Top 10 baits from Toledo Bend - Major League Fishing

Top 10 baits from Toledo Bend

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Tater Reynolds relied on a few Texas offshore staples to land his first Toyota Series win in dominant fashion. Photo by Jody White. Angler: Tater Reynolds.
April 1, 2024 • Mitchell Forde, Jody White • Toyota Series

MANY, La. — When the Toyota Series schedule came out and anglers saw that Toledo Bend Reservoir would make its return to the schedule in late March, many assumed it would be a sight-fishing slugfest. Even as recently as a couple weeks ago, that figured to be the case. But a cold snap seemed to stop prespawn bass in their tracks and hasten the transition away from the shallows for those fish that had finished spawning.

The change made the bite surprisingly stingy for most of the field but proved to be a perfect storm for Tater Reynolds. While many anglers fished shallow or tried to use forward-facing sonar to chase suspended fish, the Toledo Bend hammer leaned on a rotation of secondary points. The result was a rout, with Reynolds topping the runner-up by more than 21 pounds — the second-biggest margin of victory in Toyota Series history.

That said, Reynolds’ offshore pattern wasn’t the only way to catch some Toledo Bend tanks. Here’s how he and the rest of the Top 10 got it done.

1. Reynolds rotates postspawn staging areas for the win

There was a bit of debate among anglers before and during the event about whether most of Toledo Bend’s bass were in prespawn or postspawn mode. Reynolds remained adamant that, in his estimation, 80% had already spawned.

Given the master class he put on, it’s difficult to doubt him. To catch those postspawners, Reynolds rotated between about six secondary points during the course of the tournament. Most featured sweet spots in 10 to 12 feet of water, although the spot that produced his 8-pound, 3-ounce kicker on Championship Day was around 20 feet deep. He found the spots using a process of elimination — after striking out around shallow spawning areas and then on the main lake during practice, he intercepted the bass on points along their migration routes.

Reynolds’ primary tool in catching those fish was a 6th Sense Crush 300DD crankbait in chartreuse pro blue. He tied the bait to 12-pound Strike King Tour Grade fluorocarbon, using a 7-foot-6 6th Sense Movement rod with a Lew’s BB1 Pro reel. When plying deeper water, he switched to a 6th Sense Cloud 9 C25 in the same color, upping his line to 17-pound test and using a 7-11 Movement rod.

When the crankbait bite would slow, Reynolds broke out a few dragging baits. His primary offering was a 6th Sense Divine Magnum Shakey Worm, which he affixed to a 1/2-ounce shaky head.

2. Moore notches second straight Top 5

Cole Moore kept his strong 2024 season rolling by totaling 61-10 and winning the non-Reynolds derby. Moore, who finished fourth in the Southwestern Division opener on Sam Rayburn, vaulted to the top of the Fishing Clash Angler of the Year standings with one event left to fish, on Oklahoma’s Lake Eufaula in May.

Moore did it by despite a challenging practice that left him “disgusted.” He hunkered down around areas where he knew prespawn bass would stage and managed to catch one big one each day. Using forward-facing sonar, his primary bait was an Alabama rig, and he also mixed in a Megabass Vision 110 +1 jerkbait.

3. Morrison continues Southwestern Division hot streak

While he lives in New York, Alec Morrison continued to show that he’s right at home in East Texas/Louisiana. Morrison made his first ever trip to Toledo Bend last week, having previously won a Toyota Series event on Sam Rayburn last year in record-breaking fashion and finished in the Top 10 when Stop 1 of the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals returned there earlier this spring. All he did was log yet another Top 10, finishing third.

Morrison explored new water each day, sampling both the shallow and deep bites. He ended up doing the majority of his damage in the 6- to 12-foot range, targeting flats with stumps. He believes some of the bass he caught were spawning around the stumps, while others were feeding after the spawn.

Morrison caught most of his fish on a Megabass Vision 110, which he upgraded with size 6 Hayabusa TBL 930 trebles. He also used a new glide bait from 86 Baits called the Sentinel in a crappie pattern, which he modified by wrapping lead wire around the front hook to produce a faster fall.

“It’s a great jerkbait, but it has bad hooks when it comes to big fish,” Morrison said of the Vision 110. “That was a huge key, because a lot of fish weren’t really biting it all that well; they’d just kind of nip at it. And then the glide was really good just for getting fish to show themselves. In practice, when we had more wind and cloud cover, I was getting more bites with it than I did in the tournament.”

Morrison threw the jerkbait on a 7-2 Rip Freak rod and the glide on a 7-10 Beast Freak model, both made by Millerods.

4. Parrish pulls off final-day rally

Even though Jaden Parrish notched his highest career finish in Toyota Series competition and moved up to a tie for second place in the AOY race, he left Toledo Bend wondering what could have been. When Parrish arrived at his starting spot on the first morning, he dropped his trolling motor and found that it wasn’t working. After getting it serviced, he didn’t start fishing until noon.

Parrish still managed to catch a limit for more than 13 pounds near takeoff, then followed it up with a 17-8 on Day 2. On Day 3, he returned to the area where he’d planned to start the event and sacked up 25-9, the biggest bag of the event caught by someone other than Reynolds.

“It was just like a drain that led up into a grass flat,” Parrish said of the area. “A flat with some scattered patches of grass on it.”

Parrish caught all his fish on 6th Sense Whale swimbaits in a pair of sizes. He rigged a 3-inch version in ghost ice minnow on a 1/4-ounce jighead, throwing it on a 7-foot drop-shot rod from Pride Rods. He also threw the 6-inch Whale in pro shad, which he rigged on a screwlock swimbait hook with a treble stinger and threw on a 7-11 The Glide rod from Pride.

5. Castledine cranks, sight-fishes to another strong finish

Todd Castledine didn’t get the bed-fishing derby he was hoping for. However, he still scratched out a Top-5 finish, largely by fishing grass near spawning areas for what he believed were prespawn bass.

Castledine’s primary weapon was a Strike King Hybrid Hunter. He caught all his fish the first two days, plus a 10-pounder in practice, on the unique crankbait, throwing both the regular and shallow-diving models in smooth and “a unique color that they don’t really make.” He swapped out the hooks for Owner STX 38 Zo Wire trebles and threw the bait on a 7-6, medium-heavy Lew’s Super Duty rod paired to a Lew’s Custom Pro reel spooled with 20-pound Sunline Sniper.

As temperatures warmed later on Day 3, Castledine finally started to see fish returning to their spawning beds. He caught four of the five bass that made up his 22-7 bag sight-fishing with a Strike King Rage Bug in blue craw, which he Texas rigged with a 5/0 Owner Haymaker hook on 25-pound Sunline Shooter. Based on the number of fish he saw cruising the shallows on the south end of the lake, if the tournament had gone another day, Castledine believes the spawning bite would have been “nuts.”

“They hadn’t even gotten going good down south,” he said. “It was nuts in the last two hours the amount of fish I saw. It was crazy.”

6. Hughes junk-fishes his way into Top 10

Marshall Hughes admitted he never found a consistent pattern. So the fact that he was able to notch his fourth Top 10 in the past two years felt like a bonus.

“I was just straight junk fishing,” Hughes said. “I even stopped when I was running back to weigh-in one day, there was a laydown on the bank, stopped and flipped my jig in there. It was spot here, spot there. Nothing in particular that I was doing, really.” 

Among the techniques that produced fish for Hughes were a green pumpkin bladed jig with a matching Yamamoto Zako trailer as well as a topwater walking bait around shallow grass. That bite seemed better in the mornings, so after it died, he would move deeper and look for fish on forward-facing sonar, targeting them with a Buckeye Mop Jig and a Yamamoto Scope Shad on a Buckeye Scope Head. He wielded all his baits on Pride rods and Shimano reels.

7. Thompson puts unique twist on jighead minnow

Dylan Thompson notched his first Top 10 in MLF competition. Staying around Housen Creek, he targeted hard spots as well as a channel swing bank where fish held on brushpiles.

In both scenarios, Thompson utilized the hottest technique in tournament fishing, identifying fish on forward-facing sonar and catching them with a jighead minnow, but he added a bit of a twist. Using a 4-inch Yum FF Sonar Minnow, he rigged it on a 5/16-ounce Reneau Tackle Line Thru Finesse head, adding a Hayabusa treble hook to the bottom of the head. He threw it on a 7-4, medium spinning rod from Reneau Tackle.

“It gives you the option to either add a blade or a treble,” Thompson said of the head. “But also what it does is you tie to a split ring on the other side, and it keeps your knot protected when you get a fish that bites down on the whole thing.”

8. Parker stays shallow with finesse tactics

Zane Parker showed that his name is one bass fishing fans will want to remember. The 18-year-old high school senior, who had already notched five Top-10 finishes in Phoenix Bass Fishing League competition over the past three years, carried his success over to the Toyota Series level on Toledo Bend.

“Getting a Top 10 like that, pretty excited about that,” Parker said. “Definitely excited to get on to Eufaula. Just really excited I could do it on my senior year, kind of going out with a bang going into graduating.”

Parker pulled it off by finesse fishing in 4 to 10 feet of water. He alternated between a drop-shot, which he made with a 1/8-ounce weight, a number 2 Gamakatsu drop-shot hook and a Zoom finesse worm in plum, and a hover rig. He used a Cast Baits Echo 3.5 on a Core Tackle Hover Rig. He threw both setups on G. Loomis rods with 10-pound braided line to 10-pound fluorocarbon leaders.

9. Madole keeps it simple with C-rig

A longtime local, Richard Madole no doubt made Toledo Bend traditionalists proud. The Many native caught all his fish on a Carolina-rigged Zoom Brush Hog en route to a ninth-place finish.

Madole targeted hard spots just outside of drains, where both prespawn and postspawn bass were staging. He opted for a green pumpkin magic brush hog, dipping the tails in chartreuse dye, and a 3/4-ounce tungsten barrel weight. Madole threw the ball and chain on a 7-5 heavy, fast G. Loomis NRX+ rod and a Shimano reel.

10. Bass spawn, shad spawn lift Cecil into Top 10

Russell Cecil found the right quality of fish, landing in the Top 10 despite only catching three keepers on Day 2. Cecil won a 2014 Toyota Series event on Toledo Bend by sight-fishing, and he tried to replicate that success. He made it work on Day 1, weighing in at 21-10, anchored by a 9-7 kicker.

On Day 2, Cecil caught a 7-pounder, but he couldn’t find nearly as many fish on beds. So, to start Day 3, he switched gears. Finding a shallow, grassy area with slightly more stained water than the rest of the lake, he discovered shad spawning and quickly caught almost 17 pounds, alternating between a 6th Sense CatWalk in Spanish bone and a 6th Sense Swank crankbait.

Cecil spent the final afternoon looking for more bedding fish on the south end of the lake but never upgraded. He used a unique approach for his sight-fishing. Cecil first pitched a Texas-rigged 6th Sense Congo Craw to beds, then followed it up with a 6th Sense Panorama — a realistic, soft-plastic shad body. He rigged the Panorama on a 3/8-ounce 6th Sense Divine Shakey Head.

“When I pitched it in there, it would make that Panorama stand up, and I would just shake it in the bed where it kind of looked like a fish feeding on the eggs or trying to disturb the nest, and it seemed to be pretty effective,” Cecil said. “None of those fish were easy to catch.”

Cecil used Falcon Cara 8-173 rods — a 7-3, extra-heavy, extra-fast model — paired with Shimano Curado reels and 20-pound Sunline Sniper for both bed fishing baits. He rigged the Congo Craw on a 5/0 Owner Haymaker hook.

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