The A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend
The time to make your Toledo Bend selections is now. The buckets are live, and if you’re looking for a little insight on who to select, read the articles below.
Stop, Hammer Time – Toledo Bend style, By Pete Robbins
Pick anglers who’s biggest strength is fishing grass, By Kevin Hawk
Power fishermen will shine at Toledo Bend, By Thomas Allen
Throw history out the window, By Ronnie Moore
Stop, Hammer Time – Toledo Bend style
By Pete Robbins
After four Elite Series tournaments it appears that my Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing skills have created quite a buzz. I was out fishing the Potomac River recently when I ran into an acquaintance who flagged me down from his boat.
“Hey Pete, thanks for the Fantasy Fishing picks,” he yelled.
I’ll admit it. My head got a little swollen and I puffed my chest out. “Glad I could help,” I replied, trying to remain nonchalant.
“Yeah, I just do the opposite of everything you recommend and it has me in the 99th percentile.”
OK, for a self-proclaimed expert my season has been a disaster. Last year when I found myself in the same predicament I offered up the George Costanza “opposite plan”, but I’m hesitant to visit that well again. I need a new strategy. With that in mind, I’m going with the following five highly touted young men:
Hmmmm. Despite their stellar credentials they didn’t show up in any of my online buckets so I need to look elsewhere.
This is Toledo Bend, one of the sport’s all-time greatest fish factories, and it’s fishing exceptionally well right now. They’ve already weighed in about 34,642 double digit bass this year there, and that’s despite the fact that it seems like it’s been unfishable much of the time due to raging flood waters. The lake is high and fertile and loaded with big bass and I fully expect Jacob Powroznik’s winning weight of 79-12 from 2014 to be eclipsed.
When you go to big-fish lakes at their peak, you have to choose hammers. Don’t choose the guys who solely excel when 12 pounds a day is good. Go for the sticks who have Century Belt gold running through their veins.
I’m reminded of the words of three-time NBA All-Star Antoine Walker, when asked why he shot so many three-pointers: “Because there are no fours.” I’m looking to build a team of anglers who can fill the hole with one four pointer after another and who keep on shooting even when they miss. Of course, it didn’t work out for Antoine – he had legal problems and suffered through bankruptcy once his career was over (despite over $100 million in NBA salaries) – but I just need dudes who can shoot for the moon this week.
All heavy hitters up and down my lineup.
BUCKET A: COMBS
There’s an old maxim that you should never gamble with a man named after a state. For similar reasons, you should never bet against Keith Combs when you’re fishing in Texas. As I’ve documented previously, he’s won major events on Falcon, Fork, Tawakoni and Conroe – site of the 2017 Classic – and has near misses at just about every mud puddle from Abilene to Zavalla. Toledo Bend is just a long cast of a 10XD from his house, and you can be sure that he’s spent some time there during the offseason, whenever conditions allowed. He had a clunker here in 2012, but I don’t expect that to happen twice in one lifetime.
Almost Picked: Jacob Powroznik, who won here in 2014, and Dean Rojas, who has twice won Bassmaster events on the big Texas/Louisiana lake. I vacillated between the two of them before ultimately going with my gut and choosing Combs.
BUCKET B: FAIRCLOTH
For the same reasons I picked Combs, I’m going with Faircloth, who’s probably spent as much time on the Bend as anyone in the field. He’d still be a good pick if he’d never made a cast there, but the combination of big bags, grass and fish in varying stages of their post-spawn migration should make the quiet Texan a solid pick. He’s been in the top 20 in all three Elite tournaments on Toledo Bend.
Almost Picked: Ish Monroe. With high water, someone’s going to find a frogging bite, and there’s a good chance that Ish will stick with it longer than anyone else. He’s a tough Fantasy pick, because he’s not afraid to finish 94th (like he did in 2014) if he can go for a win, but at some point he’s going to win again.
BUCKET C: ASHLEY
No one other than Faircloth has made the top 20 in all three Elite events on Toledo Bend, but Ashley has a fifth-, a ninth- and a 34th-place finish. Coming off of a Top-12 finish at Wheeler, he has some momentum, too. You don’t normally think of the slightly-built singer as a big fish machine, but he’s a proven winner and he’s won on the biggest stage of them all.
Almost Picked: Terry Scroggins. Most of us think of Scroggins as a Florida flipper, and that’s an accurate impression, but he’s also deadly on the offshore haunts. When B.A.S.S. first visited Falcon in 2008, he came in second with 132-04, largely on the strength of a 44 pound final day limit that came close to beating the “unbeatable” record set by Dean Rojas seven years earlier.
BUCKET D: M. DAVIS
He may not show the fire he once had in his belly, but Mark Davis still understands postspawn fish better than most pros, and he’s patient enough to find and wait them out. In the last two Elite Series stabs at Toledo Bend he’s finished fourth and seventh, and he was also in the money in 2011. All the way back in 2001, he finished 11th. As others stay shallow, bet on him to find an offshore honey hole if one exists.
Almost Picked: Tommy Biffle. For the same Fantasy Fishing-based reasons that I’m afraid of Ish, I’m afraid of Biffle, Steve Kennedy and Kelly Jordon, too. You know they’re going to win at some point, but you also know that they’re constantly courting disaster in search of that win. Biffle has missed the money in all three Elite events on Toledo Bend, but with the water high he’ll glue a flipping stick in his hand in search of a Century Belt.
BUCKET E: MORGENTHALER
By its very nature this is a tough bucket to pick, but Morgenthaler has an opportunity to right his ship with an extra-extra-heavy flipping stick in his hand. He’s probably mad that there wasn’t a true Florida grass-flipping event on the schedule, and he should take out his anger on the fish of Toledo Bend, where he came in second in 2014.
Almost Picked: Paul Elias. When you’re picking hammers, how can you not pick the angler who holds the Bassmaster all-time winning weight record for the five-fish limit era? Clunn got back on top this season after some lean years – why not his contemporary who first fished a B.A.S.S. tournament on Toledo Bend in 1980, before a portion of the field was even born?
Fantasy Fishing: Pick anglers who’s biggest strength is fishing grass
by Kevin Hawk
When the Elite Series last visited Toledo Bend in early May 2014, Jacob Powroznik won by focusing on the shad spawn, and also by mixing in some sight fishing during the final day when the wind laid down. The remaining Top-5 finishers, however, all caught their fish in relation to the grass.
I expect the shad spawn and sight fishing to again play a roll next week when the Elites return to Toledo Bend, but I’m picking anglers who’s biggest strength is fishing grass. The wind doesn’t have to be calm and the shad don’t have to be active in order for these anglers to catch fish.
BUCKET A: THARP
Randall Tharp is fishing strong right now, especially following his first Elite Series victory at Bull Shoals/Norfork. He’s also one of the most talented grass anglers in the field. His confidence is high, and that is a key factor in my selections this time around.
Tharp proved how well his skills match up with Toledo Bend when he placed third in 2014. He kept the flipping stick in his hand for the entire event and covered miles of water making as many flips as possible.
I know there’s stout competition in Bucket A, but he’s still my pick.
Seriously considered: Kelly Jordan
A broken wrist ended Jordan’s 2015 season early, but he’s clearly bounced back from that unfortunate injury, and he’s fishing well this year. He’s currently 11th in the AOY race — that’s a strong place to be.
Jordan, a Texas angler, has ample prior experience on Toledo Bend, and is a very talented grass and sight fishermen. He’ll do well on Toledo Bend this year.
BUCKET B: CROCHET
I ran into Cliff Crochet on the water during the 2014 Toledo Bend event, and later learned that he picked apart that same area in route to a Top-12 finish. I realize the area he fished last time may not be holding the same quality fish, or he may have more company this time, but he’s still a solid pick for this event.
He’s a shallow-water power angler who loves catching big bass from the vegetation.
Seriously considered: Todd Faircloth
Faircloth is always a threat to win when fishing a lake full of vegetation like Toledo Bend. He finished ninth in 2014, and he’ll have another strong event this year. Faircloth will receive a lot of well-deserved attention by Fantasy Fishing players at this tournament.
BUCKET C: B. LANE
Bobby Lane, a Florida native, grew up fishing vegetation, and he’s always dangerous with a flipping stick in his hand. Lane is also coming off a fifth-place finish at Wheeler, and he’s an angler who consistently puts together strong back-to-back events.
Seriously considered: Ott Defoe
Defoe is a crafty angler who does a great job at cracking the current conditions, and he isn’t afraid to make quick adjustments during an event. Even though he may not be one of the more popular grass anglers in the field, he’s as skilled as anyone.
Defoe started the season slow, but has recovered nicely with two finishes in the Top 30.
BUCKET D: M. DAVIS
Mark Davis finished fourth on Toledo Bend in 2014, and is one of the few anglers in the field willing to slow down and fish a Carolina rig. He likes to focus on the hard-bottom areas near the grass lines and scattered clumps to intercept both postspawn fish moving out from the bank and those still moving in to spawn.
Davis has proven he can catch heavy limits of bass all over the country, especially on well-known grass lakes, like Toledo Bend and Guntersville. He’s done very well on Toledo Bend historically, and there’s no reason to think he’ll do otherwise this year.
Seriously considered: Chris Lane
Like his brother Bobby, Chris Lane is one of the most experienced grass anglers on tour right now, and should be considered any time there’s an opportunity to compete on a grass-dominated fishery like Toledo Bend.
BUCKET E: MORGENTHALER
In preparation for the 2014 Toledo Bend event, Chad Morgenthaler successfully accomplished what I couldn’t — commit to one area of the lake. He stayed focused and left his trolling motor in the water once he discovered the potential of where he was fishing. The strategy nearly paid off as he ended up finishing second.
Expect a strong showing from him again this year.
Seriously considered: Chad Grigsby
Chad Grigsby has the grass- and sight-fishing experience that makes him a worthy pick. I know he hasn’t had a strong showing during his first year on the Elite Series, but he’s a very talented angler. C. Grigsby will do well at Toledo Bend.
Power fishermen will shine at Toledo Bend
By Thomas Allen
My streak of bad choices continued yet again at Wheeler Lake, aside from my choosing of Greg Hackney. But, there’s a still a lot of room for improvement. What’s especially interesting is that my Dark Horse picks were nearly a perfect team, so had I listened to my gut, I would have done better.
Enough complaining. Back to making sound judgment calls on the Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing front.
Toledo Bend is one of the finest bass fisheries in the world, and you can expect there to be plenty of heavy bags weighed in at this tournament. The event really shapes up to fit much of the field’s skill set, but someone’s always gotta win, and at Toledo Bend, they’ll win big.
I think those who will keep the trolling motor wet and on high, only slowing to pick apart a certain structural element, will be the top anglers at this tournament. Factor in a bit of momentum, and you could have the perfect team.
BUCKET A: ZALDAIN
Zaldain said that if he could survive the first half of the season, he’d be sitting well because the later half of the 2016 Elite Series season really plays to his fishing strengths. His season has been outstanding thus far, and I agree that he’ll finish strong there.
Second Choice: Greg Hackney and Randall Tharp. It was a toss up between both anglers, as each are rolling with momentum this year, and have had positive tournaments at Toledo Bend in the past. You literally can’t go wrong with either angler.
Dark Horse: Gerald Swindle is having a solid year, and is coming into this event in fifth place in the Toyota Angler of the Year race. This guy is so overdue for a win it’s not even funny. But, you can bet that he tastes the blood in the water and will shoot to build on the season’s consistency.
BUCKET B: FAIRCLOTH
To me, there is no stronger angler in this bucket than Todd Faircloth. He built the foundation of his fishing career on Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn. It helps that he lives in Jasper, which is right between the two lakes, but he’s finished well at TB in the past. As usual, Faircloth has been quiet this year, and I expect this tournament to be the place where he makes some noise.
Second Choice: Brandon Lester has been in the hunt for his first Bassmaster Elite title more than once this year, and he is one of the hottest young power fishermen on the tour. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him cash a big check, if not hold the trophy high at this event.
Dark Horse: Cliff Crochet has done well at Toledo Bend in the past, and he understands the power-fishing mantra that comes with fishing a place like TB. I’m confident he’ll have a strong showing this year.
BUCKET C: KLEIN
After he made the Top-12 cut at Wheeler Lake — for the first time in a coupe of years — I asked Gary Klein if his drive has been reignited. He said “absolutely!” He will be riding his momentum into Toledo Bent, a lake he knows very well, and expect the Old Guard to show up with a vengeance.
Second Choice: Skeet Reese knows power fishing as well as anyone, and he knows big bass in the grass, both of which will be a key players this year. He had a tough finish at Wheeler, and I’d expect to see him rise from those ashes with a chip on his shoulder.
Dark Horse: Fletcher Shryock has been fishing well this year, and with his momentum and decision making paying off, I’d not be surprised at all if he swoops in makes the Top-12 cut, if not surprises the entire field with his firs win. His record simply does not reflect his talent level, and I think we’ll see that at Toledo Bend.
BUCKET D: M. DAVIS
This was a no-brainer for me. Mark Davis has finished in the Top 10 at both of the most recent Bassmaster Elite stops at Toledo Bend. He’s been around the game as long as anyone, but he’s proven over the past few years that he’s far from finished. The time of year, and with an abundance of grass, this tournament sets up perfectly for Davis. He’ll be a primary contender again.
Second Choice: Tommy Biffle may have written the book on power fishing, or at least one of the original contributing authors. The time of year, lake type and available structure and forage make for a Biffle-won tournament. I may have to reevaluate my choices in this bucket, as TB is a solid choice for TB.
Dark Horse: James Niggemeyer is coming off of a Top-12 finish, and being a guide on renowned Lake Fork in Texas, he will come into this event already knowing what the fish should be doing. I’d expect another strong finished out of Niggemeyer at TB.
BUCKET E: MORGENTHALER
Chad Morgenthaler almost won in 2014, but came in second. There is a bunch of grass in this lake and that’s Morgenthaler’s specialty. He’s had a difficult season so far, hence his placement in Bucket E, but this will be where he turns the bus around.
Second Choice: Paul Elias is having a very uncharacteristic season so far. And speaking of the Old Guard with the likes of Rick Clunn and Gary Klein, Elias is seasoned and is very familiar with Toledo Bend. If there ever was a perfect opportunity for this guy to right his ship, it’s at TB.
Dark Horse: Chad Pipkens has also had an uncharacteristic season, and he’s been on my roster more than once this year, but the guy can fish. He knows the game and needs to change things up, and fast. Just like Elias, I bet Toledo Bend is an awakening for the Michigan angler.
Throw history out the window
By: Ronnie Moore
Bucket A has been my worst of the year by far, and Wheeler Lake was no different when I picked Todd Faircloth to do well—he finished in the low 80’s. That was a blunder I can claim responsibly for, but apologies will get you no where in this game. At least you can bank on one of my wildcards coming through at every event, or so it would seem.
At Bull Shoals/Norfork, Steve Kennedy made it to the final day, and was a great pick on my part, while James Niggemeyer and David Williams made me look smart again with 13th- and 19th-place finishes respectively.
Toledo Bend should look different than the last few years that the Bassmaster Elite Series has traveled there. The water is very high, and should eliminate any historical advantages that anglers have enjoyed in past years.
With rising water due to massive rains and flooding in the Texas and Louisiana region, a lot of Toledo Bend bass should be shallow and in the wood. But there will be plenty of offshore fish to catch as well.
BUCKET A: LUCAS
Safe Bet: Keith Combs
The Texas native can do it all, especially close to home. Toledo Bend is one of the best fisheries in the country, and has a substantial population of fish. Whether he finds fish offshore or in the bushes, he is more than capable of saving my Bucket A.
Worth a risk: Justin Lucas
Quietly, Justin Lucas has been a force this year. With a Top 12 at the St. Johns and three more checks this year he is sitting in the Top 10 in Toyota Angler of the Year. None of Lucas’ success is new, as he proved last year how good he can be and this year isn’t any different.
Gut tells me: Lucas
I need a solid finish from my Bucket-A pick and it’s hard to bet against Lucas and his resume.
BUCKET B: MONROE
Safe Bet: Ish Monroe
Shallow, gnarly cover on Toledo Bend fits Ish Monroe’s style like a good pair of shoes. He is renowned as one of the big-fish masters on the Elite Series, and Toledo Bend is a perfect place for a Top 12. Big flipping stick, heavy line and some thick cover should make Monroe feel right at home.
Worth a risk: Mike Iaconelli
Iaconelli is due for a Top-12 appearance and although I don’t think history will help, I do think his pre-fishing experience at Texoma this week can help. Lake Texoma is nine feet high, and although it is a totally different beast than Toledo, he’ll likely relate the two lakes and the common conditions to figure things out quickly.
Gut tells me: Monroe
Froggin’ and flippin’ almost certainly mean a high finish for Monroe.
BUCKET C: SHRYOCK
Safe Bet: Terry Scroggins
“Big Show” Terry Scroggins has seen it all, and fished every condition possible throughout his career, which only means he’ll be prepared for what the Elites will face at Toledo Bend. Short stringing big bass is something he does at home on the St. Johns River, so he is more than capable of using his flipping stick to get a check this week.
Worth a risk: Fletcher Shryock
Halfway through the season Fletcher Shryock sits in the Top 50 of the AOY Standings and is in prime position to make the AOY Championship later this year. I think with Shryock’s deep love for flipping thick cover he could find his happy place this week on The Bend, and finish strong.
Gut tells me: Shryock
He has momentum on his side this year, and I think he’ll keep it going at this event.
BUCKET D: BIFFLE
Safe Bet: Tommy Biffle
Any momentum at all can help keep an Elite Series angler on a roll. Biffle started the year with two tough derbies and zero checks to show for it, but in Arkansas and Alabama he cashed a couple of checks. Flipping shallow cover is on the docket this week, and Biffle should be primed for another Top 50.
Worth a risk: Timmy Horton
He didn’t get it done close to home at Wheeler Lake, but I guarantee he will be sitting behind his electronics and looking for some deep-water pigs that are lurking at Toledo. Horton will certainly find some schools offshore.
Gut tells me: Biffle
Biffle has over $2 million in career earnings, and most have come fishing shallow cover. Toldeo should be no exception.
BUCKET E: PREUETT
Safe Bet: John Hunter
Hunter showed his skill with a flipping stick and a frog rod at Winyah Bay when he notched the first Top 12 of his career. This event sounds like another chance to spool up the heavy line and do it again.
Worth a risk: Brett Preuett
He may be a rookie, but Preuett knows Louisiana fishing. Growing up in Louisiana has thrown many different conditions his way, but one thing he does know is how to fish deep into the wood, and shallower than most will go. The Ouachita River is a perfect example of how he showcased his skills in flooded conditions. Look for Preuett to be a solid wildcard pick.
Gut tells me: Preuett
He missed out on his first career check by just one spot at Bull Shoals/Norfork, but I think Preuett’s wait will end at this event. Toledo Bend is a familiar place for the former college angler.
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