The big shiver will be far behind us, in the rear-view mirror of time, when you get a chance to read this. We’ll all be a lot warmer, and Toledo Bend’s bass will be acting more like it’s March than April.
I believe the late-February deep freeze that socked us in and around Toledo Bend — deeply impacting Louisiana and Texas — is pushing everything back as far as spawning action. That storm was one for the books, no doubt. And, bass behavior in April could be more like March.
What happened? The third week of February, for three consecutive days, the air temperature never rose above 32 degrees, with ice, sleet and snow. Those record-breaking frigid days definitely affected the life cycle of the lake’s bass.
Barring another wild weather scenario, April should be more consistent, prime time for those who love to target the lake this time of year. We know there is a greater chance to get our hands on a double-digit bass.
For starters, we need water temperatures much higher than 55 degrees to get the girls locked down on their beds. When the spawners start the bedding process, they’re locked down, which is a time for soft plastics on Carolina rigs and drop shots — two of my favorite tactics now. They’ll be locked in my hand.
Hopefully, April will be milder and closer to normal weather, which means water in the main part of the lake could be just as warm as water in creeks and coves. That’s where I need to be. I’ll target bass “outside,” because typically, this is a dominant time for those two tactics, with wacky rigged soft plastics and trick worms closely following. I’ll offer a watermelon/red, green/pumpkin red or black soft plastic.
On my Carolina rig, I use 40-pound Power Pro braid and tie it to a 2½- to 3-foot leader of 15-pound fluorocarbon under a ½- or ¾-ounce weight.
When I’m drop-shotting a soft plastic, I fish with a 1/8- or 3/16-ounce bell sinker on 20-pound braid with a flourcarbon leader of no more than 2½ feet. Because I often go to a 5-inch Zoom finesse worm, I’ll use a 2/0 hook and nothing larger.
Of course, bass can be caught chunking moving baits such as Rat-L-Traps and bladed jigs like the Delta Lures Thunder Jig. But 90% of the time, I’ll fish with soft plastics, because I want one of those 10-pound-class bass out there.
Water temperature and water level will be critical. Looking at the lake as February gave way to March, the lake level won’t be close to full pool by April — barring some huge rain event. If the lake doesn’t rise about 3 feet to full pool of 172.0, that will rule out fishing the bushes.
How high or low the lake is in April determines where the bass set up. Because the northern end of the lake — say from San Miguel Creek to San Patricio Bayou and Solon’s — usually fires first as far as the spawn, that region should offer fair to good action on shallow flats and drains in April.
With the glaring lack of underwater vegetation, bass will have to settle on wood in stump fields and deadfalls on and along drains on shallow flats, points and ridges that act like highways to and from spawning area. If bass anglers want to probe the inside areas, warmer water generally can be found in the back of creeks, where the baitfish go.
The north shoreline of creeks should offer the warmest water because those cold north winds don’t hit them like they do the south end.
April should offer a good chance to catch a bragging-size largemouth.
For a guide trip on Toledo Bend, John Dean can be reached at 936-404-2688.