Anglers were socked in by fog early during the American Bass Anglers AFT tournament at Toledo Bend on March 18.
Once conditions were safe, 56-year-old Eric Bennett from Slagle motored over to the Indian Mounds and arrived about 10:30.
“In prior tournaments, I had been fishing the Indian Mounds which held lots of big fish for me,” he said.
Bennett had established a pattern of finding fish off points in about 8 feet of water.
The angler was working a watermelon-red Texas-rigged Zoom lizard under a tungsten bullet weight pegged to 17-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon. His line was spooled to a Lew’s Speed Spool Tournament Pro reel attached to a 7-foot medium-heavy Lew’s Custom rod.
“I was working it slow, popping the lizard a foot off the bottom and letting it fall,” he said.
It was on a secondary point when he felt a fish at about 11:45.
“When the fish bit, I knew it was a good one because it made a huge swirl on top,” he said.
The big bass made a couple of runs, the first of which Bennet had to work her away from his outboard.
On the second run, the fish headed under the angler’s boat.
“I was on my knees on the driver’s side and leaning over with my rod tip in the water,” he said. “I worked as hard as I could to keep the line from rubbing along the bottom of the boat.”
Once he had worked the fish away, he could feel his line getting slack as the big bass came to the surface.
“I just reached over, grabbed my net and got her aboard,” Bennett said.
The angler was ecstatic, but contained his emotions because he didn’t want to call much attention to himself with other competitive anglers nearby.
“I knew it was the largest bass I have ever taken,” he said. “I have taken 9-pounders in Sam Rayburn and Toledo, but this one topped those.”
Bennett kept the fish healthy by applying Rejuvenade in his livewell, and kept fishing until the scheduled 3 p.m. weigh-in.
After recording his weight at the tournament site, Bennett made his way over to Buckeye Landing, an official weigh station for the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program.
On Buckeye’s certified scales, Bennett’s bass weighed a hefty 10.61 pounds.
The fish was tagged and released, and Bennett will receive a free replica of his trophy courtesy of the Toledo Bend Lake Association.
Bennett’s fish is lunker No. 59 for the 2016-17 Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program season.