Toledo Bend: Fish Lily pads for summer bass

Nick Terry shows off a 61/2-pound bass he caught May 31 while fishing in and around lily pads at Toledo Bend with John Dean. Lily pads should hold the key to getting bit in July, according to Dean.
Nick Terry shows off a 61/2-pound bass he caught May 31 while fishing in and around lily pads at Toledo Bend with John Dean. Lily pads should hold the key to getting bit in July, according to Dean.

My go-to pattern in late spring and summer the past year or so is a real shady one, considering there is very little underwater vegetation remaining at Toledo Bend compared to the heyday of punchin’ the acres of hydrilla. There is one plant that is flourishing, offering ambush points, cover and shade to bass, and that is the lily pad. Folks, fish are going to the lily pads like there’s no tomorrow.

Last year, I smacked them consistently on plastic frogs when I started zeroing in on lily pads in 2½- to 6-foot depths. I have stayed on them so far this year, and I’ve have been having oodles of fun catching solid bass in and around lily pad fields on Carolina-rigged, dark-colored Zoom Super Flukes. For some reason, they haven’t turned on to the plastic frogs through the end of May.

I was out all three days of Memorial Day Weekend with two anglers from Kansas City, Mo., the same men who were with me catching bass after bass on plastic frogs last year in the lily pads. To get away from the crowd, I went to the Texas side the second day and, sure enough, the bite was on using C-rigs in the lily pads. We had a blast. At least three bass that were hooked were in the 4- to 6-pound range.

Want to know how other fishermen I had around me? None. Zero.

Lily pads began paying off in the spring. The pads themselves were about 5 to 6 inches in circumference by then. The main thing is, they grow over hard bottoms, and that’s where bass prefer to spawn.

In the summer, lily pads get bigger — 12 to 14 inches in diameter — and the size of the lily pad fields grows. They’re everywhere. Baitfish, including bream, hang around. Bream are bedding in them.

Cover is key

The lily pad fields offer more cover than anything else in the lake, although there are hydrilla beds in isolated places.

Usually, when the heat of summer hits the region, bass anglers head out to 20- to 22-foot depths and rely on their marine electronics. There probably will be a lot of bass deep, no doubt about it, and they can be caught on Carolina-rigged soft plastics, big crankbaits and football-head jigs. However, finding those bass doesn’t mean you’ll catch them because, it seems, they bite when they want.

I’m going to stay in the lily pads this summer. The bite has been there all day, at certain times stronger than other times. What happens in the dog days of summer? Will the lily pad bite be as consistent when it gets full-blown July? I don’t know. There’s the possibility the bite slacks off in the middle of the day, but who knows? Or it could be early and late, for the most part, in lily pads 5- to 7-feet deep.

Just park the boat with an anchor or Power Pole and fan-cast around the boat.

Baits to use

I’ll use a Carolina rig with a ½-ounce weight, lighter than I usually use, to fish the lily pads. I’ll have 40-pound Power Pro braid spooled on the reel and a 2½-foot leader with the same braid.

The thing about hooking and landing sizeable bass in the lily pads is you’ve got to strong-arm them from the get-go because of the lily pad stems. As soon as a bass bites, you’ve got to bear down, turn its head, keep its head up and get it coming to you. Those three big ones we had on May 31 didn’t get in the boat because they weren’t horsed in, as they say. It’s like fishing in a jungle, and the trees are the stems.

I’m pretty sure the bass hanging out in the lily pads will bite other artificials in addition to C-rigs. Plastic frogs, lightly weighted Flukes and even weedless spoons like the old Johnson Silver Minnow ought to get them fired up, too. I can’t wait until bass start hammering the plastic frogs on top.

Crappie fishing should be very good in July as they leave the shallows and head for brush tops and other structure in 25-foot depths. As of the first of June, many of them were suspending 10  to 15 feet deep over brush tops.

Jigs have been accounting for quantity and quality. Crappie also are being caught on minnows.

Hey, everybody, be safe on the water and have a happy July 4.

I’ve been guiding on this lake most of my life. July should be a prime time to catch bass in the lily pads. Give me a call at 936-404-2688.

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John Dean
About John Dean 52 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.