Remember that schoolin’ bass bonanza we enjoyed last summer on Toledo Bend? The long stretch of weeks when 2- to 4-pounders consistently came up and stayed up feeding voraciously on shad, pleasantly reminiscent of those heydays in the 1980s?
I believe conditions are right for a repeat this summer on this No. 1-rated lake (for the second straight year) for bass fishing by Bassmaster Magazine. If it happens again, that will be a welcome development in an otherwise up-and-down year — well, an unpredictable first five months, for sure — as far as bass fishing success.
Toledo Bend more than likely will be at or close to full pool for July after the heavy rainfall events of late April and May. Some gully-washers down the stretch of May brought the level to 171.65 as of May 24. Full pool is 172.
The July bite should be led by the schoolin’ bass action. With the water up so high (it’s in many bushes and cypress trees, especially up north) you should be able to get bit in 2- to 7-foot depths around peppergrass, lily pads and milfoil as long as the water temperature remains in the middle 70s to low 80s, and that could happen based on the mild late spring we’re having. Then there’s the offshore bite on deep structure. Making this productive is much easier with the aid of marine electronics. I’m getting ready for that now and soon will have my boat outfitted with the newest unit on the market.
We’re all hopeful we’ll see schooling bass. Conditions look ripe for it because of the high water. Soon massive balls of shad will migrate to the deep drains and the bass will follow the food, following the same route they took to go up and spawn in the spring. Look for drains 25- to 30-feet deep.
We killed them last year on Zara Spooks. Those marauding bass would chase those Spooks down until they inhaled one. Then the fun began! Any topwater can be effective, though, so tie on your favorite and enjoy. Catchin’ schooling bass could be as huge as it was last year, which would be great. It’s almost as good as the frog bite, which I’ll get into in a minute.
Schooling bass activity is best with no wind. The warmer the water gets, the closer to the surface the shad get. Anglers don’t have to get out at the crack of dawn... I usually set up about 8:30 a.m. or so and sit, wait and watch. Usually, most of the action happens at midday.
July’s going to be a good month for bassin’ on the lake. I really believe that. Toledo Bend’s still got its toads as three 10-plus pound bass were caught during the McDonald’s big bass event in May. From May 2016 to May 2017 there were 74 10-pound plus bass caught and entered in the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program, a 30 percent drop from the previous year when there were 131. Seventy-four still is pretty phenomenal. What other lake even has 74 10-pound plus bass to brag about in a year? The lucky anglers picked up their free replica bass on the last day of the McDonald’s tournament.
The early and late bite should be shallow in and around whatever underwater vegetation you can find, preferably peppergrass. It’ll be time, I hope, because it hasn’t happened consistently, if at all, yet, for some thrilling plastic frog fishing, including solid body and hollow body models. It’s no secret my favorites are Stanley Ribbits, Stanley Top Toads and Stanley Poppin’ Toads in watermelon, yellow and black. The floating plastic frogs can be deadly as you can pause them during the retrieve over a juicy looking spot.
Other artificial lures can be just as effective in and around the grass beds. Try ½-ounce chartreuse/white buzz baits, wacky worms and Senkos.
The grassy areas do get a lot of fishing pressure, which is why some bass anglers, myself included, might change the playbook and go after deep, structure-oriented bass with spoons, structure spoons, A-Rigs, Carolina rigs, deep-diving crank baits and football jigs in deep brushpiles and drains.
Crappie fishing has been fantastic and will stay that way, perhaps get better, in July. Crappie fishermen, especially the guides, have been getting their limits on small plastic grubs or tube jigs in pink/white and black/chartreuse, with the former being the most popular among anglers and crappie. Target brushpiles in 20- to 25-foot depths and fish vertically, jigging the artificial or natural bait up and down.
Be safe on the water and have a great Fourth of July, folks.
If you want to catch some schooling bass on topwaters, or hook ‘em on plastic frogs or other artificial lures in July, I’ve been guiding on this lake most of my life and you’re welcome in my boat. Give me a call at (936) 404-2688.