The BIG news as of the new year on the Calcasieu River was a 9 ½-pound bass caught by a bass club fisherman during a tournament on Jan. 5.

The catch sent shock waves through Southwest Louisiana, where 5- to 6-pound class bass generally are considered "hawgs." At first, it was reported caught in the Watermelon Bay area, according to Ron Castille of Lake Charles.

A photo of the lunker bass spread like wildfire across cellphones in Southwest Louisiana and even found its way onto the KPLC-TV Web site, he said.

The 9 ½-pounder was caught by bass club angler Terence Cahee, who fishes with Lake Charles' Big Cypress Bass Hustlers. Cahee said the weather that Saturday was cold and rainy — quite nasty conditions, with the water temperature at a frigid 49 degrees Fahrenheit.

"My friend and fishing partner, Greg 'Jig Man' Landry helped me net her, and he also had a big part in helping me keep her alive for a safe release," Cahee posted Jan. 8.
The angler called it a fish of a lifetime in correspondence with Castille. Cahee said he and Landry fished "real hard" during the bass club's season opener in traditional fishing holes like Watermelon Bay.

"We had no luck, so in a last-ditch effort to put something in the well, we went to an area where we've caught small fish before on the main river, just west of Highway 171 Bridge," Cahee wrote in a message. "I pulled up there, and there was a small stump I casted to. (I) felt a little tick, set the hook and WHAM, it took off. Immediately, I thought I had a redfish. She ran towards the middle of the river, then turned toward me and jumped out of the water.

"And when I seen her I was more nervous than when my first child was born. My partner lipped her, and we gave each other a man hug and just sat in amazement."

The big bass was caught at 2:30 p.m. on a Texas-rigged Zoom plastic lizard, he said, requesting the color remain a secret.

Cahee and Landry weighed the fish three times, Cahee said. He attempted to call representatives from the state Department of Wildlife & Fisheries, Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office, area fishing tackle stores and, even, he said, went to Sam Houston State Park in an effort to "get someone with credibility involved" in recording the weight of the fish. After those efforts failed, he released the bass, and it "swam off healthy."

Castille said at least one other 9-pound class bass and some 8s have been caught since Hurricane Rita devastated the region in September 2005, prompting local bass anglers to catch bass at Toledo Bend and other areas and release them in the Calcasieu River. Also, Florida bass from the nearby Lacassine Pool of the Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge were taken from there and released in the Calcasieu River.

Replenishing the river was the goal, and this hawg apparently was one of the rewards. It sure caused a lot of excitement as the region's bassers headed into the dead of winter and for the most part waited for February.