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MANY, La. — There’s never a bad time to visit a world-class bass fishery like Toledo Bend Reservoir.
Photo by Seigo Saito/B.A.S.S.
But the 110 anglers taking part in next week’s Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend presented by Econo Lodge might be hitting the 185,000-acre lake on the Louisiana/Texas border at the best possible time to bring giant largemouth bass to the scales.
The tournament is set for April 6-9, with daily takeoffs at 6:45 a.m. CT from Cypress Bend Park. Weigh-ins will be held back at the park each day at 3:15 p.m., with the winning angler earning $100,000.
Matt Loetscher, who guides at Toledo Bend for Living the Dream Guide Service, said the fish are positioning just right to provide an amazing show on Bassmaster LIVE and on the weigh-in stage.
“We’ve got a lot of fish locking on beds,” Loetscher said. “Just this week, we’ve had a pretty major wave of spawning fish moving onto the beds.
“It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if the tournament was won sight fishing.”
The conditions do seem to be lining up perfectly for a sight-fishing event.
The water is crystal clear, which will allow anglers to roam the shadows and easily spot bedding bass. Plus, the bass are bedding in some conspicuous areas due to a lack of thick cover they’ve enjoyed in the past.
“A big difference that the guys are going to find compared to the past few years is the lack of hay grass,” Loetscher said. “So much of the hay grass grew up on dry land when we had the drought conditions a few years back. It stayed rooted in after the water rose and made these great mats everywhere, and we smashed the fish.”
But then Mother Nature evened the score.
“Now we’ve had floods two years in a row,” Loetscher said. “That not only killed a lot of hydrilla, but we also lost a lot of our hay grass on the main lake. They’ve sprayed a lot of it, unfortunately.”
While the loss of habitat is an alarming situation that local anglers want to see addressed in the near future, it could mean some easy fishing for the Elite Series pros.
“The lake is clean and clear and little bit lower than it was the last two times they were here,” Loetscher said. “With the water being down, they don’t have any bushes to hide in. They’ll be spawning on stumps or alligator grass or whatever they can find.”
This will be the 23rd visit to Toledo Bend for B.A.S.S. — and this year’s event will have a long way to go just to match the drama and excitement generated by last year’s trip.
That 2016 Elite Series event marked a return to the winner’s stage for Kevin VanDam, the legendary Michigan pro who hadn’t raised a first-place trophy the previous five years.
He won with 96 pounds, 2 ounces, pushing his career win total to a B.A.S.S.-record 21. He would go on to win twice more during the Elite Series regular season in 2016, but he left Toledo Bend feeling like he hadn’t tapped the lake’s full potential.
“My goal was to catch at least 100 pounds for four days,” said VanDam, who still doesn’t own one of the coveted “Century” belts awarded to anglers who finish Elite Series tournaments with triple-digit weights. “I know I could have had that because the fish really just set up perfectly for me.”
Toledo Bend currently reigns at the top of Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes list, a distinction it also held in 2015. If the lake does give up one or more 100-pound catches, it will have a strong argument for a third consecutive “Best Bass Lake” title.
Last year’s tournament was a postspawn event in May, and VanDam fished deep-water ledges with big crankbaits — the Strike King 6XD, 8XD and 10 XD — in a variety of colors, including sexy blueback herring and bar fish. He said the latter color in the 10XD pattern perfectly mimicked the yellow bass that big largemouth feed on at Toledo Bend.
This year, Loetscher expects the tournament to be won shallow with an array of popular methods.
“There’s a little bit of a shad spawn going on, and some guys will probably fish that early in the morning,” he said. “I think the shad spawn, sight fishing, flipping and frogging will all play into it.
“That could make for a really fun tournament.”
The event is hosted by Toledo Bend Lake Country.
2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Minn Kota, Triton Boats, Power-Pole, Yamaha, Berkley, Huk, Shell Rotella, Humminbird, Nitro Boats, Mercury, Skeeter Boats
2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Advance Auto Parts, Livingston Lures, T-H Marine, Lowrance, Phoenix Boats, Shimano, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Carhartt, Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation presented by Magellan, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.
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Salem, Va. – March 30, 2017 –Autism Awareness has a new twist for a group of professional anglers in 2017. The new campaign on the BASS Elite Series this year will build on last year’s pounds for a pledge donation. Since April is Autism Awareness month, Elite anglers that want to participate are going to be in the running for an Autism Angler of April award and will be judged in 2 ways. The anglers will be ranked by weight in the two B.A.S.S. Elite Series in April and by how much money they raise or have risen during April, in their name, for Autism. All Elite anglers are also going to be given an Autism Awareness wristband to be able to show their support for the cause.
“Each year, we have tried to build on our Autism campaign in April which is Autism Awareness Month,” John Crews explains. “This year, we are adding on our pounds pledge for donating to an Autism charity by adding the Autism Angler of April award. I think it will get more anglers involved, talking about it, posting about it, raising more money, and getting the word out even more!”
The prize for the winning angler will be a one of a kind Autism trophy donated by MTM Recognition. All the anglers are going to be encouraged to join in to create awareness for Autism and help raise money for various Autism charities and services. Either anglers can raise money and donate themselves or have their fans donate to an Autism charity in their name in order to count towards their total. Each angler will keep up with the amount of money raised and submit at the end of the month.
John Crews is again planning on donating two dollars per pound of bass he catches during the month of April to two charities. He is donating to the Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center near his home in Virginia and to Autism Speaks, a national Autism charity. The Elite Series has stops on Toledo Bend and Ross Barnett during the month of April so weights can accumulate quickly.
Eli Delany, Autism activist and avid bass angler, started and runs My Little Buddy’s Boat, an Autism charity. Eli is one of the main people that have pushed the Autism flag into the forefront of bass fishing as with his Fishin’ With a Mission decal program. Many Elite pros have put one of those decals on their boat for years.
Remember that April 2 is World Autism Awareness day and April is Autism awareness month. The winner of the Autism Angler of April award will be crowned at the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest on Sam Rayburn in May. Be sure to tune into each angler on social media and at the weigh ins to see where and how much they are raising and catching.
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