Weights could amaze during Bassmaster Elite Series opener at Toledo Bend Reservoir
MANY, La. —

The Bassmaster Elite Series will make its much-anticipated return to historic Toledo Bend Reservoir at the perfect time of the year to catch giant bass and record-setting bags, according to Louisiana pro Darold Gleason.

“I’d be more surprised if they didn’t break 100 pounds than if they did,” said Gleason, a Toledo Bend guide and a Tackle Warehouse Bassmaster Elite Qualifier. “The fishery is just too good. This time of the year, our fish weigh more and are bigger than they will be all year. They are full prespawn. I personally think it will happen if they get the right weather conditions. There should be several bass over 10 pounds.”

Tournament days for the Gamakatsu Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend are scheduled for Feb. 22-25 with daily takeoffs at 7 a.m. CT from Cypress Bend Park and weigh-ins back at the park each day at 3 p.m. All pros will compete the first two days before the field is cut to 50 for Semifinal Saturday. Then, the Top 10 anglers will duke it out on Championship Sunday for a chance at $100,000 and a coveted blue trophy.

It’s been seven years since the Elite Series last visited the massive reservoir on the Louisiana/Texas border, an event won by John Murray with a four-day total of 77-10. After several perceived down years, the Opens returned to Toledo Bend in April 2023 where Ben Milliken showed the true potential of the lake with a three-day tally of 77-14.

Throughout 2023, giant bass were caught on Toledo Bend, with multiple 40-pound bags brought to the scales in events, as well as plenty of lunker-class bass. The fishing has remained strong this winter as well, and Gleason noted grass is starting to show up in several areas.

“The fish are good and healthy,” he said. “We are starting to see some grass pop up in popular areas of the lake, and there are tons of baitfish and bream in there right now. Tournament weights have been really good. It should be one of the higher-weight events of the year.”

Water levels were low most of the winter until a major rainstorm moved through several weeks ago. The lake has since stabilized, and Gleason doesn’t anticipate any drastic changes unless another major weather event rolls through.

Warming temperatures leading up to the tournament will create multiple opportunities for anglers to catch a winning bag. At the time of this writing, water temperatures were already in the high 50s.

What’s more, Gleason believes the entire lake will play.

“What you end up with is a really interesting tournament on Toledo Bend. They are very diverse,” Gleason said. “With it being such a big fishery and with it being in February, guys can literally fish to their strengths. Guys can catch them out deep with LiveScope, and there will also be lots of activity near the bank.”

Much of the focus will be around prespawn staging areas. Gleason believes there’s a good chance the first wave of spawners will be wanting to make their way to the bank. The key to that bite will be finding the hydrilla that has made a comeback the last two years. ChatterBaits and Rat-L-Traps will be important lures.

“We have some deep grass this year as well. It’s 12 feet deep in places,” Gleason said. “We have some other grass, but deep hydrilla is the deal. It seems to me that a lot of times the grass fish feed on bream and seem a little healthier and bigger.”

There will also be plenty of opportunities for anglers to capitalize on a deep bite. The lake has tons of standing timber and hard bottom around creek channels, and Gleason thinks forward-facing sonar will play a big role in catching those bass. Jerkbaits and Damiki-style rigs will be popular choices, as well as jigs.

Whether deep or shallow, Gleason believes if someone can get on something and keep it to themselves, they have a chance at having a special tournament.

“I’m talking about 35-pound bags and stuff like that,” he said. “It is hard to find that special stuff, and you have to be fortunate to fish it effectively for several days in a row.”

As with many tournaments this time of year, the wind speed and direction will determine just how good the fishing will be. If there is a strong north or south wind, Toledo Bend gets rough in a hurry, which will make navigation nearly impossible in some cases.

“All of us who have fished there throughout the years have had tournaments where it was like, ‘If we could have only gotten to where we wanted to fish.’ There are literally some days you can’t fish it,” Gleason said.

Bassmaster LIVE will be streaming on Bassmaster.com all four days, and coverage will also be available on FS1 on Saturday and Sunday.

Those wanting to attend will be able to enjoy the “B.A.S.S. on the ’Bend” festival on Saturday and Sunday at Cypress Bend Park before weigh-in. The festival will feature live music and many local vendors.

The event is being hosted by Toledo Bend Lake Country and the Louisiana Office and Tourism.