When Gary Wilson decided to wrap up his day at Toledo Bend near a stump at the Indian Mounds early Friday morning, a nearly-full moon was shining bright and sunrise was still more than three hours away.
It was about 2:30 a.m., and as he made his final series of casts with a V&M Blue Flex Wild Thang near the stump, he got a 10-pound-plus wake-up call when the biggest bass of his lifetime decided to pay him an early-morning visit.
“She bit, I set the hook and I first thought I was stuck on a log,” said Wilson, 71, of DeRidder, who decided on a nighttime trip in preparation for an upcoming tournament. “When the fish started moving I knew it was a big one.
“The bass ran sideways ripping drag and I fought the fish for a while. When the bass finally came up and I got a glimpse, it was certainly bigger than I had thought.”
Wilson realized that his net was still in storage, so he kept a tight line on the fish with his rod in one hand while he searched for his net with the other.
“I worried that while I was doing this I would lose the fish,” he said.
But he managed to find the net and single-handedly eased the large bass back to the boat and then successfully netted the fish.
“When I got the fish on the deck of the boat, it was then I realized what I had,” he said. “I took my Berkley digital scale out, and she weighed 10.6 pounds.”
He applied some Rejuvenade to his livewell, headed back to Big Bass Marina and then took a power nap until daylight.
“The bass was fine the next morning, and then I made my way over to Toledo Town and Tackle to officially weigh her for the Lunker Program,” he said
In the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program, anglers are eligible for a free replica from the Toledo Bend Lake Association for any bass caught that weighs at least 10 pounds if they agree to have it tagged and released back into Toledo Bend waters.
On the official scales at Toledo Town and Tackle, Wilson’s bass weighed 10.43 pounds and was tagged and later released.
The fish is lunker bass No. 4 for the 2014-15 season.
Wilson caught the big bass with the Wild Thang Texas-rigged to 17-pound Sufix Elite monofilament line spooled to a Shimano Citica reel seated on a 7-foot Shimano rod.
“I was casting toward the banks into 10- to 12-feet of water,” he said. “The reports I heard were that the fish were holding in 10 to 20 feet.”