The lunker parade

Toledo Bend continues to produce

My introduction to Toledo Bend was almost 20 years ago this month when I drove to the reservoir for a Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association meeting. Former Louisiana Sportsman editor Todd Masson and I jumped on John Dean’s boat, and spent a broiling-hot day dropping plastics into 30 feet of water.

I can still remember Dean, who was soon to become a columnist for this magazine, telling us just to trip the spool and let the lure fall straight down through the hydrilla that was growing in the depths. Having bass fished nowhere but the Atchafalaya Basin to that point, it felt like the dumbest tactic.

Until I felt the first bite. Well, “felt” might not be the correct word. It was more like I didn’t feel anything ­ — the lure just stopped and it seemed something wasn’t quite right.

I set the hook as insurance, and was soon wrestling a chunky Toledo Bend bass into the boat.

That trip ranks as one of my favorite bass-fishing trips of all times. I learned a new tactic and caught some really nice fish.

I’ve been back to the lake a number of times over the years, but I’ve never been able to repeat the success I had that hot August day. But the experience keeps me going back.

Toledo Bend has been through some real changes over the years, aging and losing most of its visible trees. Water levels have fluctuated wildly, at times dropping so low it was dangerous to navigate — and almost impossible to find an entry point.

The hydrilla that once carpeted much of the lake all but disappeared by the turn of the century. It’s made somewhat of a comeback, but remains a shade of those glory days when I first fished the lake.

What hasn’t changed is the lunker-producing nature of the sprawling reservoir. Stocked Florida-strain bass have taken to the fertile waters and grown to huge sizes.

The lunker program has turned out more than 500 double-digit fish, and the chance of putting a lure in front of these massive bass has spawned annual pilgrimages to the Bend.

It’s also become a regular stop on the national bass-fishing tournaments, with heavy sacks of bass illustrating just how productive the lake remains.

And that is likely to continue after this year’s parade of 10-pound-plus bass. This magazine issue contains three stories about lunkers caught and released in June and July.

It’s simply been a stunning stretch of catches that proves Toledo Bend has not lost its ability to shine, even as the lake approaches its 50-year anniversary.

Sure, it’s hot as Hades this month, but the latest catches prove that lunkers don’t disappear after the spawn.

I know I’m trying to figure out how I can make a trip — and I’m chomping at the bit to spend a few days on the lake during the spring, when the big girls move shallow and are most vulnerable.

Maybe I’ll finally get lucky.

About Andy Crawford 863 Articles
Andy Crawford has spent nearly his entire career writing about and photographing Louisiana’s hunting and fishing community. While he has written for national publications, even spending four years as a senior writer for B.A.S.S., Crawford never strayed far from the pages of Louisiana Sportsman. Learn more about his work at www.AndyCrawford.Photography.

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