JIMMY WATSON, JWATSON@SHREVEPORTTIMES.COM 4 p.m. CST February 22, 2016
The success that Toledo Bend Reservoir is currently enjoying as a revived fishery isn’t lost on Bassmaster Elite anglers.
A number of the country’s top fishing experts have come through the Bossier City Bass Pro Shops over the last two weekends, including Gary Klein and Jason Williamson on Friday, and, like Gary Klein who was here the previous weekend, both said they are keeping a close eye on what’s happening at the Sabine Parish fishery.
That’s because the Elite Series will make a tour stop at America’s No. 1 fishery, per Bassmaster Magazine, May 12-15.
Klein, the co-founder of Major League Fishing, is perhaps the most storied angler in the country never to have won a Bassmaster Classic. Although he’s twice earned the prestigious BASS Angler of the Year title (’89 and ’93), he’s competed in 30 Classics without tasting victory. Still, he’s won a number of other professional titles and is one of bass fishing’s all-time money winners.
And he’s spent more time on Toledo Bend than some of the people who live on its shores.
“I’ve watched it cycle and the lake has gotten so much better over the past couple of years,” Klein told The Times on Friday shortly before conducting a seminar at Bass Pro. “The kind of fish it’s producing right now shows the proper management of the lake by the wildlife and fisheries officials, anglers and the people in the area.”
Klein said one of the things that makes Toledo Bend special is that there are no bad fishing spots and it allows anglers to compete successfully no matter their favorite technique.
“There is a whole lot of technology that can win there in May from top water baits to deep water,” he said. “It should be a lot of fun.”
The Elite anglers are hoping the big fish that are currently being caught will hold up into May, even though the fish should be in their post-spawn movement.
“Of course I’d like to catch a couple over 10 pounds while I’m there,” Klein said chuckling.
With career winnings on the BASS circuit in excess of the $800,000 mark, the 36-year-old Williamson is considered one of the young guns on the Bassmaster circuit. He said he’s had some success on Toledo despite hailing from Aiken, South Carolina.
“The last time we were there, the water was very low, but it’s definitely on the uphill stretch right now,” Williamson said. “The grass and stumps are plentiful and the grass is in the right places. It has all the elements you look for in a great fishery.”
Last year, a record 81 bass weighing at least 10 pounds were caught and released alive in Toledo Bend through the Toledo Bend Lake Association's Lunker Bass Program, and 56 have already been recorded for 2015-16, well ahead of the 2014-15 number. The largest is a 13-pound, 15-ounce lunker caught by Louis Slaughter of Florien and weighed at Toledo Town.
“Toledo is a place where I wouldn’t be surprised if an angler caught a 10 or 12-pounder in one of our tournaments,” Williamson said. “In May, we’ll be there just after the spawn, so the bass won’t be as fat. If we had been there pre-spawn, we very likely would have broken records.”
Williamson called Toledo one of the top three fisheries in the country and a place where a person can catch “lots of 3- and 4-pounders.”
“It’s as productive as a lot of the south Texas lakes, like Falcon,” he said. “There are very few places in the country where you can go and see 10-pounders post-spawn -- but Toledo is certainly one.”