Last time we talked to Garrett Gincley, we discussed kayak fishing Blue Marsh Lake in South Central Pennsylvania. This time we talk to Garrett about his fishing trip to a legendary bass fishery, Toledo Bend. It was Garrett’s first trip there, and he shares his experience of bass fishing Toledo Bend with us.
When did you go to Toledo Bend?
I was at Toledo Bend November 1st to 4th in 2017 for the Kayak Bass Fishing 100 Challenge Championship and the END on the Bend OPEN.
How did you qualify for this tournament?
I qualified for the 100 Challenge Championship by being the top ranked angler in Pennsylvania for the KBF Online Challenges. KBF held a statewide challenge from April to October as well as some National events sprinkled in. You were allowed to count points for 2 different states each month. I fished in the Pennsylvania events each month except October and a few months in New York and New Jersey. That helped me get the points I needed to qualify. The KBF gang, Chad Hoover, Kristie, Joe Haubenreich, just to name a few, do a lot for its members, and this event was no exception.
How was the road trip from Pennsylvania?
The total drive took over 24 hours. I stopped at a rest stop in Alabama on the way down and got a few hours of sleep in my truck. I then woke up and drove the rest of the way there.
The drive was long, but it wasn’t too bad. There’s something about being alone on the road heading to a destination that you’ve never been to before that is relaxing. Either that, or the fact that I was off work for a few days and could chase monster largemouth!
I left on Halloween morning and arrived there November 1st around noon. I camped out at Cypress Bend Park which was right where the Captain’s meeting and awards ceremony occurred. There was a boat launch right next to my camping spot which was a plus.
How excited were you to fish this famous bass fishery?
To say I was excited is an understatement. I’m always excited before fishing tournaments, but this one was different. This was my first time traveling this far to fish a tournament this big.
Previously to this I had only fished one in-person KBF tournament in April with the guys at Mountain State Kayak Anglers on Stonewall Jackson. I was lucky enough to take 5th in that tournament which qualified me for the 2018 KBF National Championship.
However, this tournament was different. I mean no disrespect to the 150 plus anglers who showed up at Stonewall Jackson. There were some big sticks in that tournament and it was very competitive. But the list of names that attended the 100 Challenge Championship and the END on the Bend Open were some of the best of the best.
Were you confident or nervous going into this tournament on a new body of water?
Nothing really makes me nervous these days, so my excitement was through the roof. I couldn’t wait to get out there and compete with these guys and girls. I was excited to see what I could do on unfamiliar water.
I have a lot of confidence in my fishing ability and feel that I can catch fish on any fishery, on any day and in any conditions. That’s one of the biggest battles tournament anglers face. You have to stay confident no matter what happens. Toledo Bend has its fair share of monster bass being on the Louisiana/Texas border. So just being able to fish a lake that has that sort of awe to it was exciting in and of itself.
What homework did you do on fishing Toledo Bend from a kayak?
When you’re fishing a lake that big you really have to break it into pieces and treat each piece as its own body of water. Due to KBF rules of needing to check in at the headquarters by a certain time, I knew I wanted to fish decently close to headquarters. I didn’t want to travel too far away from headquarters and need to come off the water early in order to make it back in time.
Most people will stress over and study maps like crazy, but I am a little bit of the opposite. I will find an area to start based on the map, but that’s it. Until I can actually fish the area the map doesn’t mean much. I actually found my one spot by watching some highlights of a Bassmaster event that was held there. Luckily for us, BASS isn’t shy about showing where their anglers fish during tournaments.
After studying some maps of the area it fit right into my style of fishing so I decided to check it out first. It was a pretty good area and I caught some fish in it, but it just didn’t feel right to me the night before tournament day. I had fished a cove really close to where the launch at my campground was when I arrived and just wanted to get out on the water. I only caught one 17” bass back in there but I had follows from 3 or 4 big fish and saw a lot of shad back there.
Looking at the maps the night before the tournament started, I realized that within a short distance I pretty much had the structure and depth ranges to fish in any way that the weather and fish dictated. No matter what I was faced with come tournament day I was confident that this spot would hold fish and that I could get them to bite. It just felt like it was the right move on tournament day.
Did you get any new equipment that you wouldn’t normally have for PA fishing?
I picked up some large jigging spoons to try while I was down there, but ended up not using them. With a lake that has fish that big and that many shad I was figuring I could find an offshore school and drop down on them if needed. Jigging spoons are big on Toledo Bend. I ended up sticking with my confidence baits and caught fish that way. I do plan to try jigging for some landlocked Striper back at home this year with the spoons!
When you got there and prefished, how did you find the lake for kayak fishing?
The lake was easy to access and has plenty of coves and protected water for kayak fisherman. On day 2 of the tournament I ended up out in deep water. The few boats that were around me were very courteous. One was a guide down there who was looking for fish for clients he had the next day. He let me have the area to myself since I was in a tournament. That was pretty cool of him. I wish I would have gotten his name to give him some props.
What initial patterns did you find?
The cove I ended up fishing Day 1 was deeper on one side which had docks and very shallow on the other side. The water was at winter pool, which means it was a few feet below what the summer levels normally were. This exposed a lot of the areas that were normally underwater.
All during prefishing I was getting fish on an Adam’s Custom Lures ENCOUNTR 75 in Northern Flash color. This is a color I helped Adam with as it’s a big hit on my home lake and matches the forage perfectly. The size of the ENCOUNTR was the exact same size as the shad the fish were blowing up on in these coves, so you could say it was a perfect match for the conditions.
My other 2 baits that I used were a 1/2 ounce War Eagle Spinnerbait and a 5” Ssenko that I skipped under docks to get a few bites. Pretty much anything that resembled a baitfish they were chasing. The key was to find the coves that had the right structure and had shad in them.
Did these patterns hold up for you in the tournament?
These patterns held up well for Day 1 of the tournament. Within the first 15 to 20 minutes I had 3 fish for about 46 inches in the boat on the ENCOUNTR 75. I then had a decent sized fish break me off on a Senko after coming out from under a dock and getting tangled in some chain that was used to hold their pontoon boat to the dock.
After that I had my real heartbreak of the tournament. I went back a creek arm at the back of the cove and threw a War Eagle over a log. When I brought it back over the log a GIANT bass slammed it. The fish jumped out of the water and the fight was on. I’m still not quite sure what happened next, but when the fish swam by me for deeper water and I went to depress my button on my baitcaster the line snapped. I’m not sure if it was a bad knot, worn out braid, or if my thumb got caught up in the line, but that fish was gone. I estimate the fish was between 22 and 24 inches long, but who knows for sure how big she actually was. All I know is she was much bigger than any 20 inch bass I have caught in Pennsylvania.
The day ended with me catching a bunch of 13 inch fish to finish out my limit and a 30 inch bowfin as a bonus. I honestly thought I had a 10 pound plus bass on when the bowfin hit my ENCOUNTR until I felt the very wide head shake and roll. That bowfin gave an awesome fight that I wish I would have had my GoPro rolling for. It jumped 3 feet out of the water a few times!
On Day 2 I struggled in the morning only catching 1 fish on an ENCOUNTR 75. I actually got hung up on a stump and while trying to pull it off got hit by a bass. I had heard all week that everyone was catching them on silver and blue Rat-L-Traps so I decided to switch over to that and move to a school of spotted bass that I had found over a bush in 20’ of water during prefishing.
On my first two casts over the bush I caught back to back 17” crappies…go figure. I knew there were fish there so I stayed with it. A few minutes later I caught a decent spot to bring my total to 2 fish, the limit is 5. Unfortunately, shortly after that I got my Rat-L-Trap stuck in the bush and couldn’t get it out. Since I didn’t plan to fish this way at all it was the only Trap I had in my boat with me.
I dug through all my tackle for awhile and eventually found a Bagley lipless in sexy shad color and decided to give it a shot. This is where it all went downhill. I proceeded to hook over twenty bass all along that area but only landed one 9.75” spotted bass. I’m not sure if the hooks on the bait were bad or if I wasn’t using the right set up. I probably should have had a more moderate tip for that bait.
To say my day started to get frustrating is an understatement. I hooked a few fish that I could tell were big just to have them pull the hook. It took a lot of confidence out of me as I didn’t expect to land the fish after getting bit, but I was getting bit so I stayed at it. With only 3 fish and one being less than 10 inches I knew I wasn’t going to finish in the money. I ended up catching my 4th bass right at the launch dock at 2:59, all photos must be uploaded by 3:00. I was able to get that fish uploaded and scored before the deadline thanks to the TourneyX App for the iPhone.
Although 34th isn’t where I wanted to finish and although I had the bites to finish in the Top 10, I still had a blast. I’m still kept up at night and think about that big fish I lost on Day 1 and what I could have done differently on Day 2. But hey, that’s fishing!
What were some things you would have done differently?
For starters I would have packed my Rat-L-Traps! I also would love to be able to go back and check my line before making that cast over the log that I lost the big fish on. After speaking to another angler who I met down there about how he fights the fish, I picked up a few tips to keep the fish down and keep it from jumping that I had never thought of before. I will implement those when using a lipless bait next time! I also wonder if I wouldn’t have abandoned my pattern from Day 1 on Day 2 so early would the fish back in the cove have turned on. Unfortunately, I’ll never know!
Overall, what advice that you have for anyone kayak fishing Toledo Band for the first time?
Take your time and enjoy it. It’s a beautiful fishery with some of the best fishing around. Take it all in and explore the lake. See as much of it as you can. But mostly, have fun and fish your way. There is a variety of ways to catch fish on that lake and pretty much any style that suits you can be applied to that lake. So find water that looks like what you’re used to and pound it.
What companies do you represent?
I am lucky to have some awesome companies allowing me to represent them this year:
Adam’s Custom Lures ENCOUNTR 75 has become a staple in my tacklebox and I have caught a TON of fish on this bait. Adam’s paintjobs are not only fish catching but they hold up to pretty much anything. My ENCOUNTR from Toledo Bend got slammed by bass and even by a 30” bowfin and the paint is still perfect. It doesn’t even show hook rash like most baits do.
The ATAK 1.25 is a squarebill crankbait. It is a tight wobbling crankbait that excels on shallow rivers like the Susquehanna River but can also be fished on lakes as well. You can fish this bait like a typical crankbait or like a jerkbait. Both baits catch some serious fish!
The thing I love the most about representing Adam and his baits is that he genuinely cares about his team members. He messaged me while I was in Toledo Bend to ask how prefishing was going and to tell me he was rooting for me and was happy to have me on the team no matter what my finish was going to be. That means a lot as an angler representing a company who basically says “Go out and fish and no matter what happens – we’re still behind you.”
TackleFreaks.com is a new team that I am on for 2018 run by Kevin Baxter. You may have seen his videos on YouTube or Facebook under Kevin “The Baitman” Baxter. Let me tell you, that nickname is earned.
If you ever need to know ANYTHING about a bait from where to fish it, what colors to get, what rod and reel to fish it on he’s your guy. He is one of the most knowledgeable and well respected guys in the business. He has done a lot for me already as far as opening up my bait arsenal and understanding better where and how to use certain baits. I’m excited to see what 2018 brings to TackleFreaks! Check out his website, or store front, Kentucky Lake Outdoors, if you’re in the area, for some awesome baits that catch some “jaints.”
Fish-D-Funk is another new team that I am a part of for 2018. My representation of this company actually came from a meeting at my day job with a company that owns Fish-D-Funk. I manage a Gene Therapy lab. After chatting a bit with the sales rep we discovered that we were both into the outdoors.
After a long conversation and swapping photos and stories of our outdoors adventures he asked me if I was interested in representing Fish-D-Funk. I had used their wipes in the past and the work well, so we worked out the details and I agreed to sign on with them. I am a big proponent of the scents that fish pick up when fishing. This included scents that you purposely add, JB’s Fish Sauce for me, as well as the scents that you probably don’t even realize you’re adding like your own.
I use the Fish-D-Funk wipes to clean any scent off of my hands before touching my soft plastics. This ensures that the only scent that goes on them is the scent that I want. I believe this directly leads to more bites when on the water. Fish-D-Funk also makes a variety of products like Reel and Line Performance, which I used when spooling up fluorocarbon or monofilament line to keep it from coiling and looping.
Dog-D-Funk is another product. It is great for getting those smells off of your dog like skunk, which my mutt seems to LOVE.
I have also used their Cooler-D-Funk. I used the Cooler-D-Funk on my Yeti Tundra after a tailgate party. It took the stale smell of light beer and the stains right out of the cooler. I have also been told that it is great for wiping out refrigerators and freezers as well.
I am on team STORMR again for 2018 and couldn’t be more excited. The Nano series rain suit is a great summertime rain gear for keeping you dry, but not hot. It is very breathable and comfortable and it even looks great! STORMR makes a wide variety of products for anglers who fish a wide variety of conditions from hot to freezing cold and they make some great quality stuff!
Awesome information Garrett. Hoping your 2018 is another successful one. Will be following on Instagram @ggyakfishing.