After finishing 2nd at Toledo Bend in 2014, I was excited to go back, especially since I knew that the record high water would have a sizeable number of fish up shallow. Nevertheless, I wasn’t quite prepared for how high the water would be and how much of it would be behind the bushes, which put a bunch of fish even shallower than I was prepared to go.
For the first few days of practice I tried to fish out in the 10 foot range and cover a lot of water with my heavy Lunker Lure jig. I got plenty of bites doing it, but the size wasn’t there. On top of that, it was windy and cloudy, so I didn’t know how the flipping fish would react when the weather changed for the better. With that in mind I spent some time out deep and I’m glad that I did because the offshore fish became an integral part of my tournament strategy.
The first day of the tournament was sunny, and I figured that would help me but it would also require some adjustments. I started on a couple of schools out deep in the 15 to 25 foot range, fishing a Lunker Lure Football Head Jig, a Rapala DT20 and a Strike King 10XD. On my third stop, I caught two 6 pounders in three casts and by 10 o’clock I had a limit that weighed 16 or 17 pounds in the livewell.
I stayed out deep until 11:30, but couldn’t upgrade, so that forced me to go shallow and it was a good thing that I did. I culled with two 4 pounders, and then culled once again with a 2 ½ pounder that brought me up to my first day’s weight of 21-14, which put me in 7th place overall.
The second day proved to be a tremendous challenge. Once again, I started on my deep fish, but the school was gone. Fortunately I found another school about a mile away and it produced four keepers, but no real size. I went shallow once again, and since I was in the last flight I would have more time to figure them out. I caught a 4 pounder once again, but despite the extra time I didn’t get nearly as many bites as I did the day before. My weight dropped to 13-01, and I fell 14 places. I was doing the right thing by bouncing from deep to shallow, but I just didn’t have enough areas with quality fish.
I easily made the cut to Saturday but when you’re fishing the best bass lake in the country on a weekend you know it’s going to be crowded. It seems like half of the population of Texas and Louisiana was out there watching and the other half was on the water fishing. They have every right to be out there, but you have to adjust your game plan accordingly. My failure to do so prevented me from winning the last time around. I was committed to fishing both deep and shallow, but I knew that once I fished a spot I probably wouldn’t be able to get on it again. When my best places didn’t pan out, I spent the rest of the day looking for new schools. I found the fish to do better, but I didn’t execute. One three pounder came off at the boat. Another time I had two fish on a single 10XD, but the larger one – a solid 4 pounder – came unbuttoned. Those fish wouldn’t have put me in the top twelve, but they would have moved me up quite a few places.
Looking back, I truly wish I’d had a few more places to fish. I simply ran out of backup areas. At the same time, Toledo Bend is such a huge impoundment that you have to be careful not to spread yourself out too thin in practice. I would’ve loved to have practiced in more areas, but in two and a half days it’s simply not possible to cover everything. My hat is off to KVD who found the right schools and managed his fish perfectly in the crowd.
My two key patterns at Toledo Bend were cranking and flipping. When I was offshore, I threw my deep diver on a Lew’s Custom Lite 7’11” medium heavy cranking stick paired with a Lew’s BB1 Pro (5.1:1 gear ratio). With that combo and the wind at my back, it was no problem to almost throw all of the line off my reel. When I went up shallow, I used a Lew’s Custom Lite extra-extra-heavy flipping stick and a Lew’s Super Duty Reel spooled with 50 lb. Gamma Torque braid. My only regret on the tackle front is that I couldn’t make the Whopper Plopper topwater work during practice. I had a feeling it would work, and it’s what Chris Lane used to produce a runner-up finish, but I just couldn’t get it to work for me.
Now we have a little break in the schedule and I’m participating in a photo shoot for Plano before heading up to Texoma. The season is more than halfway done and I have some ground to make up, but it’s not yet out of reach and I like the way that the rest of the schedule sets up.
32nd Place; 15 fish, 45-15