Louisiana, Texas anglers have arrived at a time when Toledo Bend is in her prime for delivering double-digit largemouths.
The very best months for catching Toledo Bend’s lunker bass have arrived. Already, in January, two great bass over 10 pounds were taken.
From now and into the early summer, Louisiana Sportsman readers will be treated to the stories of anglers who were successful in hooking, catching and landing these giants.
Both bass taken in January were entered into the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program under the auspices of the Toledo Bend Lake Association. The TBLA rewards anglers taking bass weighing at least 10 pounds free replica mounts when weighed at official weigh stations and released alive into the lake.
It is fitting that the first 2020 Toledo Bend Lunker Program bass, a 10.9-pound fish, was taken by a high-school student, Matthew Kahrs, a 17-year-old senior at Barbe High School in Lake Charles.
On Jan. 26, Kahrs and his 14-year-old brother, Christopher, were among 174 teams participating in the 2020 Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series event at Toledo Bend. On the boat with the brothers was their uncle, Mark Van Winkle, serving as boat captain.
“The weather was bad in the morning, so we stayed around fishing the Cypress Bend area,” said Matthew Kahrs. “After not getting bites, we went back to where we pre-fished before the tournament.”
The brothers were casting to all the stumps in an area near the Indian Mounds, fishing in 10 feet of water, at 11:40 a.m.
“I threw in between two stumps,” Kahrs said, “and it was there for a while because I was fishing slow after that front came in.”
Kahrs was fishing a watermelon candy, Zoom Baby Brush Hog, his line spooled on an Abu Garcia reel on a 7-foot, medium-action, 13 Fishing Fate Black rod.
“A fish hit it once, and my uncle and brother were ready to move up with the trolling motor, but the fish gave it a second hit,” Kahrs said. “I knew it was there, and I set the hook.”
The fish began immediately swimming toward the boat, and Kahrs said it felt small at first.
The big discovery
“Then it turned sideways and came out the water, and all you could see was the eye and the mouth,” he said.
Kahrs fought the fish for at least 45 seconds as it peeled off line against the drag.
“After it came up, it went deep almost to the bottom and moved to the back of the boat toward the motor as it pulled drag,” he said. “My uncle and brother were freaking.”
Christopher Kahrs had the net up and ready as the fish tried a few more tricks.
“After it went toward the motor, it came up a second time, and you could see the white on it,” he said. “Then it ran all the way up to the trolling motor.”
Matthew Kahrs described the situation as “scary close” — referring to the fish reaching the trolling motor.
As it came up the last time, Christopher Kahrs netted it.
“The net my uncle uses is a decent-size net,” he said. “When I finally got it in the net, its tail lay on one side of the bar and its head on the other.”
Matthew Kahrs said that once the fish was out the net and unhooked, it went directly to the livewell.
Ten minutes later, the giant bass was retrieved, and a few photos were taken.
“We stayed in the same area all day, finally caught a keeper, and I switched up to a candy Brush Hog,” Christopher Kahrs said.
“Our last keeper was taken about 1:45 p.m., and we left the area at 3 and motored back to Cypress Bend for the weigh-in.”
The brothers ended up with three bass weighing 15.6 pounds for a second-place finish in the tournament.
Matthew Kahrs’ lunker weighed 10.9 pounds and was admittedly his largest bass ever taken.
Stephen Johnston of Hemphill, Texas, was one of more than 120 anglers fishing the 2020 FLW Toyota Series event Jan. 30-Feb. 2 on Toledo Bend.
Johnson, 49, had a tremendous first day, when he scored on his third lunker that made the list for the the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program.
“It was actually the very first day taking my new boat, a Vexus, out on the lake,” said Johnston, who guides on Toledo Bend. “I didn’t know what to expect, and then I catch this huge fish.
“After launching from Cypress Bend, I quickly ran to the south end of the lake and caught a quick limit of fish at 12 to 13 pounds.”
Throughout the morning, he culled and upgraded his weight until about 12:30 p.m., when the double-digit lunker hit.
What he used
Johnston was fishing a Strike King Game Hog in Bama bug color on a Carolina rig with 20-pound Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon spooled to a Shimano Metanium baitcaster attached to a 7-foot-5 NRX G. Loomis Stick. He was fishing a spawning pocket in 7 feet of water.
“When she bit, I leaned on the fish and knew immediately it was not a 2-pounder,” he said. “She made a run through some timber, then came out back to the boat, and I netted her.
“I have taken many over 10 pounds before and knew always to be ready,” he said. “The co-angler was more excited than I was,”
At the weigh-in later that afternoon, Johnston’s lunker weighed 10.7 pounds. It anchored a first-day bag of 23.8 pounds.
At the end of the tournament, Johnston’s 4-day weight was 49.7 pounds; he finished fourth overall.
Johnston can be reached for guided fishing trips on Toledo Bend at 409-579-4213 or www.johnstonfishing.com.