fish strike and get a reaction strike,” he explained. “It’s a technique I often use to locate and determine the mood of the bass.”
A fast retrieve gave the bass little time to think twice as the bait banged into bottom cover and sped across the ridge. He picked it up about every 20 minutes to fire up a reaction bite. When that action slowed, he switched to the jig and Carolina Rig. Buoyancy of the soft plastics mattered due to the potential for hang ups.
“I dragged it painfully slow to get the attention of any lethargic bass,” he added.
The jig was chosen based on a history of producing big bass bites during prespawn.
“It’s my go-to bait and I used the same presentation as the Carolina rig.”
Darold Gleason (40-2; 1st)
Strike King 6 XD crankbait, Powder Blue Black Chartreuse; Carolina-rigged 5-inch V&M Chopstick on a 4/0 hook with 1-ounce egg sinker; V&M The Flatline Pacemaker Football Jig with 3.5-inch V&M J Bug trailer.
Taku Ito (30-10; 2nd)
1/2-ounce Nories Lures Crystal S Spinnerbait, White Crystal. The blade bait was Ito’s top producer, landing nine of his keepers. He also used a 1/2-ounce Deps Flat Back Jig with 3.5-inch Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Craw for a trailer. A 5.5-inch Yamamoto Kut Tail Worm fished on a 3/16-ounce Neko rig was another choice.
Logan Latuso (30-0; 3rd)
3/8-ounce Delta Lures Spinnerbait, chartreuse/white, featuring double Colorado orange and gold blades; 3/8-ounce Delta Lures Redfish Thunder Jig with V&M J Bug trailer. Latuso focused on areas with warming water, fishing the lures around shallow wood and grass in the backs of creeks.
Terry Peacock (29-3; 4th)
1/2-ounce Strike King Hack Attack Jig with 4-inch V&M Cherry Bug.
Soshi Kataoka (28-11; 5th)
Jackall Break Blade, a bladed jig, was the top producer.