For Van Fletcher, this time the big one didn’t get away.

“I have been waiting 64 years for one, but every time I hooked a big fish before I somehow lost it,” said Fletcher, of Leesville.

He and his wife, Patsy, were enjoying St. Patrick’s Day together fishing on Toledo Bend. The angler retired in June from Boise Cascade, and was finally finding time to fish.

“I always hunted and have taken a few good bucks, but I never had much time to fish in the spring when I was working,” Fletcher said.“So Patsy and I had a chance to get out, and I was really trying to find my way around out there fishing at the Bend.”

The couple motored into Indian Creek about 1 p.m. after launching from a nearby Texas public landing.

“We caught several non-keepers, and Patsy did catch one at 15 inches,” he said.

Fletcher was casting a 5-inch watermelon-red Zoom fluke on 15-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon near the banks in the area. The rest of his tackle included a 6 ½-foot Berkley rod and a Quantum reel.

“I do leave a little slack on my line, but after casting I noticed that the line was tight and I knew there was no structure on the bottom,” he said. “I felt something moving so I set the hook – and my rod doubled over.”

Patsy got the net while her husband worked the fish.

“I let that drag work for me,” he said. “She headed back to the motor area but I kept her down and I felt her turn.

“She eventually wore down and Patsy dipped her into the net.”

Fletcher was looking at the largest bass of his life, but the fluke and hook were deeply embedded in the throat of the bass.

“I didn’t want her to die, so I cut my line before putting her in the livewell,” he said. “I have to admit my mind was blown. We sort of did a little dance like football players do.”

Fletcher didn’t know what to do about the huge fish in the livewell.

“I remember somebody telling me about a replica program, so we asked a few guys fishing near us about it,” he said. “Patsy was on the phone trying to get information.”

One of Fletcher’s friends finally gave him the information he needed, and the couple headed back to the landing to trailer the boat and head to Toledo Town and Tackle.

“The lady there was real helpful,” Fletcher said. “They placed her in the vat there.”

At first, the bass was listing, but later it regained its buoyancy.

On the certified scales at T-town, Fletcher’s huge bass officially weighed 11.69 pounds, and was tagged and later released.

His bass is entry No. 43 in the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program for 2014-15, since the fish weighed at least 10 pounds and was returned to Toledo Bend waters.

“I don’t call catching this bass a skill,” Fletcher said. “I say it’s being blessed with a nice fish after all these years.”