Lakecaster Online

Team Toledo -Bass/Pro Pointers
By Ed Snyder

Sunday, December 19, 1999, Six Mile Creek, Toledo Bend Lake, TX.

It's a typical cool and crisp December morning as our boat banks into Six Mile Creek, and as the boats wake begins rippling through a stubbled forest of some creek channel timber, we settle down on a deepwater point to try our first casts of the day. "Here, use this Titanium I-M700 rod which is already rigged and ready, advises Mike Cortelloni, as he helps Stephen Johnston set the troll-motor into what is to become a very interesting fishing day on Lake Toledo Bend.

In being that team bass tournaments have elevated into one of the most popular bass fishing formats for "todays" competitive minded anglers, i've had the rare opportunity of spending a day of fishing with two "top-notch" Bass/Pro's, who've fine-tuned their skills on one of the finest bass fisheries in the nation. Mike Cortelloni, of Many LA, and Stephen Johnston, of Hemphill TX, who represent over 30 years of bass fishing expertise between them, have made their marks as highly skilled fishing guides and professional bass tournament anglers.

"I've been fishing Toledo Bend for over 15 years now, informs Mike Cortelloni, as he prepares to drop his hammered spoon down to submerged structure, "and this is probably one of the finest fisheries in the nation, as, at any given time of year, you can catch bass 10 different ways, by using 10 different methods, at 10 different depths."This "is" a fishing lake, Mike emphasized, "a tournament anglers dream, as bass tournaments here on Toledo are at a premium right now with high competition levels for some really big money payouts. Team tournament formats are my favorite way to compete, Mike informs, "adding that it becomes really important with whom you team up with to become successful at it. "You'll need to find someone who can compliment your style of fishing, Mike advised, "as you must learn each others methods & techniques where you can mesh together as one, becoming a skilled fishing team who can catch bass under any weather situation or any fishing condition.

"Amen to that, Stephen Johnston interjects as he informs us that we're sitting over a 24' creek-entry point with bass holding near the bottom, and "quickly" emphasizing that fact as his rod suddenly bows to a strike, where he just as quickly lands a chunky bass of about 3 lbs. With our fishing interests reconnected to our jiggin spoons, the angler chatter wanes a bit, giving me an opportunity to view Toledo at its absolute best. With the lakes scenic shoreline "ablaze" in Autumn finery, leafy golds, brushy reds, and towering greens merge at waters edge to mirror its "shimmering" grandness. A sudden vibration on my rod wrangles me back to reality though, as a quick, snapping reflex hooksets into a loud "GOTTEM"as I catch, and quickly boat a twin bass to Stephens catch. "*#@??^#!!, begins to rumble through the boat before Stephen responds with, "they're hitting the 1/2 oz today Mike, "where, after a speedy change-over to a smaller spoon, Cortelloni quickly hooks up with an exact "triplet" to our other two catches.

As the midmorning sun begins to warm up the shallows, Stephen re-sets the troll-motor, moving us into stubble of the timber flat where we start working falldowns and scattered grass with Strike King spinner baits and Reaction Lure soft plastics.

"There'll days when one team angler is not as hot as the other, Mike informs, case in point with what Stephen has just helped me with by letting me know that the bass were taking a slightly smaller lure, "and that's exactly, Cortelloni points out, "is what can make the difference between a good solid 1st place payday or a "tail end charley" finish. "This is why its so important for the fishing team to really get to know each other.

"That's right, Stephen supports, "further informing that "practice, "practice, "practice, becomes very important as both anglers must learn to work together as a team, and not splitting up with one angler going up-lake and the other down-lake. "By splitting up your practice fishing like that, Stephen advises, "all you're really doing is losing valuable fishing time by running 25 to 30 miles to split-lake patterns, when you really need to be concentrating your efforts one area of the lake. "And another important item for the team anglers to remember would be to get to know each others boating habits and controls, Stephen points out, "as when you're working the edges of a grass-flat, your partner can keep the troll-motor on the catchin' edge of the structure where you can concentrate more on fishing instead of eyeballing the depth recorder to worry about where you're positioned at. "Boat control, is just as important as fishing expertise, Stephen stressed.

After moving through the flats, where Mike catches our only keeper bass, another solid 3 pounder on a Strike King, we decide to make a short run to some main-lake grass-beds where we hope to catch some larger bass on grass-tippin patterns with Strike Kings and Rat-L-Traps.

"Toledo Bend is a "tournament giant" among bass tournament lakes, Mike praises, explaining that anyone can come here from anywhere in the Nation and start catching bass, wether they like to fish wacky worms in shallow brush, slow-roll spinner baits over mainlake grass-mats, or work crankbaits along ridgeline drop-offs, "we've got it all here right here, Mike advised, further stating that Toledo is a true Sportsmans Paradise

"I agree, Stephen supports, adding that here on Toledo there's a lot of different ways to catch bass, as down here on the southend, where I live, we have access to some really fantastic Hydrilla for fishing 15' to 18' matted grass-beds with jig-n-craws, spinner baits, or TX rigged soft plastics, where as up on the northend, where there's very little grass, you can fish large crankbaits, deepwater mud-bugs, or carolina rigged soft plastics around concentrations of river timber or brush edged creek channel dropoffs.

"But the best way for anyone to really get a head start at learning how to fish a lake the size of Toledo Bend, both Pro's advise, "would be to hire a "professional" guide who is highly skilled and experienced with Toledo's "massive" 187,000 acres of surface water, who knows the nook and crannys of its 1,200 mile shoreline, and who can safely navigate Toledo's 72 mile long waterway of boating lanes. "Toledo Bend, Mike edits, is a common border waterway between the states of Texas and Louisiana, and your first visit here, he pointed out, could very well leave you intimidated just by the sheer size of it all, and hiring a guide for your first trip out would be the fastest, and safest way to learn it.

As we work the grass by tippin' -(a method of letting the bait drop to the grass-tops, then pulling it through the strands before slow-rolling it and letting it heli-copter back down to the grass-tops before repeating the procedure, as the bass will usually hit on the fall)- I'm amazed by just how sensitive my Titanium rod is as I can actually feel every flutter of the blade and every "tic" of the grassstrands. "The bass will take your bait in several different ways, Stephen explains, "either by a hard tug, a suttle thump, or just a mushy feeling as it mouths the bait on the fall, "this is why, Stephen advises, that you must have a highly sensitive rod such as a Kistler rod, becomes crucial to being able to transfer those "ultra" sensitive details for allowing you to set the hook at the time of the hit, or, he re-advised, the bass will inhale the bait and spit it back out before you even knew that it was ever there. Stephen Johnston quickly tests his own comment as his Kistler "Hydrilla Gorilla" specialty rod "bows-up" on what becomes our largest bass of the day, a dark and chunky grass-bass of about 4 lbs.

"Of all of the fishing tools that a bass angler can have in their boat, Mike informs, "the most important item will be the fishing rod. "And i've had "ALL" of the best rods in my boat since I started fishing tournaments, Mike notes, "but now, Trey Kistler, the son of the man who helped to develop the All Star and Castaway rods that were the finest tools of their time, has now stepped forward with his own personal line fishing rod designs. "Trey, Mike further educates, has probably developed the finest line of custom fishing rods that the sportfishing market has ever seen, and we feel that his designs will really start to steamroll the competition very quickly. "Especially now, Stephen adds, "mainly because of the "BIG MONEY" which is now being offered by team/bass circuits such Sealy Outdoors and Bass-N-Bucks, which now "guarantee" over $40,000 per tournament event. "Bob Sealy and David Concienne have really helped to regenerate the team/bass events with some really big money payouts, Mike excitedly points out, "and with that opportunity drawing everyone out of the woods to fish these big money events, you definitley will need to have an edge for fishing those kind of competition levels, especially a "winning edge" for being able to collect some of that "folding" money which is now available for the weekend anglers. And the Kistler Custom Rods will do just that, Stephen states, "because when you put your hand around a Kistler rod, Stephen emphasizes, "your hand will be directly in contact with a superior rod blank which has the sensitivity to allow you to feel even the most suttle of bass bites. "Which will give you that "little extra" that you might need for having that "winning edge" for the tournament angler, Mike advises, "further stating that Kistlers new "state of the art" custom rods, such as his new Wacky Worm rod will become a very hot item, Mike informs, "adding that the "wacky worm special" will have spinning or casting models available for those anglers who seek soft action tips with strong reaction backbones.

"We've had the opportunity to work with Trey Kistler these past 7 months, Mike informs,"and we've been able to meld some of our years of experiences and skills into the custom blanks which will have just the right actions for just the right rod models which will be put on the market this January. "I promise you, Mike Cortelloni asserts, "these rods, that we have helped to develope for Trey Kistler, will become "the ultimate" fishing rod to be fishing with, "as anyone who likes to fish will realize that they will have the finest rod in their hands for getting the job done. "When we fish for the money, Both Pro's advised, "we want to have the "real deal" in our hands, and the Kistler rod "IS" the real deal as it has been "TRUE" tested by men who know exactly what they're doing. "Yeah, Stephen adds on, "especially Kistlers new "Black Magic" crankin' rod which is of a new fiberglass blend which is super light, but yet "tuff" enough to crank up against any fishing situation.

"We'll be putting all of these rods on display for the public at the upcoming Houston Boat, Sport, & Travel Show, inform the two Pro's, "so, just plan to come on by and visit with us at the Kistler Rods booth# 7168, in the Astro Arena complex, starting January 7, thru January 16, 2000, in Houston, TX. "We will have 50 unique custom graphite models available for your interests which will also include Kistlers newly developed "Titanium IM-700" composite rod series which will have 10 models. "This is a "must see to believe" rod, both Pros advise, and we'll be giving demonstrations, as well as giving one of these "superior" Titanium IM-700 rods away "FREE" to the public as one "luck-o-the-draw" person will go home with an absolute Kistler Custom Rod "Masterpiece".

Mike Cortelloni, sponsored by Skeeter/Yamaha Boats, Boots Follmar Marine, Kistler Custom Rods, Gene LaRew, Bill Lewis Lures, Strike King Lures, Triple Fish Line, and Shimano Reels, will be available for your guiding or tournament instructional packages, by calling (318)-645-6047 -or E-Mail <> -or by writing to -279 Pinethicket Rd - Many, LA. 71449.

Stephen Johnston, sponsored by Ranger/Mercury Boats, MotorGuide, Lowrance, Kistler Rods, Triple Fish Line, Shimano Reels, Reaction Lures, Toledo Tackle, Strike King Lures, and Rat-L-Trap, will be available for your guiding or tournament instructional packages, by calling (409)-579-4213 -or E-Mail <> -or by writing to- POB-268- Hemphill, TX. 75948.

For more information on "Kistler Custom Rods" call Trey Kistler at (1-281-259-8033) -clic to- <> or come on by and visit with us at Booth#7168 of the Houston Boat, Sport, & Travel Show from January 7, thru January 16th.

Cortelloni landing Johnston's Reaction Action

Cortelloni "hook-sets" a Strike King timber bass
< photos by Ed Snyder >

Cortelloni works the timber edges

Stephen Johnston and Mike Cortelloni banking into Six Mile Creek

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