By Steve Graf
When you talk about legendary bodies of water, bass fishing meca’s, Toledo Bend is pretty much where it all started. A $70 million dollar project completed in 1969, this lake was built for recreational and hydroelectric power generation. It was the result of rapid industrial development and the changing demands of an evolving economy of the 1940’s. This lake took years to become a reality with the creation of the Sabine River Authority in 1949. At one time this was considered the “Miracle Project” that almost never got off the ground. It truly became an economic engine for western part of Louisiana and East Texas.
I remember as a kid in the early 70’s watching TV fishing shows Virgil Ward and John Fox Outdoors. I was amazed how they were fishing in standing timber and catching bass on just about every cast. I had dreams of getting to go to this fishing heaven and wet a hook. This was a place according to legendary pros and Toledo Bend guides Tommy Martin and Larry Nixon, catching a hundred bass a day was commonplace. People from all over America came to this lake for what many called “the trip of a lifetime.” It was the number one lake in the country where anglers would drive for hours or days to get to this bass fishing paradise.
Stories have been told of catching so many bass that your arms would cramp at night after spending a day on the Bend. I’ve seen photos of 4X8 sheets of plywood covered in bass ranging from 2 to 8 pounds. Stringers mounted on the wall of local restaurants loaded with 6 and 8 pound bass. This of course was before the days of catch and release. Anglers back then, kept pretty much every fish they caught. Now think about that, if the mindset of anglers in the late 60’s and early 70’s was to keep everything they caught, there must have been a ton of fish in Toledo Bend!
Another story I’ve heard from some of the old timers who were lucky enough to get to fish the Bend in its hay day; that after the dam was built and the gates closed, the lake filled so fast due to major rainfall, that timber excavation projects were halted and some of the equipment used could not be gotten out quick enough. Old home places, bridges and churches where left standing and eventually became landmark places to fish.
Now let’s talk about today and what the lake is like in 2021. While she’s not what she used to be, Toledo Bend is still a great destination for a lot of anglers. Here in recent years, the Hydrilla (grass) has pretty much disappeared. The south end of the lake (Housen, Six Mile and Indian Mound areas) for years always had a great supply of grass, but the last couple of years it has been sparse. But this end of the lake still holds large schools of fish that tend to move around and suspend making them hard to locate and catch. Focus on structure (humps, ridges or points) and you’ll probably come across fish at some point. Crankbaits, Texas rigged worms and Carolina rigs seem to be the most popular ways to locate and catch these fish.
Moving to the north end of the lake, (Lanan, Sam Miguel, Patroon, San Patricio and 1215 areas) all these will hold fish in both shallow and deep. If you like to fish boat houses, Lanan and San Miguel are loaded with boat docks and hold quality fish. The only area in the last few years that has any vegetation to speak of is the 1215 area or what some call Blue Lake. This end of the lake will also have plenty of bushes holding fish when the water levels are up above the pool (172). The 1215 area is a very good pre-spawn area. Spinnerbaits, Rat-L-Trap style baits and small crankbaits will catch a lot of fish. If you want to catch some really good bass and the water is high or rising on the Bend, make sure to head for the bushes and flip/pitch a jig or creature style bait. In the words of Major League fishing Pro Shaw Grigsby, nothing is more fun than catching “a big ol’ pig” out of the bushes.
With all this being said, Toledo Bend is still a place anglers all over the country want to come and wet a hook. It’s still a bucket list destination! The lake has a long list of great resorts with plenty of cabins and accommodations from one end to the other. One more piece of advice I have for a bass fishing newcomer to this beautiful lake. Due to it’s size, Toledo Bend can be very intimidating. Take a section of the lake and zero in on it and break it down. Also just like Sam Rayburn, the wind will play a huge role on where you can fish. The Bend can get extremely rough especially with winds out of the north or straight out of the south. Also follow the boat lanes that are marked. This lake is full of stumps that are just under the water and will cause major damage to your boat or engine. So when you come off the boat lane, IDLE!!! Hope this information has wet your appetite to head over to Toledo Bend and enjoy one of America’s best bass lakes. Till next time, don’t forget to set the hook!
By Steve Graf