Toledo Bend voted No. 1 bass lake in the nation second year in a row

Toledo Bend

Believe it or not, Toledo Bend has repeated as the No. 1 spot in the nation for bass fishing. This is a first, rock solid proof that we have an incredible lake within quick-hit traveling distance from Southeast Texas. Toledo Bend keeps the crown and is the only lake to earn the title more than once since the creation of Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass Lakes rankings.

The Top 10 lakes in the nation are ranked regardless of location, but instead of ranking the remaining lakes through 100, as has been done in the past, Bassmaster divided the nation into four regions: Northeast, Southeast, Central and Western.

Texas earned bragging rights for the state with the most ranked lakes, and of the top 25 lakes listed in the Central Division, nine are in Texas. They are Toledo Bend, Sam Rayburn, Falcon, Palestine, Caddo, Ray Roberts, Fork, Squaw Creek and Texoma.

“Our panel of judges who finalized the rankings were absolutely blown away by the production of Toledo Bend the past 12 months,” says James Hall with BASS. “The lake has yielded 139 certified bass over 10 pounds with a 14.15-pounder topping the list.”

A couple of other highlights from the rankings include Texas’ Falcon Lake climbing back into the nation’s Top 10 with a No. 9 ranking. This lake was ranked No. 1 in 2012 and then very nearly fell off the list when drought plagued the region.

Topwater bite is going strong on East Texas lakes

For the most part, the topwater bite on East Texas lakes during July is going to be early and late. And on most days, it’s going to last as long there is shade from the tall pine and oak trees along the shorelines.

My favorite lake to topwater fish for bass is Toledo Bend. Talk about resilient, this lake is it. It’s not only been around for decades, but also gets a substantial amount of pressure from both Texas and Louisiana anglers on a daily basis.

What makes the topwater bite so great on T-Bend is that there are so many bass to be caught. That’s probably due to all the stumps and logs, and grass on the lake. Some of the best topwater plugs on T-Bend are the Chug Bug, Super Spook or Rogue. Some of the best topwater structure here is the grass in about 4 to 5 feet of water. That’s where you’ll find bass early and late.

My all-time personal favorite topwater lure is a 1/4-ounce Heddon Tiny Torpedo, one that’s not quite 2 inches long. I caught my first bass on a black and white Torpedo over 50 years ago. It was caught on a Zebco 33 rod and reel. I made a cast along a log in about 4 feet of water, twitched the bait two or three times and was bug-eyed when a largemouth weighing about 2 pounds nailed it. I’ve since used Tiny Torpedoes to catch bass on East Texas lakes from Fork to Sam Rayburn. The thing that makes this such an incredible topwater lure is its compact size, and the rear prop.

Several years ago, I was fishing on Sam Rayburn with guide Will Kirkpatrick, who is an ace topwater fisherman. We were out in the middle of a cove, not far from Powell Park Marina. That’s on the middle of the lake off of Ayish Bayou, just north of Farmers Flats. He was using a hickory shad colored Spit’n Image. I was using a yellow shiner minnow colored Torpedo. I don’t know who caught more bass. But one thing is certain: There was no shortage of them. We were fishing the evening bite along the edges of submerged hydrilla and other types of aquatic vegetation.

“When bass move up on the surface during July, they are normally after shad,” said Kirkpatrick. “That’s why the compact shad-type topwater lures work so well then.”

Don’t forget about the night fishing option. July is one of the very best months for a night fishing foray. It’s also a good way to beat the heat.