Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 06/06/2012

Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Dave Rush and Matt Pangrac

Many, LA – The fifth Elite Series tournament of the 2012 season kicks off tomorrow on Toledo Bend Reservoir, a 185,000 acre fishery located on the border between Louisiana and Texas.  Last year, Arizona’s Dean Rojas won the Toledo Bend stop in mid April with a four day total weight of 70 pounds, 15 ounces. 

Last year, the water was low – with the lake level around 164.3. To view a recap of last year’s Elite Series tournament on Toledo Bend, CLICK HERE

With the water level now at 169.57, the 99 Elite Series pros have a lot more water to fish – and a lot more options.  While the deep structure and grass line bite is expected to play a huge role in the outcome of the tournament, there is also a viable shallow pattern emerging. 

Many of the anglers that The BASS ZONE spoke with after two full days of practice on Toledo Bend said that one of the biggest problems with targeting shallow water largemouth is that with the abundance of shoreline cover, it has been difficult to find groups of bass.  

“The fish seem to be scattered, and it’s kind of hard to find them grouped up just because there’s so much water,” explained Dean Rojas.  “It’s not like last year where you can just run the bank and catch them.   You really have to try to find where the fish are.”

In the FLW EverStart tournament on Toledo Bend last week, Glen Freeman won with a three day total weight of 68 pounds, 15 ounces.  While it took an average of over 17 pounds a day to finish inside the Top five, the weights dropped off quickly and it took just over 10 pounds a day to cash a check. 

Here’s what some of the competitors had to say about two full days of practice on Toledo Bend: 

Matt Reed
“We actually have more water than I wish we did.  It’s about as high as it ever is this time of the year, and it is a totally different lake than we fished last year. 

“A lot of the grass has died that was really pretty about a month ago.  There’s still plenty of good, flippable hydrilla, but the lake is fishing kind of strange for me right now.  I really thought that the local guys would have an advantage, but I’m struggling a whole lot more than I was expecting to. 

Matt Reed

“I’ve already done some stuff in practice that I wasn’t even planning on doing.  I’ve tried out several different patterns to see if I can find something that will work.  I’m a grass fisherman by heart.  That’s what I cut my teeth on in east Texas, but I had trouble getting bit yesterday.   That being said, I’ll probably go do it again because you can get the right bites. 

“There’s also some good fish on deep structure.  There’s just so much shoreline cover right now, so a lot of the fish are scattered.  Normally, shallow wouldn’t even be in the game at all this time of the year. 

“It could easily take over 80 pounds to win this.  Glen Freeman won the EverStart tournament last week with over 20 pounds a day and he’s as good as there is here on Toledo Bend.  It’s hard for me to say that you will get paid this week with anything less than 11 or 12 pounds a day.

“I think that we’ll be able to spread out this week more than anywhere else we fish this year.  It’s one of the few lakes where you can win the tournament on both ends of the lake.  There just aren’t many lakes that we go to where the whole lake is capable of producing a win.  There have been times during practice where I wondered if it was even a legal practice day because I just did not see a single other competitor on the water.”

Dean RojasDean Rojas
“The water is about five feet higher than it was last year, and there’s a lot more water and shoreline cover to fish. 

“The fish seem to be scattered, and it’s kind of hard to find them grouped up just because there’s so much water.  It’s not like last year where you can just run the bank and catch them.   You really have to try to find where the fish are. 

“I’m going back and forth right now to try and figure out what my dominant pattern is going to be.  I’m sure by Thursday morning that I’ll have a good game plan.  The grass is kind of everywhere, and the hydrilla and lily pads are really good right now down south.  There’s a lot of good vegetation to fish. 

“In both tournaments that I’ve won on Toledo Bend, I went into the tournament with an open mind and that’s what I’m going to have to do again.  Both times, I had three different patterns working – it wasn’t like it was one dominant pattern for me.  I’m trying to keep as many options as possible right now.” 

David WalkerDavid Walker
“This is still an outstanding lake, so whatever the lake is capable of, that’s what will be pulled out of it this week.  It might not be as easy this year, but these guys are going to catch them because they always do. 

“The good news is that anywhere you fish has potential.  The bad news is that you might be 60 miles from where you need to be to catch the winning stringer.  It presents a challenge because there are quality fish throughout the lake.  I’d just assume it be that way because it loosens up the field where everyone isn’t keying on the same fish. 

“It’s always possible on this lake to find a school and have it completely to yourself.  I don’t think that it’s very probable though, because when it comes the Elite Series guys, most of us really fish alike and look for the same stuff.  With the water being up, it’s a little easier to get around and there’s a lot more shallow cover.  Last time, all we had was tree stumps.

“There’s a lot of flooded grass.  The one thing about grass is that when it’s around, it’s always important.  With as hot as the water is, it’s not going to be nearly as important as it could be.  With the early summer and temperatures in the 90s, the lake is going to fish a lot more like it does in midsummer.  The water temperature is in the low 80s.  You can find mid 80s in the backs of the creeks.  The last few days it has been really hot.  

“That being said, these bass are like a bunch of old hippies – when there’s grass around, they’re all in it.

“I think that this tournament could take 80 pounds to win, but it just seemed like the fish were easier to catch last year.  I think that something around 75 pounds would be a good guess to win this tournament.” 

James NiggemeyerJames Niggemeyer 
“I’ve never fished Toledo Bend under these conditions, and I think that the latest that I’ve ever been here is mid May.  This is kind of a new Toledo Bend for me.  Usually, the water is somewhat lower this time of year.  It’s a different Toledo Bend, that’s for sure.

“It’s not easy for me to get a bite.  I’ve caught fish from right on the bank to way offshore.  Numbers of bites are difficult to come by, but you need to be looking for a concentration of bass.  If you look at what happened last week in the EverStart tournament, and the weights were really good at the top. 

“The reality of that tournament was that a couple guys caught them really well, but the field as a whole struggled.  A few guys are going to catch them really well because it’s just a great lake.  You’ve got fish chasing bait on the surface and then holding all the way offshore. 

“The beautiful thing about this lake is that I feel like a guy could be really competitive fishing the bank, but I feel like the tournament will most likely be won off the bank on deep structure.  I do think that some guys will do well fishing shallower.   The big bite is going to be huge here.  Ish Monroe had a great tournament last year, and he also got a 10 pound bite that went a long ways for him. 

“I’m thinking that it will take right around 80 pounds to win this thing.  There’s just a lot of quality fish here and you know that the guys are going to find the fish that live here.  I think that a guy could squeak into the top 12 with 13 to 14 pounds a day.”