09/02/2000 - Toledo Bend, TX. .... After arriving at a main-lake slough area the "weathered" Bass/Pro positions our boat on the very tip of a long underwater point. Informing me that we were sitting 200 yards from the nearest land with the depth gauge reading 18’, he then advised me to cast my worm to the left side of some stick-ups, where he then flipped his cast to the right. My instructed efforts however produce only a missed opportunity while the Toledo Pro suddenly reared back "HARD" setting his hook into our first "landed" bass of the day. It was now 11:am, and with my hopes rising with the oppressive heat index of this "HOT" summers day, I thought that "maybe", just maybe, that the longtime Bass Master would be wrong about the late bite and we could still get my needed fishing photo’s before the harsh glare of the East Texas sun begun melting my sun-block! "Nah, never happened, as this would become a day of…… "Legends Learned".
Fishing this day with Harold Allen, one of the true legends of the Pro/Bass circuit, a dues paying member of the ‘Olde Breed’ who was an insider among of the Legendary "Hemphill Gang" who fished the waters of Toledo Bend while it was still developing into the "awesome-ness" that it would soon become, It quickly became obvious to me that I was about to experience a very interesting day of fishing with an individual who learned his trade on a Lake that produced many of our Nations finest Bass anglers.
(6:30 am-68 degrees)- With the golden stacks of Huxley Bay Marina flapjacks finished behind us, we quickly found ourselves boat-surfing through a maze of Sabine River timber and boating lane buoy markers in front of us, which guided us into the "fishing end" of Lake Toledo Bend. And with Louisiana’s shoreline breaking dawn to our east, lighting up the Texas shoreline to the west, Harold’s sleek Champion bass-rig seems to be slicing through a surreal painting of an ‘ultra’ outdoor scene while we skimmed across shimmering waters which reflected the early dawn colors of a North Toledo sunrise.
(7:45 am-72 degrees)- "This is the first of six holes that I want us to check out today, Harold informs as he throttles down to idle speed, "and this spot that we’re coming into now is on a river channel bend which has a creek intersection with a brushy flat off to its right. And as we start fan casting the brushy edges of the river-bend flat with Texas rigged worms, Harold starts to enlighten me to some "pre-legend" notations which helped to put him on the Professional Bass tournament tours.
Born June 2, 1945, in Nacogdoches TX, Harold started fishing at a very young age with his grandmother and uncle. "We’d load the old flat bottomed boat on top of the car and go to the Angelina River for the weekend, Harold remembers, "where we would often seine our bait for trot lining and hand fishing. "We nearly always fished with cane poles and tight lines (no bobbers), he recalled, stating that it was necessary because the Angelina River always had strong currents where they fished and wouldn’t allow for any bobber, or float fishing. "Besides, Harold informed, "That type of straight-line fishing taught me a sense of feel that otherwise would’ve taken many years of experience to learn.
(8:45 am- 78 degrees)- "Quick, sniping strikes on our plastics begin to wear and tear on our nerves as both, Harold and I, attempt to set our hooks into the phantom fish, but without any success. Sensing my frustrations, Harold states, "I know you’re wanting to catch some early morning bass in order to get off the water before the summer heat sets in, "but, he reviewed, "the fishing pattern lately has been for an afternoon bite and I’m pretty sure that we won’t see much action until after 1:pm. Grimacing at the thought of being on the lake during the extremes of an oppressive heat-wave that had enveloped the East Texas area with triple-digit temperatures, all I could answer with was, "Whelp, if it takes that long to get what we needed for pictures then we’ll be here for as long as it takes. (But privately though I was hoping that Harold would be wrong... "Nada!" )
At the time of this fishing trip, East Texas was under an intensive heat wave that was providing triple digit temperatures with "mega-digit" heat index readings. Asking Harold if this heat wave would have any negative impacts on the bass fishing, he just grinned, stating that he, and his team fishing partner, Glen Freeman, had just won a Sealy Outdoors team event recently with a 5 bass/19.09 lb catch that they culled from a 30 bass bite. "I also managed to catch, land, and release an 11.85 lb bass while pre-fishing for that same event, Harold informed. "And, don’t forget that our new 15.32 lb Toledo Bend lake record largemouth bass was caught while the heat indexed pushed over 110 degrees. (Harold was reviewing the recent catch of a 28 & 1/2 inch long –by- 24 & 1/2 inch wide bass caught by Crosby TX, angler, Eric Weems, who had been pre-fishing for a Bass-N-Bucks team tournament event.)
Asked as to what he thought about this amazing mid-summer record catch, Harold stated, "Fantastic catch, in being that it was caught at a time of year when they aren’t normally caught. "But, Harold advised, "I wasn’t really surprised by the catch as my 11.85 lb bass was caught just a short time before the 15.32 lb lake record catch? "We have a year-round growing season here on Toledo Bend, Harold reminds, "with a huge variety of cover (grass and wood) at multiple depths which makes Toledo a natural fish habitat and an excellent fishery for the Florida bass restock programs. "We received our first Florida^s in the mid 1980^s, Harold stated, "and then only a sprinkling of what we really needed before the Louisiana and Texas groups started their dedicated Florida restock programs which have since stocked over 10 million Florida fry into Toledo waters to date. "I have maintained for years now, Harold re-advised, " that given time, Toledo would equal, or surpass many of the trophy-rated lakes that are already established. "Recently, there has been talk of Florida vs. Native for restocking, which is good as this lake can handle both species at the same time, "But remember, Harold pointed out, "The new 15.32 lb lake record was a Florida Strain Bass which confirms that this lake is capable of producing some really big lunker bass, and "plenty of them!" "And if that same bass was caught in February, instead of July, that same fish would’ve easily blown away both the Texas and Louisiana state records. "And I do believe, Harold impresses, "that much bigger bass are now in this lake and I’m expecting to see that new 15.32 lb record fall in a short time, "but", he pointed out, "it will be a Florida strain bass that will do it, "not a native!"
(9:48 am- 83 degrees)- Frustrated by the short bites which only produced one hooked, and lost fish, we move 200 yards from the river-bend flat to a ridge-hump that sits in the middle of the river channel. "I can see some bass holding right on the drop-off ledge which slopes off from 15 foot to 38 foot, Harold informs as he hands me a Carolina rigged worm, informing me to fan-cast the top of the hump while he worked a crank-bait to try and entice a bass-strike from the drop-off edges.
"The "Hemphill Gang" became famous in the late seventies, Harold continued to inform my notes, "As they were a great bunch of guys who loved to fish bass which included anglers such as Larry Nixon, Tommy Martin, John Torian, John Hall and myself. "Very competitive anglers with great personalities, and all from Toledo Bend here in East Texas. "Larry Nixon is now a successful and Nationally famous Arkansas B.A.S.S. Classic/Pro, "John Torian has since moved to Louisiana, "and John Hall ventured over to Virginia waters. "But Tommy Martin, and myself, still reside here on Toledo Bend where we all got our start by making a living fishing on Toledo Bend, Harold pointed out, "which became our classroom for honing those bass fishing skills that we needed to compete in the realm of the National Pro/Bass circuits.
(10:40 am- 87 degrees)- With no ‘solid’ bass-bites to make it interesting, Harold decides to run to a mid-lake slough area which is only 15 minutes south of where we are now. Moving down the main river channel boating lane, I’m impressed with the navigational layout of the well marked boating lanes that were cut and marked for the north/south lanes, as well as for the east/west lanes. This made it possible for most novice boaters to be able to navigate the entire length and breath of Toledo’s 90 mile long waterway. "Even though the lake is now well marked with improved navigational aids, Harold informed, "the new visitors to this lake will find it’s massive waterway to be intimidating, "so, I still recommend that these new boaters hire an experienced guide prior to running the lake on their own.
(10:55 am- 88 degrees)- We arrive at a main-lake slough, "where, after Harold positions the boat on the very tip of a long underwater point, he informs me that we’re 200 yards from the nearest land with the depth gauge reading 18 feet deep. Advising me to cast my worm to the left side of some stick-ups he then flips his cast to the right edges. After my effort produces a "missed" opportunity, Harold suddenly rears back "HARD" setting his hook into our first "landed" bass of the day, a nice chunk of about 2 lbs. It was now 11:am and my hopes rose that maybe, just maybe, Harold would be wrong and I could still get my fishing pictures before the harsh glare of the high-noon sun began melting my sun-block!" Nah, never happened!
"I started fishing the National B.A.S.S. circuit full time back in 1977, Harold informed my curiosity. "Beginning with the Florida Invitational which was held on the St. John^s River. "I hit a log while running to a fishing spot there, Harold recalled with a frown, "knocking off my lower unit, "But, I still managed to fish it and finished in the top 10 leader-board slots. "I had two top 10 finishes that same year, Harold grins, "and qualified for my first of 12 Bassmaster Classic’s. "I have fished all over the United States and had been on the best bass fisheries in the country, Harold stated, "But without a doubt, discounting some private lakes, "Toledo Bend is the most consistent fishery in the United States today, as "regardless" of the time of year, weather conditions, or whatever, it’ll take a 3 to 5 pound fish average to win a major tournament here now. "And due to Toledo’s huge size, variety of cover, depth variances, and superb water quality, a competing tournament angler today had better be concerned about the size of their catch and not the quantity. "This lake is 30 years old now, Harold wide-eyed, "And can you just imagine what this lake would’ve been like had it been managed from the start like the other trophy lakes here in Texas? "AWESOME", absolutely awesome!!!!".
(12:55 pm-98 degrees)- After Harold decides to move to another spot further up-lake, a deepwater hump of 22 feet surrounded by even deeper water at 44 feet, Harold begins to give me some valuable lessons on how to "finesses" fish this type of structure. "To be successful at fishing deep water, Harold begins, "you must maintain perfect boat control. "Boat control determines lure placement and presentation, as with any type of fishing, these items are very important! "To keep your boat in the proper depth or position, Harold continues, "You must have a positive definition of what the bottom looks like under and around your boat. "Your electronics are your eyes to the bottom and they must give vivid pictures (showing drops and cover) and constant numerical readout (depth) and not lose the bottom when moving at high speeds, and above all, Harold pointed out, "not show interference from your second or third depth recorder units that you may have on the boat. "To fish deepwater, Harold advises, "you must forget about watching your shoreline positions and maintain position controls on just what’s showing below you. "This will also mean wind, "sometimes lots of wind, "so your electric troll-motor must have variable thrust speed selections with a long shaft and a good bracket for holding in 2 –plus- foot waves. "Just as important as thrust it must be able to last through at least 8 hours of fishing. "In my 20 –plus- years of competitive bass fishing, Harold advises, "the Pinpoint Positioning System is absolutely the best system that I^ve ever used as it "literally" has no equal. "Remember, Harold points out, "in competitive bass fishing you are only as good as your equipment allows you to be, so this is why I choose to run Champion bass boats, fish with Shimano V Rods mounted with Shimano Chronarch reels that are spooled with 14 lb test Triple Fish line, and work with the Pinpoint positioning system.
Using his words as a teacher’s aid, Harold rigs out with a Zoom 6" trick worm and positions the boat over the deepwater structure. Peering over his shoulder I position myself to watch & learn how a legend has earned his mark as being one of the finest "finesse" anglers in the business. Dropping the light weighted trick-worm, Harold lets it sink to the bottom before lifting the rod-tip up enough to position the trick-worm about 6 inches above the bottom. What’s really amazing about what I’m watching –IS- that I’m actually watching it as he does it. The Pinpoint electronics has such a high resolution setting that you can actually see the bait on the bottom as it moves to "where-ever" Harold chooses to move it. Slowly moving along the edges of the hump, Harold adjusts his bait to climb over and around bottom brush until he suddenly quips, "there’s one!" Straining to spot what he’s looking at I’m forced to move back as Harold arches his rod into a good hook-set. Jumping for my camera I’m able to snatch a quick image of Harold flipping a bass into the boat as a small, but chunky bass hits the deck. "There’s another one down there, Harold advises, "which is a lot bigger than this one so hold your film until I can get it. Amazed at his confidence, I watch again as Harold drops back down to the hump and begins moving to where he had spotted the larger fish. A dark inverted V marks the fish just before it moves to grab the trick-worm as, once again, I have to dodge Harold’s sharp hook-setting arch as he is now into a much better fish. "Man, that’s incredible, I remark while snapping a couple of pictures. "Like I said, Harold reiterated, "good tools will provide a much better outcome. It’s now 1:30 pm and as Harold had predicted, the bass seemed to be turning on during the hottest part of the day. As Harold gives me some OJT instructions for my lesson, we began to talk about the long awaited return of the BassMaster’s to Lake Toledo Bend.
"In February of 2001, the B.A.S.S. Top 150 comes to Toledo Bend, Harold informed, "and I believe that as many as six or more different patterns could win that prestigious tournament. "At that time of year, Harold advised, "there is no bad place to fish as bushes, grass, and wood will all be producing 3 –plus- pound fish. "Arctic fronts and bluebird winds will hurt some of the anglers, but will actually help others. "This will be a very interesting tournament, Harold impressed, "and should open up some eyes as to what Toledo Bend is capable of producing for the National Tournament trails. "I believe, that barring high winds, it will take 60 pounds to make the Top 10 after the first three days, with a possible 4 day winning weight that could easily approach 100 pounds. "Many thanks go to the State of Louisiana for bringing this Nationally televised tournament back to Toledo Bend, Harold praises, "and I encourage everyone to attend the weigh-ins at Cypress Bend Resort to watch these National Bass/Pro’s as they try to pick apart the secrets of "Big Bend" in their attempts to win the $100,000 which is being offered as a first place award.
After Harold Allen manages to catch four more "Pin-Point" bass in about the same time that it took for me to "finesse" my first we decided to pack it up and head in for some "COOL" as we return to Huxley Bay Marina to sit down for a fisherman’s helping of "ICED TEA" and cheese-burger’s.
It is now 3:30 pm with an air temperature shimmering at 105-degrees and heat index readings "hovering" at 115 –PLUS- degrees. ……………………And "YES" my sun-block melted!
For more information on this Toledo Bend Legend contact:
179 Lake Country Road
Shelbyville, TX 75973-9726
Age: 55 DOB: 6-2-45 Height: 5’10" Weight: 165
Weight: 165 Wife: Kathleen Son: James Daughter: Andrea
Winner of four open invitationals.
Winner of 1994 Skeeter/NFL tournament, Lake Henderson, La.
Record for Hudson River largemouth – 6lb. 12 oz.
Holds Louisiana eight-fish tournament record, one day total of 43 lbs. 1 oz.
Twelve-time BassMasters Classic qualifier. Best finish in Classic: second in 1981, lost by 15 ounces.
1995 Angler’s Choice Pro Am Championship qualifier.
Winner of 1999 Angler’s Choice Pro Am – Toledo Bend.
Fishing has been my sole profession since 1971.
Sponsors: Champion Boats, Mercury Outboards, Pinpoint Positioning Systems, Shimano. CMC Jackplates, Accent Lures, Trolling Thunder, Zoom Baits, Costa Del Mar.