On Jan. 12, Leesville’s Robert Craft Jr. and his brother Jason motored out of South Toledo Bend State Park to fish some very cold waters.
It was a bluebird, windy day, and the anglers were fishing right after a blast of Arctic air had moved through the area.
It was a long day, and the brothers scored only four keepers that morning.
“I had three bass, and they were taken between 15- and 22-feet on the grass line,” said Robert, 40. “I like to look at that grass line on my chart and stay on top of it at this time of the year.”
Robert was flipping green and pumpkin Zoom Z-Hogs pegged to 1-ounce tungsten weights. His 65-pound braided line was tied to a Quantum reel on an Abu Garcia medium/heavy rod.
At about 3 p.m., Craft made his way to Louisiana Island to get a little protection from the wind.
“I got on a point and started flipping the grass line where it goes out into 20 feet of water,” the angler said. “As I was making my way she hit.
“The bass took the bait like any other bass, but when I set the hook I knew she was a good fish. She wasn’t buried in the grass, so after a couple of cranks my brother and I saw the fish.”
Robert always keeps a tight drag when flipping the grass lines, so Jason told him to loosen up a bit.
“After that, I remember the bass making two good runs,” he said. “I held on as she took some drag.”
Finally, the big bass tired out and the angler rolled the fish into the net held by his brother.
“When we got her on the boat, we were both shocked at her size,” Robert said. “I had never caught one at 10 pounds. My largest was a 9-pounder taken a while back.
“Just by looking at her, I knew she was over 10,” he said. “But we didn’t have a scale with us so I didn’t know her exact weight.”
With her safely on board, the brothers looked at her mouth and saw how fortunate they were to actually land the lunker.
“She was barely hooked on the side of her lip,” he said. “Having the drag loosened probably kept that fish on the hook.”
After taking a closer look, Robert knew she was fat, but he couldn’t tell if she was carrying eggs.
“We put her in the livewell and decided to run up to Toledo Town to weigh her. When we pulled up to the landing, we asked a guy there if we could use his scale to weigh her so we could get an estimate before official weighing,” he said. “She weighed 11 ½ pounds on his scale.”
The Craft brothers eventually made their way to Toledo Town and Tackle to weigh the bass on certified scales for eligibility in the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program, which awards a fiberglass replica to anglers who agree to release their bass into Toledo Bend waters.
“She weighed 11.71 pounds officially,” Robert said.
All bass must be weighed in at official weigh stations to be eligible for the program.
According to Dinah Medine, Toledo Bend Lunker Bass program coordinator, Craft’s fish is the first one taken in 2014 to be eligible for a replica.
The program actually runs from May to May of each year, and Craft’s bass is the 14th whopper taken since May of 2013.
You can follow the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program on Facebook by clicking here.