The big-bass bite hit again at Toledo Bend on the Texas-Louisiana border, with three more double-digit largemouths qualifying for the Toledo Bend Lunker Program – and none of them were “just-barelys.”
Ronnie Bland of Burkeville, Texas, got the parade started on Wednesday, March 16, with an 11.5-monster caught out of Mill Creek while he was “trying out” a relatively new Garmin LiveScope.
Wayne Maxie of DeRidder, La., scored on Saturday morning, March 19, with a 10.85-pound bruiser from the Negreet area, and Daniel Clark of Singer checked in that afternoon with an 11.18-pound brute from Housen Creek.
Scoping her out
Bland, who retired to Toledo Bend almost 20 years ago, had a LiveScope installed on his bass boat about two months ago, and he’s been learning how to use it ever since, fishing a couple of hours most every day.
Practice certainly made perfect on March 16, when he pulled into a cove around 2:30 and scoped out a bunch of stumps in front of his boat. The stumps were in 20 to 25 feet of weather, and when he scanned them, he saw one big sonar return that he took to be a bass, several feet above the stump. He had a half-ounce Strike King spinnerbait with a single, willow-leaf blade tied on, and he chunked it next to the stump.
“I saw something off to the side of a stump and knew it was a fish, and I threw the spinnerbait past it,” Bland said. “It just came by at the same time the fish was there, and I saw this big flash on the screen, then I felt it.”
Fishing a 7-foot-3 Kistler rod and ABU Revo reel spooled with 20-pound Trilene Big Game, he got the big fish in the boat, put it in the livewell, sat down and drank a cup of coffee to settle down. He weighed the big fish on a set of portable scales, and the lunker showed out at 11 pounds, 1 ounce. He cranked up and ran to Fins & Feathers Resort, where the bass was officially weighed at 11.5 pounds, at 25½ inches long and 19½ inches in girth, a fantastic pre-spawn bass.
“It was just a beautiful fish,” said Bland. The fish was his third to qualify for the Toledo Bend Lunker program, the 21st of the 2021-22 season. Previously, he had fish that weighed 12.07 and 10.58 qualify for the program.
Fun fishing turns really fun
Wayne Maxie of DeRidder, La., hadn’t made a trip to Toledo Bend Reservoir this year before arriving on Friday, March 18. He was supposed to fish in a tournament the next morning, but he decided that not being familiar with conditions might put him at a big disadvantage.
“I decided I was just gonna get up and fish for fun,” he said.
Talk about fun. Maxie slept in a little, got on the water around 8 a.m., and two hours later, he was still waiting for his first bite.
“I was in the Negreet area, fishing the bank in about 4 feet of water,” he said. “I got my first bite on a (Zoom) Brush Hog, watermelon red, on a Carolina rig. I cast out and reeled up the slack, and she was on it, taking off. I set the hook, and I didn’t know what I had, but I was sure it was a big fish.”
Then, the fun began. Maxie was fishing by himself, so he tried to reach his landing net while keeping the fish under control.
“She came up, and I saw her, then she turned and went back down. She came up again and went back down,” he said. “When she came up the third time, I was ready. I grabbed the net and got her.”
“I weighed her on a set of scales I had, and they read 10-11. I went back to camp and met a guy at the boat house and weighed her on his scales, and she was 10-12. So I headed to Buckeye Landing and got her weighed.”
At Buckeye, Maxie’s fish tipped the scales at 10.85 pounds, or 10 pounds, 13 ounces, qualifying for the Toledo Bend Lunker Program as the 22nd bass of the 2021-22 season. The bass was 26½ inches long and 19¼ inches in girth.
“She was big and fat,” Maxie said, believing that the fish had yet to go on the spawning bed. “Her tail was a little colored but not torn up. I couldn’t see any beds that morning, but I saw a couple of bedding fish when I got back to fishing, and I caught a couple of keepers.”
Clark’s catch better late than never
Daniel Clark of Singer had the weekend of March 19-20 off, so he slept in. When he woke up at about 10 a.m., he asked his wife, Kaelin, if she wanted to go fishing at Toledo Bend, mentioning in passing a restaurant that might make a great stop for lunch.
She agreed, and the pair put their 2-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son in their car seats and headed to the Bend. They stopped at Fins & Feathers Resort so Clark could enter the BassCashBash, backed in the boat and headed to a spot in Housen Creek, near Hurricane Bay.
“The wind was bad, so I came back into Housen and got on a northern shoreline,” Clark said. “I caught a throwback, then two or three casts later, I had another bite, set the hook, and she came at me. I saw her when she came up and surfaced, and I said to my wife, ‘Oh, babe, get the net.’”
Talk about a Chinese fire drill. Kaelin Clark corralled the two kids and tried to keep them out of the line of fire and got the landing net as her husband just hung on and prayed the hook would hold in the mouth of a big bass.
“I was fishing a medium-action, 7-foot Falcon rod, and I had 10-pound test,” he said. “She ran 40 or 50 feet, pulling drag. She ran around the boat. My wife was jumping around, grabbing kids and getting them out of the way. The fish surfaced again, and we’re both panicking. I’m trying to do everything I can to keep the fish on. She did a full circle, jumped one more time and came at the boat. I told my wife to get ready and try to net her when she came up again. She came up, on her side, and she netted her and threw her into the boat.
“It got hectic for a couple of minutes.”
Clark hooked the fish at about 3:45. He put her in the livewell and dug out a set of hand scales he’d won at a tournament in February; they were still in the original package. He took off the wrapping material, got things working, and the fish weighed 11 pounds, 2 ounces.
“I’m still dreaming that this just happened,” said Clark, who immediately headed back to Fins & Feathers, where the 25-inch-long fish officially weighed 11.18 pounds (11-3) and became the 23rd fish of the 2021-22 season to qualify for the Toledo Bend Lunker Program.
“I’ve never had a fish mounted, and I told my wife, if I ever get one mounted, it will be a replica, because I don’t want to kill the fish,” he said. “I knew she was double-digit, but when I realized she was an extra pound, whew.”
Clark said he was fishing his way back into a cove, sitting in 5 or 6 feet of water, making long casts toward the back of the cove, a good 300 yards away.
“I was throwing a Texas-rigged, Senko-style worm, watermelon red, with a split shot about 12 to 18 inches above the hook – a poor man’s Carolina rig,” he said. “I was fishing a medium-action, 7-foot Falcon rod, and H2O Express reel and 10-pound Suffix Elite. I like that rod and light line.”