Hydrilla no-show sends Toledo Bend anglers to shoreline structures

Justin Blais, 14, of Forest Hill caught this tagged fish at Toledo Bend. He won money from the BassCashBash contest.

Stumps are starting to show as Toledo Bend falls below 170.0 feet as summer starts creeping across the big lake. Evaporation and lack of much rainfall is taking its toll.

Some lily pads are starting to show now. The heat’s showing up big time, too.

The no-show, for an umpteenth straight year, is hydrilla. At least, it isn’t covering as much, if any, of the lake like it has in the past, providing protection, shade and cooler water for baitfish and bass.

Oh, I’m seeing and hearing reports about hydrilla in 6 to 10-foot depths, some of it with milfoil mixed in, north to south along the lake, and also in Housen Bay and Six Mile Creek. The grass that’s been gone so long hasn’t even begun to approach its previous prevalence. But at least it’s coming back to some extent. But not enough to depend on for bass.

We all miss the hydrilla, for sure. The days of going out with only two or three fishing rods on the deck rigged with a jig or soft plastic to plunk and dunk, as we called dropping baits vertical, are done.

The answer

There is an answer, however, to catching bass without an abundance of grass in the dog days of summer. We don’t have the luxury of that particular environment, but we do have a rapidly growing amount of new structure — boathouses. And lots of them.

Marine construction around the lake has mushroomed. Those structures also offer shade, cooler water, protection and ambush points. Some of the boathouses are huge … if you’d board up the walls, they’d be big houses.

And you know what many of those structures, old and new, have in common? Brushpiles to attract crappie.

In July, Toledo Bend’s pool level was at 169.95 and we anticipate it will continue to fall. Average water temperatures have been in the middle to lower 80s, but should climb through the end of July into August.

Many successful bass anglers from weekenders to pros increasingly target boathouses across the country. It’s time to follow that pattern at Toledo Bend.

Don’t get me wrong. The first and last two hours of daylight can offer some sizzling bassin’ — longer if there’s heavy cloud cover — with topwaters and other low-light artificials.

Otherwise, utilize the cover we’ve got. Target boathouses and boat docks in 15-foot or less depths. I’d say 50 percent of the bass are on the bottom and 50 percent are suspended.

Take a page from Florida’s John Cox, who relies on his strength while fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series and Major League Fishing’s Tackle Warehouse Series. He is in the race for AOY on the Elite tour because he has consistently caught bass on jigs, soft plastics and bladed jigs in the first six tournaments “shallow” — 6-foot depths or less — before going to New York’s St. Lawrence River in July. Think about that.

Different approach

Fishing boathouses, of course, requires a different approach than punchin’ hydrilla for those 3 to 5 pounders. It’s a time to use 10 to 12-inch plastic worms in June bug/red, plum, red bug and plum apple. And it’s a time to crank deep-diving, shad-colored, chartreuse/white and chartreuse/blue/white colors. And try golden bream Delta Lures Thunder Jigs around all that structure at Toledo Bend. Skip those Thunder Jigs under docks and hold on.

Those long plastic worms, mostly in black/blue hues, should get more than their share of bass any time from sunset to sunrise because they provide bigger silhouettes. Night fishing will be a prime time opportunity for bassers to get a double-digit bass in their hands. Target points, ridges, dropoffs along drains and boathouses and boat docks.

If you fish at night, make sure you are clearly visible to other boaters and fishermen and follow all navigation laws.

Crappie fishing around sunken brushpiles in 22- to 25-foot depths can be fair to good during the day but improved at night, too.

I’ve been guiding on this lake most of my life. Give me a call at (936) 404-2688.

About John Dean 97 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.