It’s been a couple of days since I got my first Elite Series win of my career – heck, I’m already practicing for the next event, the Toyota Texas Bass Classic on Lake Fork in Texas – but I’m still a little bit in shock about how things went last weekend at Toledo Bend in Louisiana.
Early Fish Were Important
I had never even been to Toledo Bend before, but I felt like the fishery set up really well for me, and for the way I like to fish. Sight-fishing is my deal, and everything seemed like it was going to be a tournament that a guy could win “looking at fish”. It got real windy the last couple days of practice, though, and everything got a little muddy, so I didn’t feel like I could just sight-fish all four days and find the fish I needed to win.
So I went to work and got on a little shad-spawn bite early the first morning of the tournament. First thing in the morning on Thursday, I went out to a little pocket and threw a shallow jerkbait, and ended up catching a couple of 7s and a 4. I had 18 pounds right off the bat. I fished that shad spawn for a couple of hours every morning, and those fish turned out to be real important to my tournament. Not as important as a couple of fish I caught on Championship Sunday, though.
Making a Key Bait Switch- I came into Sunday 2 pounds behind Dean Rojas, who is hard as heck to beat on Toledo Bend (he’s won two Elite Series events there) so I knew I had some work to do. I had found about a 5-pounder at about 10 o’clock in the morning on Sunday, and felt like she was maybe catchable, maybe not, so I left her alone and went into the next pocket. That’s where I found my big one of the tournament – she went 7-13, almost 8 pounds. That fish wasn’t real spooky, but I tried to stay off of her because the closer I got to her, the more protective she got of the bed – she wouldn’t really leave it then. There was a buck in there, I mean a little bitty 12-inch bass, and I kind of messed with him to pull him off the bed, but that female wasn’t having any of the black-and-red Berkley Power Craw I was throwing.
A good friend of mine, David Dudley, and I always kid around about throwing something white on the bed. We joke around about it like it’s stupid, but the thing about those big females is that they love something white, and I think it’s because they can see it really good.
I dug around, and it must have taken me 10 minutes to even find something white on my boat, this little 4-inch craw. I think I might’ve been using that as a trailer on a chatterbait or something. I flipped it in there about three times, and man, it really charged her up. I looked at the camera and I said “She’s getting ready to bite,” because she’d never leave the bed when that white thing was in there. She’d just sit there. Finally she spun around and lined everything all up, and I hopped it one time and “shoooop”, she took off swimming with it. I had her.
My Last—Minute Difference-Maker
That big fish got me fired up and I went right over and caught about a 3-pounder on a wacky-rigged Livingston Ninja Stix. Right after I caught that 3, I told my cameraman “You know, if I went back and caught that 5-pounder from this morning, I think I’d have a pretty good chance of winning this thing,” so I ran back over to find that fish again. I eased up on that spot and got up real close to the bed, and that 5-pounder was just parked. And I mean PARKED. I messed with her and messed with her and she wouldn’t even budge, and I finally told my cameraman ‘Man, we have to get out of here by 2:25 to get in on time for weigh-in’.
I remember walking back to my Lowrance to check the time at 2:24. I had switched back to that white bait again and had left it sitting in the bed, and when I walked back up to the front deck again, she was right nose-to-nose with that bait, just right up dead on it. I thought, “well, it’s either now or never”, so I hopped that thing and “shooom”, she sucked it right up.
It was literally my last flip of the tournament, and it allowed me to cull a 1 ½-pounder. Catching that 5-pounder might’ve been the highlight of my day. I weighed in 19 pounds, 11 ounces and had 79-12 for the tournament. Chad Morgenthaler caught 21-14 on Sunday and had 77-6 when I came to the scales, so that 5-pounder was a difference-maker.
As I said, it’s all still soaking in. The $100,000 check and trophy are great, but it really sort of hit me when I was driving here to Lake Fork on Monday: I’m going to fish the 2015 Bassmaster Classic, man! I said this onstage, and it’s true: being able to fish the Classic feels like somebody just gave me $1 million.
PROZ NOTES: Toledo Bend is just getting to a point where a jerkbait like the Livingston Stick Master in XXX Shad will really smack ‘em. I promise you, in the next couple of weeks, you’re going to be able to catch the heck out of them on Toledo Bend – or any other lake where you have a good shad population – on a bait like the Stick Master.
See the full Livingston line up here.