Last year KVD won an Elite Series event at Toledo Bend with 96 pounds of bass. This year John Murray won there with 77-plus. Some pros attribute the drop-off to the fact that this year the derby took place a month earlier, when the fish were in a funky in-between stage. Others say it was because of a change in the vegetation. But there has also been lots of grumbling that the fish population is not what it was.
Among those who claim that the lake has declined, a large portion blame the fact that Bassmaster Magazine declared it the best bass fishery in the country in both 2015 and 2016. That led, they claim, to fishing pressure that even this 186,000 acre inland ocean could not withstand.
We heard the same grumbling as year or two after Bassmaster declared Lake St. Clair to be the nation’s best fishery in 2013. When the pros returned, many asserted that it was “not the same place as before” and that the fishery had suffered from too much pressure.
Assuming that there was a decline on both lakes, and that the “too much pressure” argument contributed, in whole or in part, to that slide, that’s both amazing and a bit frightening. Both Toledo Bend and St. Clair are massive fisheries, with miles and miles of fishable water. They have the genetics and the environment to bounce back. What would happen if B.A.S.S. were to declare a small regional lake to be the best of the best? Might it be permanently damaged, with the same Chamber of Commerce that cheered the top ranking now lamenting the fact that it’s “too crowded, nobody goes there anymore.”
Falcon’s on the way back, Sam Rayburn is on fire now. Sturgeon Bay produces massive smallmouths. Perhaps Bullards Bar might come out of left field to claim the title. Can you envision a time where a region’s fishing gurus might channel their inner Lyndon Johnson, where they “shall not seek and will not accept” the title of best bass lake in the country, in order to preserve what they have?