MANY, La. – Looking at the stats for day two of the FLW American Fishing Series Texas Division event on Toledo Bend, it seems that the Sabine River reservoir must have been having a bad hair day.
After a reasonably generous day one, the lake copped an attitude, put much of the field through an arduous grind and left many with long faces and light bags. Pros caught 39 limits with 338 fish for a total weight of 835 pounds, 1 ounce. That compares to the 51 limits, 401 fish and 1,123 pounds pros caught a day earlier.
Nevertheless, talented anglers will always find a way to catch fish and a few bright spots kept the weigh-ins interesting. Foremost was Lake Charles, La., pro Bart Blakelock who sacked up a limit weighing 25 pounds, 2 ounces and moved up from second to take the lead. Adding to his first day’s weight of 23 pounds, Blakelock heads into Saturday’s finale with 48-2 and a lead of 4 pounds 5 ounces.
Mostly fishing Texas-rigged worms (Junebug and redbug) and deep diving crankbaits (firetiger and American shad) over main lake drops and ridges in 20-25 feet, Blakelock paired his day two weight with the 23 pounds he caught on day one for a two day total of 48-2.
Blakelock said he had 11 bites today. Most of his weight came early and he was holding about 22 pounds by 8 a.m. He culled two fish about 11:30.
With midday temperatures reaching about 96, most anglers found themselves struggling. Blacklock was no exception.
“I moved around quite a bit today,” Blakelock said. “Normally, the hotter it gets, the better my bite gets, but the bite got really tough after the morning. I had my limit by about 8 o’clock and then we moved a lot after that.
When you’re hot, you’re hot
Odessa, Texas, pro Rod Lambirth finished 53, but his was the best story of the day. Perhaps he was anticipating a sweltering day on Toledo Bend, or maybe fate was just having a good chuckle at his expense. Whatever the case may have been, Lambirth really got into his fishing today – literally.
“I got to my fish about 6:40, caught one about 6:42 and fell into the lake about 6:43,” Lambirth recounted.
After catching his first fish in short order, Lambirth hurried to drop his catch in the live well and rush back to the bow to redeploy the dropshot. In his haste, he accidentally kicked his rod overboard and as he lunged to save the equipment, his momentum carried him in for the big plunge.
Guidry improves to second
The only other pro to break 20 pounds on days one and two, Jeremy Guidry of Opelousas, La., improved from fifth place to second with a two day total of 43-13. He caught 22-4 on day one and added 21-9 today.
Sticking with his day one game plan, Guidry again fished a watermelon red Zoom Brush Hog on a Carolina rig and a green pumpkin football jig with a Strike King Rage Craw trailer.
“It was a slow bite, but I stuck it out all day and got a few key bites,” he said. “Most of my bites have been early in the morning. Later in the day, I’ve been struggling.”
Fishing the south end of the lake, Guidry said the only consistent strategy he’s found for working with hot conditions and slow bites is to slow down and pay attention to the fish.
“Everyday has been a little different – you have to let the fish tell you what they want,” he said. “Today, the fish seemed a little shallower. I was catching them in 22-25 feet; today I caught them in 18-20. Sometimes, they want the bait moving fast and sometimes, they want it just barely moving.”
Ebarb makes big move into third
Persistence paid big dividends for local pro Wayne Ebarb, who caught a limit of 22-14 and moved up from 11th place to third with a total weight of 42-8. Working against the same hot conditions and slow bite as his competitors, Ebarb said his was not fancy effort – just efficient.
“I just kept my nose down and kept fishing,” Ebarb said. “I just kept grinding. I caught about 10 keepers today, culled several fish and just kept fishing.”
Fishing far up the lake’s north end, Ebarb threw a crawfish patterned crankbait and a black/brown/amber jig. He targeted drop-offs and ridges in 12-22 feet. Notably, while many anglers reported better morning action, Ebarb fared best during the midday hours.
Evans, La., pro George Jeane Jr. rocked the day one field with a massive limit weighing 30-5, but the big bites eluded him on day two. Jeane slipped to fourth with a limit weighing 10-6. Paul Ferguson of Whitehouse, Texas, placed fifth with 39-13.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the American Fishing Series Toledo Bend event:
6th: Ronnie Bickham of Brookeland, Texas, 38-9
7th: Kevin Lasyone of Dry Prong, La., 38-4
8th: Glen Freeman of Converse, La., 37-11
9th: Ryan Pinkston of Center, Texas, 37-0
10th: Lamonte Loyd of Gilmer, Texas, 35-10
Blakelock’s 9-pound, 12-ounce toad took Big Bass honors.
Slow retrieves key for top co-angler Sprague
Starting the day in sixth place, Jeff Sprague of Forney, Texas, caught a limit weighing 16-1 and moved into the co-angler lead with 27-9. He started his day with a Norman DD22 crankbait and a Carolina rig and moved to a jig when the bite slowed later in the day.
“As the sun got up and it got a little hotter, I just had to slow my presentation down,” Sprague said. “They weren’t as aggressive – but that’s typical for summertime.”
Sprague and his pro partner Joe Don Setina fished the mid-lake area and targeted creek channels.
Kevin Burks of Kountze, Texas finished second with 25-3 and Chris Weaver, of Lawton, Ok. took third with 24-8. In fourth place, Larry Cotten of Huffman, Texas had 22-15 and Darrell Denton of Georgetown, Texas finished fifth at 19-12.
Best of the rest
6th: David Underwood of Waco, Texas, 18-9
7th: Myron Watts of Malvern, Ark., 18-9
8th: Kelly Stevens of Alexandria, La., 18-7
9th: Ronald Milton of Maurepas, La., 18-1
10th: Pete Lowe of Woodworth, La., 17-13
Steve Hope earned Big Bass honors with a 7-pounder.
Day three of American Fishing Series Texas Division action on Toledo Bend continues at Saturday’s takeoff, scheduled to take place at 6:30 a.m. (Central) at Cypress Bend Park located at 3462 Cypress Bend Drive, Many, La.