Beaumont’s Ray Beck and Alexandria’s Shane Hilton teamed up Saturday, Feb. 14, to compete in the Skeeter Bass Champs tournament on Toledo Bend.
The anglers had fished a previous series stop a month earlier at Sam Rayburn, where Hilton earned the Big Bass award for a 9.78-pound Lone Star lunker.
When they launched aboard Beck’s Skeeter that Saturday morning, little did they know they would team up for yet another Big Bass award - but it would be Beck’s turn this time with an 11-pound-plus fish.
“We knew an area holding 4- to 6-pounders,” Beck said, referring to locations in the Indian Mounds. “We fish there each year, and we knew from experience the odds favored us to catch large bass in the morning.”
Fishing in an area with stumps and debris, Beck was casting a Stanley ¾-ounce football jig with a green pumpkin V&M Mud Bug as a trailer. He was using Lew’s 20-pound fluorocarbon spooled to a Lew’s Tournament Pro reel on a 7 ½-foot Lew’s rod.
The anglers were casting in 14-feet of water, and the first fish of the day was a 2-pounder. At about 8:30, Beck said something picked up his football jig and his line started moving to the side.
“I set the hook, and I knew it was big,” he said. “I told Shane that I needed help. I could feel her head shaking, and I even said to him, ‘Look at the end of my rod.’”
Fortunately, Beck held the fish down so it wouldn’t jump out the water to throw the hook.
“She came aside the boat and Shane netted her,” he said.
Beck, 62, had taken an 11-pounder before, but he knew this fish was bigger by looking at it.
“We sure were celebrating,” Beck said. “Shane took a few pictures and some video.
“You can see in the video we were both nervous and excited about this fish.”
The anglers placed the fish in the livewell, and drawing on past experience with big bass, Beck de-fizzed the fish after 20 minutes.
“Of course it’s traumatic on a bass being brought up from deep water,” he said. “She was not bloated, but there was no need to take any chances with the fish.”
The anglers had planned to pick up and fish the north end, so Beck texted a message to the tournament director to see if he could drop off the lunker for a weight and placement in a live-release holding tank.
Tournament staff met the anglers upon arrival at Cypress Bend, and the fish was secured and weighed, tipping the scales officially at 11.39 pounds.
Beck and Hilton ended up with five bass weighing 24.73 pounds, placed second in the tournament and also received the Big Bass award for Beck’s lunker. The pair took home $12,000 in winnings.
Beck’s bass was entered into the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program as the 29th entry of the season, and he will receive a free replica of his catch this May for releasing the fish back into Toledo Bend waters.