Fishing is excellent from Toledo Bend to Sabine Lake

Photo by Buddy Oaks

Lots of speckled trout, reds and flounder are being caught on Sabine Lake, Keith Lake and Calcasieu on a variety of lures and live baits. The water temperature on Sabine Lake is about 79 degrees.

Some of the best action of the year for both reds and flounder is along the Louisiana shoreline of Sabine Lake. Guide Jerry Norris says he’s catching lots of flounder on Berkley Gulps in pink or white while working the mouths of bayous, and small inlets along the Louisiana shoreline.

“Catches of flounder have been great the past couple of weeks,” says Norris. “The only problem is that a lot of them are small. I’d say about every fourth or fifth one we catch is a keeper.”

Norris says trout are good up around Willow and Johnson bayous. He’s also been catching them at the jetties and in the surf on Assassins and pink/silver Spooks.

Fishing on the far west side of Keith Lake has been good for trout on topwaters and spinnerbaits for reds. Most of them are being caught along the shoreline on high tides. The most dependable bite is where you find lots of mullet. Most of the reds are in the 23- to 26-inch class.

Calcasieu has been giving up big-time numbers of trout from under the birds, says Buddy Oaks with Hackberry Rod and Gun.

“It all came together last week,” says Oaks. “Solid limits of speckled trout have been coming from under big sets of working gulls early in the morning using Berkley Gulps and Hackberry Hustlers. Three or four days last week the gulf was flat and inviting for anglers looking for action. Trips outside the jetties paid off with some fishermen catching speckled trout and a few brought back some good size tripletail for the cleaning table. Most of the redfish were caught in West Cove and the south end of the lake. The best bait was live shrimp, which have been plentiful at the bait house.”

VanDam gets 21st career win on T-Bend

Pro angler Kevin VanDam slammed the door on a wire-to-wire victory at the Bassmaster Elite on Toledo Bend with 21 pounds, 6 ounces of bass last Sunday. The big bag gave him a four-day total weight of 96-2 and his record 21st victory in a B.A.S.S. tournament. “This was the most challenging tournament I’ve ever won,” said VanDam, who raised his career earnings with B.A.S.S. to just over $5.9 million with Sunday’s $100,000 payday. “The first two days were pretty good, but the last two days were really, really tough.

“It’s normally not hard fishing here. But with the pressure out there this week, trying to be there at the right time when the conditions were right — it was tough.”

VanDam caught 29-5 Thursday and 20-11 Friday to lead the field into Saturday’s semifinal round with 50-0. But with the weekend, the lake became more crowded — and at times, VanDam had as many 50 boats following him from spot to spot.

He got only five bites Saturday. But they were the right five, and his bag of 24-12 gave him a lead of more than 5 pounds going into Sunday. During the final round, he slowly put together another big limit of 21-6 and put himself beyond the reach of Alabama angler Chris Lane, who finished second with 88-7.

VanDam’s go-to baits for the week were big, deep-diving crankbaits from Strike King — the 6XD, 8XD and 10XD.

“If you want to be successful out here, you have to be really confident in your lures and techniques,” VanDam said. “I didn’t stop and fish a worm or a Carolina rig or a jig. I knew to catch big fish I just needed to grind it out. They love the 10XD on this lake.”

VanDam said the big bass on Toledo Bend prefer the larger profile of the 10XD, and he tried to present the bait in colors that matched the lake’s forage base.

He used the sexy blueback herring color pattern quite a bit, but it was the bar fish pattern that often worked best. He said that pattern matched the lake’s forage base perfectly because many big largemouth at Toledo Bend feed heavily on bar fish, which are also known as yellow bass.

Many anglers shy away from using a crankbait as large as the 10XD because it requires special equipment and can be quite a workout in hot, muggy conditions. But VanDam had all of the right tools for the job.

“I designed a rod with the guys at Quantum,” VanDam said. “It’s a 7-11 composite rod — a Tour KVD cranking rod, heavy action. I had it matched with an Exo 200 reel, which has a really wide spool and a 5.3:1 gear ratio. I was throwing it with 17-pound Bass Pro Shops XPS fluorocarbon.

“Having that big reel with that line, I made some 80-yard casts this week.”

The setup allowed VanDam to target bass that were often holding on or near the bottom in more than 20 feet of water. The size of the lure provided a unique presentation in crowded waters.

“I didn’t see any locals out there fishing the 10XD at all,” he said. “They were all dragging worms or something like that. These fish eat bigger food, and you’ve got to throw something that matches that.”

Lane caught his fish all week long using two topwater baits — a Zara Spook and a Whopper Plopper — around flooded grass and cypress trees. Lane finished just ahead of Ish Monroe (83-4), Keith Combs (82-11) and Paul Mueller (81-12).

Big bass of the tourney weighed 9-5.