By his own admission, Greg Sonnier is a light-tackle, inland saltwater angler who enjoys kayaking.
But that didn’t stop the Lafayette fisherman from landing a monster bass that tipped the scales north of 12 pounds Saturday morning during a tournament on Toledo Bend.
“There was a St. Thomas More Class of 1989 bass tournament planned for Toledo Bend Saturday, but our class of 1992 had an invite,” Sonnier said.
He had only fished the lake about two dozen times, so he and Lafayette fishing partner Danny Lasseigne set out and headed north from Carrice Creek to pre-fish on Friday, the day before the tournament.
“The water looked terrible,” he said.
They eventually found 2- and 3-pounders on the west bank not far from Carrice Creek, so they started the tournament day in the area holding fish.
“We launched at 7:30 Saturday and motored inside one of the coves,” Sonnier said.
The anglers found submerged grass in depths ranging from 2 to 7 feet.
“On Friday, we caught the bass on ½-ounce, bream-colored Rat-L-Traps, and I was determined to keep on throwing that bait,” he said.
The rest of Sonnier’s tackle consisted of a 6-foot, 6-inch OCR Custom rod that he usually uses for speckled trout. His 20-pound PowerPro braid - also used for saltwater - was spooled to a Shimano Core reel.
“I was casting out into 8 feet of water with the boat positioned above 4 feet,” Sonnier said.
The angler was just topping the tips of the submerged grass with the Rat-L-Trap when the lure came to a sudden halt.
“I thought it was stuck on a log, and I thought to myself, ‘I have to get the trolling motor going to retrieve the lure,’” he said.
Three seconds later, braid started peeling off Sonnier’s Shimano and his drag was humming.
“The fish ran left and wanted to go toward the motor but I was able to pull her back,” he said.
“She eventually came up and showed herself and I knew then it was a big bass.”
The fish again ran toward the motor and Lasseigne attempted to net her.
“She was fast and moved out again,” Sonnier said. “And she was steady pulling drag.”
He described the next few minutes as a tug of war between he and the bass.
“I knew not to force her,” he said.
When the bass neared the boat once more, Lasseigne’s second attempt at netting the monster was successful.
“Danny gave me the net and I laid her down to get the livewell ready,” he said. “I wasn’t about to think of going in until weigh-in. I’m a hard-core, competitive trout and redfish angler and I wanted to keep going until we had our limit.
“I actually convinced myself the bass weighed somewhere between 6 and 8 pounds.”
Sonnier and Lasseigne tried to get four more fish until 4 that afternoon.
“We ended up with one more at 2 pounds,” he said.
When the anglers arrived at their camp, Sonnier briefly showed off the lunker to their group.
“The guys were freaking out,” he said. “To see their faces was almost as exciting as catching the fish.”
On a digital camp scale, Sonnier’s bass weighed 12.31 pounds.
So the anglers set off on the 10-minute drive to Toledo Town and Tackle to see if the big bass would qualify for the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program.
At T-town, Sonnier’s bass officially weighed 12.26 pounds, and was measured at 24 ½ inches long with a 21-inch girth.
Since Sonnier’s monster weighed 10-pounds-plus and was tagged and released, he will receive a replica courtesy of the Toledo Bend Lake Association.
Sonnier’s fish is lunker No. 40 entered into the program for the 2014-15 season, and the bass anchored a winning stringer for Sonnier and Lasseigne in the tournament.