Spring has evolved into a crazy, mixed-up mess at Toledo Bend, starting with unseasonably cold water that stayed for nearly a month and rapidly rising water in the latter part of the spring.
Then, there was the sad development of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders in Louisiana and across the United States. The disease prompted orders for social distancing, but many have found solace and some good times bass-fishing on the lake.
Weather-wise, spring went south in a hurry with heavy rains greeting the arrival of April. Toledo Bend was at full pool the last day of March at 172.27. The highest this lake has ever been is 174. With the rainfall that’s predicted, we could easily see 173 or 174.
But all the mess didn’t prevent the big bass from hitting the scales. From mid-March until the end of the month, eight bass weighing 10 pounds or better, including an 11.84-pounder, have been caught and entered in the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program. That’s outstanding and something to brag about.
Water will inch higher and higher into and past the bushes. More and more bass will hightail it into the newly created shallow water, which can be frustrating. Still, the depth to target bass in May will be 5 feet or less, and you can probe the miles of underwater vegetation. That’s right. If somebody tells you there’s no underwater vegetation, they’re wrong. There is a lot of shoreline grass that grew while the lake was low that’s flooded now, and the fish are in it. More important, the drains are full of lush, green milfoil, and that’s encouraging, although it isn’t widespread.
I’ll fish that stuff so much in May with either a Ribbit or a Top Toad, mostly the latter. Why a Top Toad? I prefer hollow-bodied plastic frogs because I can stop one at a target, particularly when there’s a ton of cover along the shoreline you’re fishing, and you can pause it in a clear pocket.
Bass were trying to get on a plastic frog bite in early April. Imagine what it’s going to be like in a month. With the lake up and warmer, and bream moving in to spawn, they’ll still be shallow.
I think the cold water that stuck around so long pushed back spring bassing as we know it for at least three weeks, which means most bass haven’t hit the beach, as we say, to spawn.
Other topwaters can be just as effective, or even more effective, as Ribbits, Top Toads and buzzbaits. Try Chug Bugs, Zara Spooks and Yellow Magics, too. Color preferences are easy this time of year. I’ll use anything bone, green (chartreuse), white and black.
Don’t forget buzzbaits. I like ½-ounce models with a silver blade. White or chartreuse skirts work well, but to me, the killer on this lake is Stanley’s golden bream. That’s my first choice with moving baits of any kind, like spinnerbaits and bladed jigs.
Soft plastics in watermelon/red and green pumpkin/red will account for bass this month. Senkos, Flukes, wacky worms and Neko-rigged Senkos are solid this time of year.
The only other thing I’ll have on a rod on the deck of my boat is a Carolina-rigged soft plastic. I like a ¾- or 1-ounce weight with a 2½- to 3-foot leader. In shallower water, 2½ to 3½ feet, a ½-ounce will be fine because there are plenty of bass in that range.
White perch (crappie) fishing has been great early in spring, and it should stay good until sometime in May, when they’ll start exiting the shallows and moving toward the brushtops in 22- to 25-foot depths, where they can be caught in bunches.