Larry Johns’ reply to my question regarding the bass bite on Toledo Bend
was more of a confession than a report. “It took me about two minutes at
the most yesterday to snap to the fact that I am no longer as mad at the
fish as I once was!”

“We’ve had enough cold weather to fish a jig the way I want to fish it,
but I saw the ice on the dock and walked right back up to the camp and
cooked pancakes,” said one of the best structure fishermen I ever shared
a boat with.

Larry will be seventy-eight in December and still fishes 180-plus days a
year.He blows those incredible numbers off because he doesn’t count
crappie fishing over brush piles as a real day on the water.

He was the first fishermen that I knew that owned a fish finder. He had
one of those little green Lowrance portable boxes with a transducer
mounted on suction cups and he was fishing structure when the rest of us
didn’t even know it existed!

It took only two or three trips for me to know that I would have to
invest in one of those little green boxes.His depth finder showed him
the schools of shad suspended on the tree lines and catching bass was
simply a matter of lowering a spoon straight over the side.It was magic
and he had no competition.

As depth finders improved so did Larry’s catching and knowledge of the
lake.A big bass at that time was anything over six pounds and the
Leesville native was consistently catching more than his fair share.His
secret was fishing a jig and pork frog trailer on hydrilla breaks.

No one else was fishing jigs and most of us didn’t even know where the
breaks were located.Thanks to Lonnie Stanley, we quickly progressed from
buck tail to living rubber skirts and the pork frog gave way to the
plastic craw worm.We tied one on the first week of November and kept it
tied on until the first week of March.

The jig is no longer considered to be a tool used only for duping bass
when you should be back at the camp eating pancakes and waiting for the
bow rope to thaw out.Thanks to innovative pro anglers that started
flipping and pitching not only shallow structure, but matted hydrilla as
well in the dog days of summer, the jig is a year round
favorite….especially for larger bass.

“Between 1968 and 2001 I caught two bass in the nine pound class,” Larry
shared on a trip last April.“I still fish basically the same techniques
and spots that I have always fished, but I have caught and released
eleven bass over the ten pound mark since then.”

Every one of those bass ate a jig and eight of them were caught in the
month of February.There is no doubt that considering any lure to be only
a seasonable weapon is a huge mistake, but there is little chance of
Johns cutting off his jig over the next three months.

“If I have changed anything about my fishing that has been an obvious
improvement it has been starting later in the day and finishing later,”
added Johns.“I catch far more big fish later than I ever caught the
first hour or so of daylight and I don’t have to deal with frozen fingers.”

That is quite an admission considering the fact that he once fished from
dawn to dusk on every outing regardless of the weather.Most every Club
angler has fished at least one tournament with ice in the guides on his
rod, but Larry has gone much farther than that over the years.

We laugh every time we recall a tournament out of Converse when he drove
to WalMart to buy an electric blanket to wrap around his engine
overnight.The extension cord was frozen as stiff as a joint of pipe the
next morning, but everything worked.Unfortunately, after all of that, we
didn’t weigh in a single fish!

When they finished their pancakes and finally eased out on the water
Monday morning, Larry and his son-in-law caught nine bass from two to
four pounds.“I didn’t catch a single bass on a jig and he caught every
fish on a slow-rolled spinnerbait,” reported Johns, “but I’ll still have
one tied on tomorrow……old habits die hard.”