A tough 2020 on Toledo Bend approaches its end

Kinder resident Marcus Norris shows off one of three big bass he caught on a 3-day trip to Toledo Bend.

Water low, no grass, bass not acting right

This year’s just about gone, and I really ain’t sorry to see it go.

Virus and other issues aside, it’s been a tough year, overall, for bass fishing on Toledo Bend. The past 2 or 3 months have been extra frustrating, worrisome really, as we wonder what the heck is going on in a lake that, for the most part, has lost its vegetation, and where bass haven’t been where they were supposed to be. Take September and October, for example. 

I’ve never seen a fall like this, a time when the transition from deep water to shallow water should be in high throttle, and still so many people can’t find concentrations of bass offshore or in the shallows, despite the enormous number of shad that have moved shallower. Besides spring, this perhaps is traditionally the best season for bass fishing, and, sure enough, there are huge shad balls everywhere like they normally are — but disappointingly fewer connections on bass. 

Based on past experience — but who knows what’ll actually happen — December fishing should be fair to good, much better than it has been the past few months. I believe when the vegetation inexplicably disappeared, the results changed the where-to and how-to in most areas.

This December, bass ought to be pulling the trigger. I’m thinking they’ll finally go to where the baitfish are and take advantage of a chance to fatten up before the pre-prespawn. Mother Nature has to intervene sooner than later. Biologically, egg-carrying females have to start putting on fat and should start making significant signs of moving up.

Double-digit bass

When November arrived, Toledo Bend’s pool stage was 168.12. There are many “bare spots” showing now with the water so low, and vegetation is growing on them. And when the lake rises sometime before the end of the year, as I expect it will, that will offer some more habitat for bass.

A mild winter forecast is what I’ve been hearing, so I believe the water temperature probably will be in the mid-50s. I don’t think there will be any low to middle 40s, but you never know about Ol’ Man Winter.

Double-digit bass were few and far between in late summer and early fall. However, we should see more 8s, 9s and 10s in December, and even more in late January and February. I probably will spend 90% of my time in December trying to catch a double-digit bass. They’ve got to be showing some fat, and roe is growing in the females, a combination that ought to contribute to catching big bass when they put on their feed bag.


Finding baitfish is the key to catching bass. The first thing I would fish with is any kind of moving bait: a Thunder Jig, a swim jig, a plastic frog, a buzzbait, any kind of topwater bait or a suspending jerkbait. It’s also hard to beat ½- or ¾-ounce chrome/black Rat-L-Traps — something that makes noise and moves water to trigger a bite. 

I still remember one winter several years ago when the water temperature was 55 to 57 degrees. Myself and two bass anglers fished with suspending Rogues and caught numbers of bass in 5- to 7-foot depths. On two separate trips, we hooked and boated 30 to 35 bass averaging 2 pounds, but up to 4 pounds. That shows the effectiveness of moving baits.

And if that doesn’t work, get a drop-shot and try to find bass deep … but no guarantees.

Crappie fishing has been soooooo good for so long and doesn’t show any sign of slowing down. It’s been that way for 2 or 3 years now. Shiners and jigs are accounting for countless slabs up and down the lake. Most of them are suspended in 15- to 18-foot depths over brush piles in 25-foot depths.

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John Dean
About John Dean 61 Articles
John Dean has been guiding on Toledo Bend most of his life. If you’d like to join him on a trip, give him a call at (936) 404-2688.

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