The Texas part of the Elites Series was not a good thing for me, Toledo Bend was the lake. Summertime angling on this historic lake deals with structure fishing. This is my favorite way to fish. You sure could not tell by my bottom of the barrel finish in this event. The benefit of the trip was making new friends and seeing old friends at the Skeeter Owners Tournament held at Lake Fork.
I arrive to the Toledo Bend area a day early to rest up and finish tackle. My good friends Keith Fontaneau and David Roy met me at the camp. The camp was a waterfront home on the Louisiana side of the lake. A great view of this historic lake and fantastic food were in our future.
The first day of practice, I pointed my Skeeter/Yamaha south. I have had great catches in this area in the past. There are miles of structure in this lake. It also has aquatic grass in the southern end to spice up the menu.
Water temp was 82 degrees and I began my day with a Strike King Series 6XD cranking the drops with stumps. It didn't take long to make a connection. I made an “Olympic Cast” with my new Team Lew’s 7-foot 10-inch Cranking Rod. The long billedbait scuffed the bottom and we had contact. The bass rocketed in the air. I immediately knew it was a quality fish. It has been holding on a sandy corner of a small drain near 30 feet of water. The fish fought hard. It jumped a second time approximately half way back to the boat. Getting a good look at the fish, I determined it was at least 7-pounds.
A local boat watch as the fish jumped three feet into the air at the side of the boat. The plug was across the mouth of the fish. I had to belly land this giant which turned out to be 10-pounds. This bass is the largest bass I have ever landed on a crankbait and it set the tone for the day. A football jig was added and it resulted in a solid day of practice.
The next two days were spent idling around with my Lowrance HDS 10 in Structure Scan mode. This unit gives me the best view of the environment under the surface. The bass had slid off the edges of the structure out in 24 to 30 feet of water. I rigged a dropshot rod and began fishing on the depthfinder. This method is like playing video games. I had a one two punch for the event.
The morning of the event’s first day saw an east wind of 10 to 20 mph. It made it very hard to stay over the deep fish. It was a perfect day for the crankbait bite. Six hours later, I had caught a tiny spotted bass on a crankbait! I could feel my entire season headed for the edge of a cliff.
While fishing offshore, I can see a dock. I haven’t made a cast to a dock all week but my gut tells me to give it a try. I tossed Strike King Sexy Dawg (a walking topwater bait) under the dock. I twitched it twice and a keeper jumped all over it. It ended up being my only keeper of the day.
The morning dawned and I was an early boat out for day two. I headed back to the drain where the 10-pound bass I caught lived. As I enter the outside edge of the drain, I see pods of fish on the Lowrance. I immediately picked up the dropshot worm and began catching fish. I landed 25 keepers on a Perfect Plastics Finesse Worm (Redbug). It felt good to be catching keepers. I changed to a silent 6XD and upgraded my catch.
The near 11-pound bag of fish moved me up 10 places. It was a moral victory, I had stuck it out and kept my head. This event is in the rearview mirror now. I just do not have a clue where I was on day one. This was the worst finish I have had in Elite Series history!
The Skeeter Owners Tournament was scheduled the same weekend at Lake Fork. I packed my bags and drove to Lake Fork on Friday night. This was the hardest 210 miles I have ever driven.
Tired, hungry, and down about the Elite Event I made my way to my major sponsor’s event. This event is an appreciation for all of the fishermen that have bought a Skeeter Boat. There were new Skeeter Boats and there were several vintage models found in the 810 boat field.
This event is an hourly “big bass” event. The top ten bass weighed in each hour would receive checks. The biggest bass of the two day tournament would win a new Skeeter ZX200 with a Yamaha SHO 200 hp outboard. I have been attending these events for ten years. It is a chance to see many friends I have made over the years, it’s truly a family reunion.
The eight hourly winners of the first day will get to participate in the “Skeeter Bug Shootout”. Two additional anglers are pulled out of the hat to make a field of ten. Each angler is paired with a Skeeter Pro for the two hour event.
My partner was a 10 year old angler named Scott Little. We would be fishing for an all-expense paid trip to the 2013 Bassmaster Classic. Scott was quick to ask, “If we win, do I get to fish in the Classic?”
We loaded our gear in to a 2013 model Skeeter FX20 and we headed out on to Lake Fork. We used a dropshot, a 10-inch Thumper Worm, and a 6XD. We didn’t get a single bite.
I spied a line of docks in the mouth of the creek. I quickly grabbed a Lew’s Flipping Rod and a 7-inch Strike King Finesse worm. On my second flip, I set the hook. The fish had me wrapped on the dock piling. The water was boiling around the dock piling.
The 20-pound Seaguar Fluorocarbon was holding. We troll over and get the fish away from the dock. To our surprise, it was a 4-pound channel catfish.
We had 20 minutes left in the two hour event. We fished three more docks. I pitched the worm in a shady spot on the third dock. I felt a slight bit of pressure and landed a small keeper. We were stoked to have the one fish limit Scott was immediately making plans for his trip to the Classic. It was time to head in to the weigh-in.
Scott and I were the first team to weigh our fish. That made us the tournament leaders with a 1.39-pound bass. We sat on stage on the hot seat. Tournament emcee Fish Fishburne had a very large time with young Scott. Fish, interrogated the ten-year old about girls. Scott stood his ground and said while blushing, “No Girl Friends.” Finally, the last boat of ten rolled in the arena. It was Bassmaster Open Pro Debra Hengst and her partner. They reached in the livewell and put a 1.88lb bass on the scales. We ended up finishing second. Scott and I had a great time and he was a good sport.
Fishing with a ten year old angler had healed my wounds from the Toledo Bend Elite Event. Seeing his face light up on stage was worth the trip to Lake Fork. It made me even more ready to fish with my children at home. Do yourself a favor…take a kid fishing!
Mark Menendez is an Elite Series Pro from Paducah, Ky. You may follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or at markmenendez.com.