Try fishing Toledo Bend after the sun goes down, and you might never go out during the day again.
The towering thunderheads to the south were beginning to intermittently glow a dazzling bright orange color reminiscent of a carpet of bombs exploding in the wake of a passing B-52 Bomber.
A hot wind began to blow from the south only adding to the irrepressible feeling of an impending storm. The outflow clouds racing north began shrouding the waning moon that had been quickly rising over the Louisiana side of Toledo Bend.
It was a scene that Toledo Bend night fishing veteran Dennis Tietje had seen time and time again, so I understood why he was hesitant to call it a night.
“You can see for so many miles in any direction out here that you could be looking at a storm that’s 50 miles away and moving in the opposite direction,” he stated. “Hopefully we can wait it out for a while because the best bite is still a couple of hours away. That storm will let us know when it’s time to go.”
Tietje made another cast with his Texas-rigged worm as he completed his statement and started hopping it over the saddle we were fishing on a ridge that extended far out into the lake before it quickly dropped off into the main river channel.
It sounded like he set the hook, but I wasn’t sure because I could just barely make him out at the front of his boat. His line started singing that tell-tale tune it makes under the strain of a heavy bass, and I knew he had finally found a bass worthy of Toledo Bend’s hefty night-fishing reputation.
“I’m glad we waited it out,” he said as he hauled a 5-pound fish over the side of his boat.
This spot surrendered two 9-pound bass to Tietje last summer, and while this fish was 4 pounds shy of that mark, it was nonetheless a fantastic representation of what bass anglers can expect when they go night fishing at Toledo Bend.
Tietje has been fishing Toledo Bend long enough to know that the lake offers some of the hottest summer fishing in Louisiana during daylight hours, and he’s also been out enough at night to know that several anglers also realize the lake’s potential.
“Even though there are a lot of people out at night when word gets out that they’re biting I’m surprised at how many parked boats I pass on my way to the lake after the sun goes down,” says Tietje. “Either they don’t know the fish are biting, they know but don’t realize the size fish they can catch or they figure they’ve got better things to do at night. Any way it goes, they don’t know what they’re missing because as good as Toledo Bend is during the day it can be twice as good at night.”
Tietje has found that the best time to night fish Toledo Bend is right now. He admits that June and July can be pretty good, but adamantly claims that August is better.
“I think the hotter it gets the better the night fishing gets on the Bend,” he said. “And the hot night fishing runs right on into September, then it starts tailing off as we move on into October.”
One of the reasons Tietje believes August is such a prime month is that the bass have moved off the flats and have ganged up on the deep drops.
“The hotter it gets the more of them will move out there,” he explained. “And when they finally get settled out there, that’s when the night fishing starts to heat up.”
If you asked 10 veteran night anglers whether they prefer a moonlit night or a moonless night, you’d probably get five aligning on each side, but Tietje wholeheartedly believes that the night preceding and just after the full moon make for the best night fishing.
“Two or three days before the full moon to two or three days after the full moon seem to be best,” he says. “It’s been my experience that the light from the moon makes them feed a little better.”
During the nights leading up to the full moon, Tietje says the bass feed heavily during the last hour before dark up to about 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. Flip over to the other side of the moon, however, and the bass tend to bite best from about midnight on to daybreak.
“I believe this timing is just a matter of the bass using the light of the moon to their advantage,” said Tietje. “The moon comes up earlier before the full moon and goes down quicker during the night and the reverse is true after the full moon. It comes up later, but it stays up the rest of the night.”
On the other side of the moon-versus-no-moon debate is long-time Toledo Bend angler Sid Havard of Simsborro. He has made several treks down to the Bend to get in on some of the action, and has determined that his most productive nights have been those without any moon whatsoever.
“I guess you can catch them no matter what the moon phase,” said Havard. “And most people on either side of the debate base their opinions on what has worked best for them. It all boils down to this. If you have confidence, you’ll catch them better on a moon-lit night then you’ll catch them on a moon-less night, and vice versa.”
No matter what moon phase you prefer to fish, there are several sections of the lake that tend to be the best night fishing spots, according to Tietje. His list of hotspots spans the entire length of the lake, so no matter where you’re fishing you’re likely to be close to a couple of them.
Below the bridge, Tietje points to Six Mile Creek, Housen, Pirates Cove and the Indian Mounds. If you’re above the bridge, he said to make sure and check Patroon and San Miguel creeks.
“All of those areas have one thing in common in that they are all major creeks coming into the main lake,” said Tietje. “Those are the areas that you want to hit hard because they all have shallow feeding flats in the form of ridges, points and humps close to deep water — the best mix of ingredients for productive night fishing.”
Tietje points to the southern section of the lake as being more angler friendly during the night because there are fewer stumps.
“Idling into an area you’re unfamiliar with can be pretty nerve-racking if there are a lot of stumps around,” he said. “You’ll be on top of them all night long, and you’re likely to run into a few on your way in and out of an area. If you want it a littler easier, try down south.”
Havard admits to preferring San Miguel when he wants to fish the bank or docks.
“There are a lot of good pockets in that creek with some good docks,” he said. “I mainly fish out on the deep stuff at night, but if the bream are on the docks that’s where I’m going to be too.”
When making a check of the docks in San Miguel Creek, Havard said he’ll pull up to a few and get up on the deck of his boat and look for bream in the lights of the docks.
“If I see them, I’m fishing the docks,” he said. “If I don’t, I won’t. I’ll move out to the deep structure and stay there for the night.”
Tietje suggested anglers looking to fish the aforementioned hotspots should be on the lookout for very specific structural elements.
“The absolute best situation is a channel point that drops from 10 feet down to 25 or 30 feet,” he stated. “I’ve found that the fish tend to feed best at night in 10 to 12 feet of water, so I’m always on the lookout for structure that tops out at that depth.”
Havard likes these kinds of areas also, but he suggested that the presence of a few stumps or a brushpile or two right on the edge of the drop off can make a big difference.
“If you can find that kind of situation, then you might as well go ahead and tie up because you’re going to catch them there sooner or later during the night,” he said.
Another key structural element Tietje said to fish is a main-lake point that drops off into a creek channel.
“It’s basically the same situation,” he said, “except in this case you can actually see the point.”
Tietje first positions his boat at the end of the point so he can cast down both sides of the structure. He has found that the fish tend to move up on the windy side of a point better than the leeward side, so he pays particular attention to that side.
“I fan-cast my way across the point until I figure out exactly where the fish are positioned for the night,” said Tietje. “And once I pinpoint them, I’ll tie up to a stump and keep pounding on them until either they give up or I give up. If they give up, I move further up the point and repeat the entire process again.”
When it comes to lures for night fishing, the debate can get almost as heated as the moon debate, although most anglers will generally agree that big, dark-colored lures are best.
“You definitely want something that’s easy for the fish to find,” said Tietje. “The more water you can move and the more vibrations you can make, the better I believe your chances are of getting bit.”
That’s why Tietje favors big bulky baits like a 10-inch Berkley Power Worm, a ReAction Gator Dog and a ReAction Toledo Tickler.
“The darker the night the more water you want to move,” he said. “That’s when I’m going to stick with the Gator Dog because it moves more water than a slender-tail worm like the Power Worm. I use it more on the brighter nights when the fish don’t need as much help finding your lure.”
Tietje’s favorite colors for night fishing Toledo Bend are red shad and black/blue. However, he did admit to experimenting a little with the metal flake colors when the moon is bright.
“I believe that the flake can catch the moonlight and flash a little,” he said. “And that little bit of flash could be the difference in getting bit or not.”
Tietje also says that he either adds a rattle to his soft plastic at night or he threads a bead on his line between the weight and hook. Both modifications create a little extra noise that Tietje believes is important to attracting a bite on a dark night.
“If it’s bright, you may have to do away with the rattle or the bead,” he said.
Havard said he tends to get a little old school when it comes to lure selection for night fishing Toledo Bend.
“Over the years my three most-productive lures have been a Texas-rigged black/blue 5-inch grub, a Texas-rigged 10-inch paddle tail worm and a black spinnerbait,” he revealed. “Those three will work whether you’re fishing the ridges or the docks. It may pay to experiment some, but I know I can catch them on one of those three lures.”
Of course, Tietje and Havard know that by giving their tips and information about fishing Toledo Bend at night they might be increasing their company on the lake, but that’s alright with them.
“There’s plenty of room to go around,” said Tietje. “Everybody knows they’re biting now. And everybody now knows the size of fish they can catch, so I’m sure some more folks will be out on the lake. But just so it doesn’t get too crowded, I hope a few of them still think they’ve got better things to do at night.”