With very little experience under her belt, Courtney Keller accomplished the improbable at Toledo Bend last month.
What she did near Palo Gaucho Creek was the bass-fishing equivalent of breaking the 4-minute mile in a pair of vintage Chuck Taylor’s — after just taking up jogging a day earlier.
The 22-year-old from Lutcher landed an 11.02-pound lunker on March 24 with an old Shakespeare spinning rod her fiancé had found weeks earlier at his dad’s car wash — for only the third bass she’d ever caught in her life.
“She kind of thumped it and I started pulling, and I thought it must have been a big one because it was something I hadn’t felt before,” said Keller, who works as an aesthetician for a dermatologist in Baton Rouge. “It hit it and I started reeling and it just took it, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, Oh my God!”
She was fishing with her 25-year-old fiancé, Ross Roper, a longtime bass angler from Paulina whose personal best bass is an 8.13-pounder he caught on almost the exact same point last year.
“She was real excited at first, but I was more pumped up. I had to lay down on the front deck of the boat because I was shaking so bad after I put it on the scale,” Roper said. “She was excited, but she didn’t realize what she caught. She doesn’t fish much so she doesn’t know what an 11-pounder really is.”
Roper was having a good day on the water that Monday morning, fishing in fingers near Palo Gaucho Creek in about 5 feet of water off of some grass lines.
Keller decided she wanted to fish, too, so she started throwing a Zoom wacky worm in watermelon candy with the old rod and a Shimano spinning reel Roper had spooled with 10-pound mono line.
“I was on the front deck of the boat fishing and she made this long cast, the longest she made all morning. She was struggling at first, trying to get the hang of the little spinning rod,” Roper said. “She bombed it out there, then I hear something in the back, maybe her feet on the carpet. I knew she was struggling and I looked back and she said, ‘I got one, I got one.’”
Roper ran to the back to assist, coaching her to pull up and reel down, and at first didn’t realize how big the fish was in what turned out to be about a five-minute battle.
“I was so caught up with trying to teach her what to do, I didn’t realize it wasn’t coming up,” he said. “I went to get the net from the front of the boat, and I saw it jump, so I’m freaking out at that point.”
The big bass made a run towards Keller, then got caught up in the prop and both Power Poles.
“I had to get on my stomach and untangle it,” Roper said. “It ran out again, shook one more time and came in after a few short runs. We finally got it in the net.”
The magnitude of the catch sunk in a little for Keller when they returned to their cabin at Cypress Bend and Roper’s uncle informed her he’d been fishing for 50 years and never caught one weighing more than 9 pounds.
“I really didn't know what kind of trophy fish I had until we went back to the camp, and they said, 'People have fished their whole lives for this, and this is like the third fish in your life and look what you got,'" Keller said. "It's just crazy."
The 11-pounder is already at the taxidermist, and will soon serve as a reminder of a fishing trip the couple won’t ever forget.
“But she was kind of aggravated that I spend hundreds of dollars on rods and reels and she caught one with a rod we found at the car wash,” Roper said with a laugh.