Derek Mong has been on an astounding run at Toledo Bend in about the last month — his five best bass weighed-in at a hefty 47.23 pounds. And he’s doing all of his damage almost exclusively with a bait rarely - if ever - used on the reservoir.
The 36-year-old Many angler is using a $39.99 Jackall Gantarel swimbait that mimics bream to consistently fill up his livewell with lunkers – although he might need a bigger livewell for his efforts.
The five best bass Mong has taken on Toledo Bend waters with this new California-style swimbait since Oct. 30 weighed 10.51 pounds, 9.74 pounds, 9.14 pounds, 9.10 pounds and an 8.74-pounder.
That’s extreme weights for largemouths by anyone’s standards, and the 10.51-pounder taken on Saturday, Dec. 5 is his fourth listed in the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program.
“I have taken fish ranging from 1½ pounds all the way up to the 10.51-pounder,” Mong said. “But the lure seems pretty selective since most of the bass were in the 6- to 8-pound range.
“The big fish taken on the Jackall Gantarel RT Bluegill included three over 9, three over 8 and the 10.51-pounder. I’ve also taken nine or 10 bass on it weighing 5 to 6 pounds.”
Mong placed a picture of his first big bass taken on the bream-like swimbait on his Facebook page Oct. 30 with the lure dangling from the lunker’s jaws thinking it was just a fluke.
But once news got around of the huge fish Mong subsequently caught on the swimbait, Toledo Town and Tackle in Many started filling large orders for the lure, which hit the market early this year.
Mong has an extensive history of targeting areas between the Indian Mounds and Six Mile for big fish. His other three Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program trophies were taken on homemade jigs in those areas.
“The big fish in these locations are known to target bluegills,” Mong said. “At this time of the year when the gizzard shad go deeper, the bream will be shallower and that’s what these fish want.”
In matching the bait to tackle, Mong uses a heavy action, 7-foot-11-inch Fenwick Tech Elite rod with a Shimano Curado 200 Series reel spooled with 25-pound test Sunline fluorocarbon.
The big bream-like swimbait is 6 ¼ inches in length and weighs 2.5 ounces with two feathered treble hooks positioned on the bottom side of the lure. It’s a slow-sinking, segmented swimbait venturing from the top of the water column to about 3-foot depths, and it’s designed to swim in an S-like manner.
It has two swiveling line-tie rings: one on the top of its nose, the other below its lower jaw.
For now, Mong is tying the lure with an improved clinch knot on the top ring to allow the bait to swim in a slow-sink pattern above grasslines in 4 to 7 feet of water.
Admittedly, Mong knows that submerged grasslines are difficult to find now in Toledo Bend – but there are more appearing.
“I have changed up my presentation from a month ago when I was casting and swimming it faster, and started catching good fish,” Mong said. “Now I am using a slow, steady retrieve, pausing it five to eight seconds after seven to eight turns on the reel.
“That’s how I am catching bass in these colder water temperatures.”
When he first started in late October, Mong was getting seven to 10 bites a day when fishing the lure.
“Now getting five bites a day is working,” he said. “And the time or weather conditions don’t seem to be significant because I caught the bass weighing 9.74 pounds near midday, and the 10.51-pounder at 1:30 in the afternoon.”
The angler said a small flurry of action usually occurs in the early-morning.
“But I’ve taken bass from daylight until 3 p.m.,” he said.
The Jackall Gantarel RT Bluegill’s lower line-tie ring gives an angler the option to attach a small sinker, allowing the nose of the lure to settle on the nests of spawning females. Mong plans to experiment with the swimbait once the spawn begins in a few months.
“Also, it doesn’t seem to matter if the feathers eventually fall off the treble hooks,” he said. “I just kept on catching fish.”
A big believer in catching and releasing lunkers, Mong is hoping to break the Toledo Bend Lake record, or top the current Louisiana record of 15.97 pounds taken in Caney Lake by angler Greg Wiggins in February of 1994.
“I do know that fish that big, and even larger, swim in Toledo Bend Lake,” he said.
His passion for Toledo Bend’s monster bass is shared by his wife, Tammy, who also has taken an 11.24-pound behemoth.
The Jackall Gantarel swimbait can be ordered at Toledo Town and Tackle by calling Christina Sepulvado at 318-256-5613, or you can buy it online at Tackle Warehouse.