Derek Mong and his dad Dave have been fishing bass tournaments together since he was just a 4-year-old kid.
Now 38, Derek is a noted big-bass specialist at Toledo Bend, with six hawgs officially placed in the reservoir’s Lunker Bass Program, which awards a free mount to anglers who catch 10-pound-plus fish and return them to the lake.
He and his dad may have fished competitively for more than 30 years now, but they never enjoyed a day quite like they did on Sunday, April 22 — when they teamed up for an impressive five-fish stringer that tipped the scales at 33.13 pounds during a monthly tournament put on by Keith’s Toledo Bend Tackle.
“I had actually found these fish about two weeks beforehand,” said Derek, who noted they were fishing on the south end of the lake in the Housen and 6 Mile area. “There was another big tournament the weekend before that I tried to go back and fish these same fish, but the wind was blowing way too much from a bad direction, and I wasn’t able to stay out in the main lake area where I was fishing — so I didn’t get on them.
“So I guess I was expecting to catch them this time because the wind direction was blowing a lot better for that area, and I figured they’d be there — and they were.”
Most of the damage came from two spots — one in 14 to 18 feet of water, and one 20 to 24 feet deep — that Mong called “jump areas.”
“It’s where the fish stop at when they’re coming in for prespawn, then they stop back there on the postspawn,” he explained. “Most of the time, I don’t fish the spawn up shallow. I try to stay in these areas, especially this time of year when there are quite a bit more postspawners coming out.”
Mong, who lives in Many next door to his dad, said all the fish were caught with two baits from V&M: a brown-purple ¾-ounce Pacemaker Flatline football jig with a J-Proz Series J-Bug trailer, and a Carolina rig featuring a blue shadow J-Bug.
“We ended up catching a limit within about the first 45 minutes, and we just steadily culled all day long,” he said. “It actually started off pretty quick. I think we had our first fish in the boat within about 10 minutes. It wasn’t one of the real big ones we caught, but it kind of got the day rolling and gave us some confidence they were still there.”
The stringer’s final five fish came in at about 7 ½, 6, 5 ¾, 5 ½ — and an 8-pound hammer that sealed the deal on literally Derek’s last cast of the day.
“We had 30 pounds in the boat that I calculated, and it was still relatively early, but with that kind of weight I was pretty confident that we were going to win the tournament, and I didn’t want to run into any kind of problems getting back — so I wanted to leave a little earlier,” Mong said with a chuckle. “But my dad was wanting to stay and keep fishing because it was such a good day. I told him last cast, and he went ahead and threw another cast out, and I was like, ‘Man, we need to go.’ He was like, ‘One more cast,’ so I threw my jig back out there and it hit the bottom and I drug it about a foot and I felt this thump.
“I set the hook and it came out and jumped about 40 yards from the boat. I was like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ I thought it was actually bigger than an 8-pounder when I first saw it. When I got it in the boat, we ended up culling our smallest fish at that point, which was a 5.05 before I threw it back.
“Dad was like, ‘Aren’t you glad I made one more cast?’”
Team Mong nearly lapped the field, with second place coming in at about 17 pounds. Father and son picked up around $1,000 for the win, but the memories they made on the water were priceless.
“It was great. Me and Dad have been fishing together for years. He pretty much taught me how to fish when I was young,” Derek said. “That was our best five-fish stringer we’ve had in a tournament .…
“It was certainly the trip of a lifetime, for sure.”