Not too long ago, Mike Carriere was wondering if he’d ever get the chance to beat his personal best 8 ½-pound bass.

“Just a few weeks ago, I was saying I might not ever catch a fish over 10 pounds in my life, but I want my grandkids to have the chance,” the 59-year-old Church Point angler said. “So that’s why we’ve been telling people to release the big fish and keep the smaller fish. 

“Let all those big fish go so some kids can catch them one day.’”

All that good karma apparently paid off early Sunday morning up at Toledo Bend, when Carriere reeled in a 12.4-pound hawg during a night-fishing trip in Lanan. He was with Phil Vidrine and his son Travis, on Vidrine’s party barge when the fish of a lifetime bit about 3:45 a.m.

“We always night-fish this time of year,” Carriere explained. “It gets so hot during the daytime, unless you go early in the morning or late in the afternoon, it’s just too hot to bass fish. And you’re going to catch bigger fish at night.”

They had been working a point, and moved down a shoreline to a lighted dock when the big fish bit his Texas-rigged, 11½-inch plum-colored Zoom Ol’ Monster worm. 

“I had constantly cast under that light, I guess five or six times in the same place,” Carriere said. “I was like, ‘They have to have a fish under this light. They have to.’ But nobody was catching, so I said, ‘Let’s go back to the point where we were, let’s turn around.’ But I said, ‘One more cast.’ When I cast it, there she was.

“It just stopped. My rod stopped, and I hollered, ‘This is a big fish.’ I didn’t know what it is, because it’s dark. But she came up and she tried to spit it, and then I said, ‘It’s a real big fish — get the net.’

“She came up two or three times between the boat and the dock and tried to spit it.”

Phil and Travis each had a net waiting for the lunker on the first pass.

“I said, ‘Here she comes,' and she came up right on the side of the boat — and they both missed her,” Carriere said with a chuckle. “Then she took a dive again. I said, ‘Oh no — two nets and neither one of y’all got it.’”

On the next pass, Phil had the bigger net and safely brought the giant fish aboard.

“I was thinking she looked around 10, but Phil said no — she’s more than 10,” Carriere said. 

Vidrine’s scale backed up his estimate — it said the fish weighed 12.7 pounds, and the decision was made to leave immediately to try and keep the fish alive.

But the party barge didn’t have a livewell — not a regular one, anyway. Fortunately, Vidrine’s aerator-equipped ice chest that he uses to keep minnows in while crappie fishing was onboard, so the big bass squeezed inside with about 30 or 40 baitfish for the trip back to Carriere’s camp in San Miguel.

At Toledo Town & Tackle, the big bass tipped the certified scales there at 12.4 pounds, and measured 27 inches long with a 20 ⅜-inch girth.  

It is the ninth — and largest fish so far — registered in the 2018-19 Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program, which awards anglers who catch 10-pound-plus bass a free replica if the fish is returned back to the reservoir alive 

So as it turned out, Carriere wound up not only catching that elusive 10-pound-plus fish, but crushing his personal best by almost 4 pounds.

“That’s a gift to be able to catch something like that,” he said. “I’m just so glad.”