Toledo Bend’s other lunkers

Article by:  Chris Berzas

You know the saying.

“You can’t see the forest through the trees.” This certainly applies to bass at Toledo Bend as these trees are the many lunkers 10-pounds-and-over taken in the last two years.

The appearance of all these fish are a phenomenon, so much so that most every day the parking lot at Toledo Town and Tackle is as full as it gets during the weekend.

As of March 10, the count is 33 huge bass 10-pounds-and-over entered into the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program.

And we’re nowhere near the end of the Toledo Bend lunker largemouth parade for 2014-15.

Toledo Bend Lake Association president John Toliver said there were a record number of 61 Toledo Bend lunker bass replicas awarded to anglers last May. These replicas represented bass 10-pounds-or-better that were taken, weighed, tagged and released alive in Toledo Bend waters from May 19, 2013, to May 15, 2014.

“Among the 61 fish caught and returned to the lake, 41 were in the 10-pounds class (weighing between 10.00 and 10.99 pounds), 14 in the 11-pounds class, and six met the 12-pounds class – with the largest weighing 12.89 pounds,” Toliver said.

Catching other lunkers

But what about the forest behind the trees – all the other bass under 10 pounds?

Certainly, catching 6s, 7s, 8s and 9s are trophies for many bass anglers – especially those trying to fill livewells during any given tournament day.

Louisiana’s Johnny Watkins and Arkansas’ Hunter Chaumont are lifelong friends and fishing partners.

Although now separated by many miles, these two anglers still team up together annually for bass fishing reunions at Toledo Bend.

And both caught some great fish recently.

Their first fishing day together occurred Feb. 10, and they ended up with five bass on this trip – including Chaumont’s 8.4-pounder and another weighing 7.5 pounds taken by Watkins. The remaining 3 bass ranged from 2 ½ to 3 pounds.

“On the first trip together, we were fishing up in the 12-15 area,” 37-year-old Watkins said.

The anglers launched at North Toledo Bend State Park and motored a little north.

They caught their fish on red lipless crankbaits and middivers in 8- to 10-feet of water.

“We were casting in ditches and drains,” 34-year-old Chaumont said. “Some of the bass were taken as deep as 12 feet.”

The anglers returned again March 3 to the very same area.

“Hunter caught an 8.2-pounder, and I had one weighing 6.5 pounds on the same baits,” Watkins said.

According to Watkins who frequents Toledo Bend, the lake is holding very good numbers of bass in the 6- to 8-pound range.

“The Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program is great and has showcased many bass over 10 pounds,” he said. “But there are plenty of other large bass under 10 pounds as well.”

Numbers due to restocking

“Overall, we have pretty good populations of bass in the 17- to 22-inch range,” Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist Sean Kinney said. “Also, you wouldn’t have as many bass reaching 10 pounds if you didn’t have good numbers below the double-digit range.

“The key to it all has to do with close to a million Florida bass stocked into Toledo Bend each year since 2003. The Florida gene is showing up in many more fish now throughout the reservoir.”

Kinney said the LDWF stocked almost 822,000 2-inch Florida-strain fingerlings in 2014.“We have a request for similar numbers to be stocked in 2015,” he said.

In total, 26 million Florida bass have been stocked in Toledo Bend through combined efforts of local River Authorities, the LDWF, and the Texas Wildlife and Parks Department, Kinney said.

And sampling shows the effort is really paying off.

“We’ve seen some really good fish during our electrofishing surveys — one measuring 24 ¾ inches long,” Kinney said.

Kinney said the Florida genetics of sampled Toledo Bend bass continues to remain strong at 36 percent. This ensures many big bass that should show up in anglers’ creels in the future.