It's a good thing Ryan Pinkston was fishing the Bass-N-Bucks Toledo Bend tournament on Feb. 25. Otherwise, no one would have believed the fishing story he had to tell.

The Center, Texas, angler was fishing alone and caught fish like crazy, ultimately putting together five fish weighing more than 36 pounds - including one specimen that pushed the scales to 14.62 pounds.

"I didn't know what I had done," Pinkston said. "I didn't realize it would be that much attention (attached to the catch)."

Pinkston was fishing alone because partner Scooter Clark was attending his grandmother's funeral.

Pinkston had one goal when he launched: To maintain the lead in the circuit's points race he and Clark had built during the season's first event.

"I figured if I could catch 15 or 16 pounds, I could hold the lead in the points," Pinkston said. "I figured it would take 19 to 20 pounds to win."

So he just went to work in some mid-lake areas he and Clark had found during practice.

"That morning, I went through some spots we put together before the tournament, and I never had a bite," Pinkston said.

By 9 a.m., the angler knew he had to make a change. So he cranked up and ran north to what he called the "mid north lake."

Pinkston started crawling a lizard along a ridge on the edge of a flat, and it didn't take long for the action to pick up.

"Within about 15 minutes, I had 15 to 16 pounds," he said. "I caught five or six in a row, including a 5(-pounder) and a 4(-pounder)."

At that point, he was feeling pretty confident that he could hold the points lead, and then someone flipped a switch.

"It just shut off four about three hours," Pinkston said.

Finally, he put the lizard down and threw out a Senko.

"I just kind of slowed down, and went back to catching fish," Pinkston said.

He culled up to what he thought would go between 20 and 22 pounds, but the down side was that he was missing a lot of really good fish.

And then he set the hook on a fish that refused to budge, straightening out an Owner hook.

"That's when I pulled the jig out to have heavier artillery," Pinkston said.

Fish responded to the Jewel football-head jig immediately.

"On the first cast, I had one walk off with it, and I missed it," Pinkston explained.

The same thing happened on the second cast, but that helped confirm the pattern Pinkston had been putting together.

"The fish had moved up to the edge of a flat," he said. "They weren't up there spawning, but they had come to that first spot and stopped."

The ridge he was fishing was fairly straight, except for a few points that jutted out here and there. That's where the fish were staging in 4 to 5 feet of water.

"That's where the fish stopped at," Pinkston said. "Every time I'd catch one on a notch, I'd catch three or four fish."

So Pinkston just worked his way down the ridge, and finally came to what looked like a corner where the ridge made an abrupt turn.

"I fired out there and caught a 5-pounder," he said.

His boat had drifted past the ridge's corner by the time he took care of that fish, so Pinkston sort of threw his jig over his shoulder back toward the corner.

"I hopped it five or six times, and I felt something tap it," he said. "When I thumped it, it took off."

The fish quickly turned around, heading directly at Pinkston's boat - and promptly wrapped the angler's line around a submerged stump.

"I'm laying on the floor (of the boat) playing tug-of-war- with this fish," Pinkston said. "I'll pull, it'll pull; I'll pull, it'll pull."

And then the fish swam away from the stump, and surfaced.

"I'm thinking it's a 10-pounder," Pinkston said.

And then he got a better look at the fish wallowing around in the water, and Pinkston snatched the net and tried to get the behemoth fish into the boat.

"I can't get the fish in there," he said.

The bass was still out from the side of the boat, forcing Pinkston to stretch to try and reach it. Twice the fish swam over the top of the net.

"I already had it in my mind: 'It's gone,'" Pinkston said.

But finally, the fish sank into the net - barely - and the angler heaved it into the boat.

When he pulled the giant bass out of the net, Pinkston was speechless.

"I was like, 'Oh my gosh! This is big!'" Pinkston said.

The bass was so large that Pinkston had trouble getting it into the livewell of his Stratos.

"I had to turn the fish around face first and sort of shove it in there," Pinkston said.

However, he still didn't know just how big it was.

"I just don't have the privilege to hold 10-pounders all that often," Pinkston said.

So, with more than an hour of fishing time remaining, he did what any fisherman would do with upwards of 30 pounds of fish in the boat - he went back to fishing.

"I re-rig and throw right back out there and catch one about 9 pounds," Pinkston said.

He boated that fish after battling it off the same stump its larger cousin had used to try and break off.

Pinkston culled his smallest fish.

"Then it kind of hit me: There might be a dozen of them in there," he said. "I throw back in there and don't get another bite."

Finally, with plenty of time left before the tournament day ended, Pinkston decided he better head back to the weigh-in.

Needless to say, Pinkston won the tournament. He bested the field by almost 8 pounds, single-handedly putting together a total weight of 36.06 pounds.

Amazingly, he is confident there was a heavier sack to be caught that day.

"If I'd had someone else with me, there's no telling what we'd have caught," Pinkston said. "I know I missed seven fish and had one of them just straighten out the hook."

The monster bass was taken to Toledo Town and placed into the holding tank, which had two huge fish that already had been weighed and were supposed to be tagged.

The fish was 25 inches long, with a girth that measured 22 inches around.

Pinkston had called Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff to enter his fish in the ShareLunker program, but when they arrived hours later there was a mix-up.

"They pulled out the first fish and it was tagged," Pinkston said. "The second fish didn't have a tag, so they pulled it out and I held it up for a photo and then put it back in the bag."

The fish was quickly placed in TPWD's transport truck for the trip back to Athens, Texas.

It wasn't until the next morning that TPWD staffers pulled the fish out and realized it wasn't a 14-pounder.

They had the wrong fish.

"I couldn't tell the difference," Pinkston said. "I don't get to hold fish that big."

His fish had already been released by Toledo Town's Curt Carver, who figured out the mistake while releasing the fish from the tank back into Toledo Bend.

"He said, 'I knew something wasn't right; I knew it wasn't an 11-pounder,'" Pinkston said.

But Carver made the decision to go ahead and release it to be sure the bass didn't die of stress.

It was the right thing to do, Pinkston said.

"I wanted it to be released back into Toledo Bend," he said.

Because it already had been weighed and measured, Pinkston's bass still was entered into the ShareLunker program and currently leads the annual contest by more than a pound.