A great week of fishing shallow points and pockets on the outer edges of the main lake at Toledo Bend couldn’t have come at a better time for Bassmaster Elite Series pro Cliff Crochet.
“I needed that big time,” Crochet said this morning from Lake Fork, Texas, east of Dallas, where he’s preparing for the invitation-only Toyota Texas Bass Classic later this week. “I needed points for the Classic, I needed a confidence boost and it was a home-state tournament.
“I definitely needed a good one. It happened at just the right place at just the right time.”
Crochet said he did most of his damage at Toledo Bend fishing in depths up to 6 feet in the mid-lake area, with a shallow-running crankbait, a hollow-bodied frog and punching in the grass with a Hunny Bunny black/blue flake creature bait.
“I was fishing the outer-edges of the points and little pockets,” he said. “There was a shiner spawn going on. I was right on the edge of the main lake and the main creeks. I wasn’t way back in the back.
“The pattern I ran was I was trying to catch post-spawn fish or spawning fish as they were either in the process of spawning, or catching them post-spawn moving out. So I concentrated on fishing the outside of spawning areas.”
One tactic that Crochet said played a big part in landing some key fish was using a 7 ½-foot fiberglass Falcon rod with the crankbait.
“Normally I throw all graphite Falcon rods, but last week I threw that crankbait on a fiberglass rod because those fish weren’t coming from heavy cover and I was reeling that crankbait really fast,” Crochet said. “And with big fish and hard hits, it was real forgiving.
“I wanted as much give as I could get to make sure I got a good hook-up on those fish. And I think that was a big deal.”
With the creature bait punching in the grass, Crochet said he used a Falcon Flipping Stick with 80-pound braid.
“For that I was using an ounce-and-a-half Reins tungsten weight,” he said. “I caught a couple key fish doing that.
"I didn’t really catch them doing one thing. I caught several fish a day on every little thing.”
Even though he finished up on Sunday in 12th place with only 9.8 pounds, Crochet, of Pierre Part, said he felt good as the anglers blasted off at 6:20 a.m.
“My mind was on catching a big bag and winning because of the lake,” he said. “On the Elite Series, we’ve seen 6- and 10-pound leads just disappear. So no lead is ever safe, especially on a place like Toledo Bend where they have so many 5- and 6-pounders, even 10- and 11-pounders.
“I knew I needed one of those perfect days. But I thought I really had a chance.”
Crochet fished the same way Sunday that he did the first three days, but just couldn’t get a big bite. He finished up the week with 65.7 pounds, good for a $10,500 check and valuable Angler of the Year points.
“On Day 1, I had an 8(-pounder) and a 5, and that set me up,” he said. “On Day 3, I had two 5s and a 4. That’s the kind you need.
“On Sunday, I had the same number of bites and the same pattern. The same everything, but no quality fish.”
Crochet was happy for a solid showing, especially in front of his home-state fans.
“I tell you this, Louisiana is pretty important to me. To have that home-state crowd, I mean, there was coonasses from south of I-10 and good old boys from Shreveport to Monroe and all in between, and they were all very nice.
“They were excited. That was pretty cool to see.”
He can’t accumulate any Angler of the Year points at the Texas event this week, but is focused on the remaining Bassmaster stops to solidify his ranking and secure another Classic appearance.
“I can still have a good season,” Crochet said. “The only problem is I’ve used my two mulligans.
“You can have two bad tournaments and still be alright if you fish strong. But if you have three bad ones, at that point mathematically it becomes an issue.”
Jacob Powroznik of Port Haywood, Va. won the Evan Williams Bourbon Bassmaster Elite stop at Toledo Bend with 79.12 pounds. For a complete look at the final standings, click here.