When you’re fishing at Toledo Bend, there’s an expectation of big bass, and anglers never know when their next cast might result in the double-digit hawg of a lifetime.

On the other hand, when you’re targeting bass in the Tchefuncte River, typical largemouth there run in the ½- to ¾-pound range, so there’s no real expectation of landing a lunker suitable for the wall.

That’s what makes Branden Graf’s trip on the 70-mile-long river north of Lake Pontchartrain last Wednesday morning, May 24, so special. 

He put in at the Highway 22 boat launch just east of the Madisonville Bridge about 8 a.m., and in about 30 minutes he was holding a bass that would make most Toledo Bend fishermen turn green with envy.

Using a Texas-rigged junebug Senko with an ⅛-ounce bullet weight, Graf reeled in a huge 23-inch, 9.9-pound bass along the rocks near Salty’s Marina.

“She came right when I casted up on the rocks in 2 or 3 feet of water, at the most,” said Graf, 19, of Abita Springs. “She hit it whenever it fell to the bottom. I didn’t work the lure at all. I think she hit it on the fall maybe. I thought I got snagged on a rock because it wasn’t fighting like a fish …. I thought I was stuck.”

The temperature last Wednesday morning was a little chilly, and Graf said the big fish actually didn’t put up much of a fight.

“It was weird. She came up, splashed at the top for a little bit and then we got her right in the net,” he said. “She didn’t really pull any drag or put up much of a fight at all."

Fishing buddy Jude Aucoin netted the big bass aboard Graf’s 16-foot Tim’s Custom Flat, and a small celebration ensued.

“We both were freaking out when we saw it splashing on top,” Graf said. "We knew it was a huge fish.”

Graf’s digital scale flickered around 9.9 pounds — and then he decided to release the big fish.

“I was thinking about getting it mounted when I was in the boat taking pictures, but I just let it go because I wasn’t going to spend my money doing that,” said Graf, who just wrapped up his freshman year in accounting at Southeastern University in Hammond. “It's still out there swimming around, so someone else is able to catch it, too.”

Louisiana Sportsman contributing writer Joel Masson, who lives along the Tchefuncte in Covington, has been fishing the river pretty regularly for about four years.

“It’s a big, big deal for someone to catch a 9-pounder there. That’s almost unheard of,” Masson said. “My biggest is 4 ½ (pounds), and most trips you don’t catch a whole lot of fish — and definitely not a lot of big ones. 

“I haven’t heard of a 9-pounder caught in the Tchefuncte, but I’m sure they’ve got them. That's definitely a very, very impressive fish for that place.”

Graf said he and Aucoin originally had other plans Wednesday morning — but thankfully they didn’t pan out.

“We were actually planning on going run jugs for catfish because we didn’t plan on catching any bass, but my buddy forgot the limb lines and jug lines so that went out the window,” he said.