Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 04/30/2014

Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Dave Rush

Many, LA – Located on the border between Texas and Louisiana, Toledo Bend Reservoir is a sprawling, stump laden 185,000 acre fishery steeped B.A.S.S. tournament history dating back 35 years.   

The last time that the Elite Series visited Toledo Bend was in June of 2012, when Brent Chapman took the title with a four-day total weight of 83-9.  With low water level and a strong postspawn pattern, Chapman mined offshore structure with a spoon and a ¾-ounce jig to amass his winning weight.  

Just a year earlier in 2011, Dean Rojas proved victorious on T. Bend with 70-15, edging out Gerald Swindle by a single ounce.  The tournament was held in mid April, and Rojas used a combination of sight fishing for spawning bass and blind casting a topwater for postspawn largemouth to win the tournament.

This week marks the third time in the past four years that the Elite Series is on Toledo Bend, but the conditions this time around are markedly different than they were in 2011 and 2012.   For starters, the water is much higher than it was in 2012, and the majority of the pros that The BASS ZONE spoke with on Wednesday Morning noted that there is a lot more grass in the water than in past years.  

With a lingering winter and cool spring, The 108 anglers are also hitting Toledo Bend during a transition period where there are fish that are still spawning, just coming off beds, postspawn, and transitioning to early summer patterns.   

Tournament: Bassmaster Elite Series (Stop #4)
Fishery: Toledo Bend – Many, Louisiana
Fishery Facts: Fifth largest man-made body of water in the United States (185,000 surface acres)
Previous Elite Series Winner: Brent Chapman – 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series (83-9)
Field Size: 107

Dean Rojas
Rojas on how Toledo Bend is different this week than it was in 2011 and 2012:
“The biggest difference is the high water.  It’s higher than it was even when we were in 2011, so the lake is fishing a lot bigger and the guys are spread out. Because the lake is fishing differently than it has in past years, you can fish a lot more areas and kind of get away from everyone else.  This lake is 80 miles long and it’s full of fish.”

Rojas on breaking down a 185,000 acre fishery during practice:
“It really takes a lot more time to fish areas this year because of the water level, so I’ve found myself spending a lot more time fishing during practice rather than just looking around.  When you get in areas, the combination of the timber and the wind really pins you in and you can’t move around like you want to.  It takes a long time to cover water.”

Rojas on the varying stages that Toledo Bend’s bass are currently in:
“I think that you’re going to have to have three, four, or five different things going on this week to do well. The winner will probably be mixing it up between a few different patterns."   

Rojas on what it will take to win:
“I would say that 80-pounds will have a chance to win.  If the wind really roars, 70-pounds will be good, and if it slicks off and gets really nice, it may take a little bit more than 80-pounds to win.”  

Dennis Tietje
Tietje on fishing this year on Toledo Bend after sitting out the 2012 season with a medical exemption and watching the Elite Series fish on his home waters:
“I did media work the last time the Elite Series was here a few years back, so I’m looking forward to getting out there and actually fishing.  I have mixed feelings about fishing a massive lake like Toledo Bend where I grew up.  I feel like I’m kind of forced to forget about half of the lake to keep from getting spun out.  I haven’t actually practiced a lot of my primary water and I’m just going to make a milk run on the first day.  The fish will either be there or they won’t – it’s just that simple. I know from history that if I pull up to a spot and the fish are there, the big ones will tend to bite first.  If I hook those fish during practice, I’ll hurt myself."

Tietje on the current conditions on Toledo Bend:
“I’ve really been trying to figure out what stage the fish are in, because they seem to be in a really funky mode right now.  They don’t know where they want to be and they’re not where they should be because we have been delayed by the cold weather.  The fish are in transition and they are hard to really locate.”  

Tietje on what he thinks the winning weight will be this week:
“I think that 80-pounds is a good mark.  The big fish really haven’t schooled up yet to where you can go out and catch a 30-pound limit.  They’re out there, and it’s possible that someone could find where they’re ganged up, but the chances of that happening are lower than they normally would be in the beginning of May.  I think the weights will be just a little lower than expected.”

Tietje on how he expects the field to spread out this week:
“This lake is so big. It really spreads the guys out and it’s really enjoyable because that allows guys to fish their strengths and fish the way that they want to.  I think that someone has a good chance of coming in and doing something that guys don’t typically do on Toledo Bend and really catch them.”

Tietje on how the strong wind has affected practice over the first two days:
“The lake got ugly and everyone realized just how fast this lake can get nasty.  I hit a wave yesterday probably harder than any wave I’ve hit in the past 10 years.  You really have to respect this lake and keep your eye on the forecast because that can affect where you can and can’t go.”  

Kevin VanDam
VanDam on the difference this year on T. Bend from 2011 and 2012:
“The biggest difference is the water level.  The higher water unquestionably spreads the fish out, and there is also a lot more grass this year.  I think that it’s good from a competition standpoint, because you can’t just run to the same places where you’ve caught them before.”  

VanDam on covering water this week:
“I’m planning on covering a lot of water because that’s what I have to do.  I’m not overly knowledgeable about this fishery, so I’m just sticking with what I know how to do well."

VanDam on the likelihood that he weighs-in a bass that he catches off a bed this week:
“Probably pretty slim.”

VanDam on the difficulty of dissecting a massive fishery like Toledo Bend in three days of practice:
“It’s impossible to fish this entire lake, and I spent the majority of my day yesterday fishing areas where I’ve never been before on this lake.  The wind really stifled where I wanted to explore.  If there’s one place that we go where you can get a little bit overwhelmed by the size, it’s Toledo Bend.  You really have to just fish smart and trust your instincts when it comes to identifying seasonal patterns because, in the end, that’s what you have to do anywhere you fish.”

J Todd Tucker
Tucker on how the wind has hindered practice so far:
“It has really affected my ability to fish slowly, and I don’t think that the fish are really aggressive right now.  I don’t know if the fish are on the offshore stuff right now because we really haven’t had the chance to check it yet with the wind over the last two days.  From what I’ve seen, it just looks like there are a lot of fish up shallow still.”   

Tucker on how much a role bed fishing will play this week:
“There will be some fish caught sight fishing, but I think that you’ll have to get your kicker bite doing something else.  I haven’t seen enough fish 'up' to feel comfortable saying that the tournament could be won sight fishing.  We’ve seen Dean (Rojas) win this thing before with a combination of topwater fish and sight fish, so that combination is probably going to be pretty strong again.”      

Tucker on how the field will spread out:
“You’re going to have guys on the north end of the lake and you’ll have guys in a couple of creeks on the south end.  Last year there was a good offshore bite and a lot of us were stacked in on the same stuff.  You may see some guys fishing around each other this week, but they’ll be fishing a whole lot shallower and be able to spread out a little more.”  

Kelly Jordon
Jordon on the current conditions on Toledo Bend:
“There’s a lot of stuff in the water and the fish are doing just about everything right now.  They are a lot later than they should be, and a lot of fish are still spawning.  I know that the ‘out’ bite isn’t what everyone expected, but I’m sure that there are a few fish out deep already.”

Jordon on his game plan heading into Thursday’s opening round:
“It’s going to be a tough decision on how I want to start this tournament as far as location and technique.  This lake is so big and it’s currently changing.  If it’s windy, it’s really hard to get around out there.  I definitely want to mix it up, but my perfect plan would be to get a solid limit just fishing early and spend the rest of the day window shopping for a big one.”

Jordon on the likelihood that at least one angler weighs-in an 8+ pounder caught off a bed this week:
“I think that it will absolutely happen.  There’s a chance that a guy could even fish on Sunday by sight fishing exclusively, and there’s a chance that a guy could win this tournament sight fishing.  That being said, I think that the winner will have a couple different things going on.”