Chad Blanchard had just about reached his limit Saturday afternoon.
He and his 10-year-old son, Cabet, had been trying to catch a giant bass sitting on a bed at the base of a cypress tree in Lake Chicot for more than four hours straight, without any luck.
Blanchard had succeeded in hooking the monster twice, only to have the big fish break his line on the tree once, and then shake the hook loose later in the afternoon.
“When she got close to the boat the second time, she came out the water shaking and she spit my bait back over the boat at me,” said Blanchard, 42, of Carencro. “I sat down and wanted to cry right there.”
But his young son invoked Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mike Iaconelli, and talked him into staying put and staying after the lunker.
“The only reason I caught her was because of Cabet,” Blanchard said. “He said, ‘Daddy, you can’t give up. Remember what Mike Iaconelli said: ‘Never give up!’
“I started laughing at him, and said, ‘Cabet, I’m ready to give up.’ And he said, ‘Daddy, don’t give up. Just keep going.’
“So I said, ‘Ok.’”
Blanchard had seen the bedding fish shortly after he got started that afternoon around 1:15, when he was reeling in a 4-pounder and noticed swirls at the base of the tree.
“There was the big bass and probably a 7- or 8-pounder on the bed. It was like two redfish. They had backed in, and their tails and fins were sticking out the water the whole time,” Blanchard said. “Their tails would come out and flutter and just go back down.
“Sometimes they would swim about 2 feet from the tree, but they’d never go any further than that.”
The first time Blanchard hooked the big female with a watermelon red Reaction Innovations Swim Beaver, his 17-pound P-line fluorocarbon broke on the tree, and the big bass shook the bait free from her mouth.
About two hours later, she finally hit a white Swim Beaver, but also managed to shake it free as she got near the boat.
After Cabet’s words of encouragement, Blanchard noticed both fish were chasing shad and bream that got too close to the bed, and he switched to a crawfish-colored Excalibur square-billed crankbait.
His fourth cast with that lure did the trick when he pitched it into about 2 feet of water near the tree.
“I wasn’t even sight-fishing any more. I made two cranks and it just stopped. It was like I was reeling and nothing was moving,” he said. “It was like if you threw a cinderblock in the water and tried to reel it in. There was no fight, it was just like I was trying to reel in a tree.”
He tightened up his drag three times, and finally started moving the big bass toward the boat. Without a net on board, he worked the fish back and forth along the boat and knew he was going to have to lip it in.
“I said, ‘We’re either going to the hospital or we’re going to get the fish in clean,” Blanchard said. “When she came up, all I saw was her mouth with the crankbait in it, and I reached down and grabbed.
“She shook, but I was holding on so tight, none of the hooks went in me.”
At that point, a celebration more than four hours in the making finally happened.
“We started screaming. I guarantee you everybody in Chicot heard us,” he said. “I was shaking so bad.”
Blanchard put the bass in his livewell and eventually stopped by a park ranger’s house to see if there was any type of lunker program to tag and release the fish, but was told none existed. The park ranger accompanied him to a certified scale, where the fish weighed-in at 10.95 pounds.
“By that time, the fish was already floating on its side, and they had eggs in the livewell,” he said. “The game warden said it probably lost 2 or 3 ounces doing that. He said it was a true 11-pounder.”
So the giant fish will eventually go up on the wall and be a permanent reminder of a special afternoon for a father and a son - who never, ever gave up.
“It was an experience,” said Blanchard, who works at Buckfins-N-Feathers in Broussard. “We worked on them for about 4 1/2 hours until we finally put her in the boat.
“It was something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.”