Spoon Feed Toledo Bend Bass in the Winter
Fourteen year old Cody Self was hanging on the pedestal seat, rod in hand, urging his Grandfather, Orlin Meyer, to shut down the big engine on the 21-foot bass boat. “This is where we caught them yesterday,” he reminded his mentor, but the enthusiastic pleas took a back seat to years of experience. Meyer wiped the remnants of the morning fog off his GPS screen and continued skirting the outside bend of the river channel. “There isn’t any bait on that hump yet,” he said in support of his decision to motor up onto an adjacent flat. “No bait…no fish.” Before the morning was over, we would fish Cody’s spot and catch fish as if they were in a barrel, but spooning deepwater bass on Toledo Bend is Meyer’s forte and he does not doubt his fish finder.
Recently retired after thirty-six years as a sales rep, he has decided to help his grandson realize a career he was once afraid to pursue.“I bass club fished for years and did pretty well on some of the cheaper tournament circuits, but I had three young daughters and there wasn’t a lot of extra money,” said Meyer. “Beating a bunch of your friends once a month does not prepare you for competing with the best in the world and I was not willing to gamble our security on giving it a shot.”
Cody, the only boy out of seven grandkids, has been his regular fishing partner since he was six -years old. “He would stand on the bow of my boat and pitch jigs in hydrilla all day long when he was ten years old,” beamed Orlin. “He already has a game plan and I am going to do all that I can to help him see it through.”
Cody plans on earning a degree at Northwestern State and giving professional bass fishing a serious try upon graduation. Because his grandfather has promised to pay for college, he will guide during his college years and save that money for tournament expenses. The fact that he is also a very good shortstop with a big bat could ease the financial burden as well, but that possibility earns little more than a smile right now!
The unseasonably warm weather last week produced better than average bass fishing at depths from three to 40 feet on Toledo Bend. We passed on a very solid spinnerbait bite in five to eight feet of water to run some deep-water haunts.
“He’s a good technician,” pointed out Meyer upon shutting down the big engine and instructing Cody to lower the troll motor, “but he still relies more on instinct than what his depthfinder says.” Because we were starting on a 15 to 18 foot break, Cody had already bitten off the spoon and rigged up a drop shot with a four-inch finesse worm. The stop in shallower water was not Plan A, but the youngster quickly boated three Kentucky bass while we shared a semi- warm cup of coffee. The fourth fish was a nice black bass that fought like a much larger fish on the light tackle. “I thought it was another big catfish at first,” Cody stated as he carefully released the fish.
“Do you know why these bass are hanging on this break and not on that deeper hump?” asked Meyer. “No, but they are here even when there are fish on that deep structure,” replied Cody. “You’re right,” said Orlin, “and don’t forget that.”
Much of the half-day trip was punctuated with brief question and answer sessions. Neither one of them wastes much time talking while fishing unless it has something to do with technique or equipment.
When we returned to the deeper hump located less than fifteen yards off the outside bend of the river channel, the bait and the fish had arrived. They were suspended about three feet off the bottom and they were hungry. For a solid hour, we caught yellow bass, black bass, blue cat, or small hybrids every time the half-ounce spoon fluttered through the mass of bait and fish.
You couldn’t count on winning a tournament doing this,” laughed Meyer, “but customers would love the action. This is kind of like when we fish under the birds when Joan and I come down there and fish with you!”
The water temperature was in the sixties and even lower surface temperatures will only enhance the spoon bite. I do not know that it can get a whole lot better as Keith Longlois sent me an e-mail this week stating that his dad, J.D., had been hammering the yellow bass, black bass, and catfish last week on Toledo Bend. A number of the black bass ranged from four to seven pounds!
Now retired, J.D. spends a lot more time on the lake than he does down here and he stays on the fish most of the year. He did well with those deeper fish last year catching not only bass, but some huge blue cats to boot. This past week, he reported catching most of his fish as deep as thirty-feet on a knoll surrounded by much deeper water.
The secret to successful spoon fishing is trusting your electronics and patience. Vertically explore every mass of suspended bait and fish that appears on the screen with the spoon or drop shot and eventually you will hit the mother lode.
I prefer a medium action rod no longer than 6 1/2 feet and a level wind reel spooled with braided line. To prevent the dreaded line twist produced by spoons, I attach a small barrel swivel to a split ring and slip it on the tie-loop on the spoon. I also no longer use wide-bodied spoons as I have little need for the erratic fall that I once felt was important. A slender hammered spoon that falls straight to the bottom will save you a lot of tackle. A half- ounce spoon is probably the most versatile, but I will use a smaller size when the fish are finicky. Keep your spoon in amongst the fish with short twitches of the rod tip and allow it to fall back down on a tight line, as that is when most of your strikes will occur.
Vertical spooning is a technique that requires commitment to the technique because you are not going to cover a great deal of territory.
The ultimate reward of spoon fishing lies in the fact that you seldom find one fish. As Al Anding used to say, “When you’re on em with a spoon…you’re on em!”