Charles Johnson Jr. had no depth finder, no trolling motor and no net on Easter Sunday at Toledo Bend, but that didn’t stop him from landing the lunker bass of a lifetime.
The 30-year-old from Leesville had been camping with his family at South Toledo Bend State Park, when he decided to jump into a Bayliner for an afternoon alone to do some catfishing.
It was pouring, so he put on some rain gear and headed 250 yards southwest from the park landing.
“There was an angler fishing the area who asked if I had a depth finder aboard,” Johnson said. “I didn’t, so he told me there was a trench near me with deeper water.
“So I pulled out my father-in-law’s bass rod that had a Texas-rigged lizard that was black with red sparkles in it. I wasn’t catching any catfish.”
The lizard was tied to 12-pound Berkley Big Game spooled to a Pinnacle Pro Series reel seated on a medium-heavy, 7 ½-foot All Star rod.
“I cast out there in 8- to 10-feet of water and the line got tight,” he said. “I continued to reel it in and something started pulling back and my rod was bending.
“I said to myself, ‘It must be a fish.’”
The line then started coursing to shallow water, and Johnson started to worry about his mono breaking because of the tight drag.
“I loosened my drag and let her run,” he said. “I fought her for about 10 minutes.”
The angler was continuously walking to the fore and aft of the deck while the fish kept peeling off line.
“She jumped 20 yards from the boat, and then I realized it was a big bass,” he said.
When the fish tired, Johnson wrapped his knee and foot through a hand bar on the side of the Bayliner to bend over enough and lip the bass aboard.
“Her jaws latched down on my hand, and she had a good bite on her,” he said.
The angler who told Johnson about the deeper trench was 100 yards away.
“I was thinking 6 to 8 pounds, but I needed a scale and he too didn’t have one on his boat,” he said.
Since Johnson didn’t have a livewell, he emptied his cooler and filled it with lake water and placed the big bass inside.
“There was a guy with a handheld scale at the landing, and my bass weighed 12.25 pounds on it,” he said.
Johnson obtained an aeration solution for the cooler for the 30-minute drive to Toledo Town and Tackle.
At T-Town, Johnson’s bass was immediately placed into the tank, but was lethargic and couldn’t sink down.
“There was someone who put weights on the bass to help her,” he said.
The bass stayed overnight at T-town for recuperation and rehabilitation, and on Monday Johnson returned to T-town to see his prized bass healthy in the holding tank.
The bass officially weighed 12.50 pounds, and was tagged and released back into Toledo Bend waters.
It is fish No. 71 entered into the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program for 2014-15, and Johnson will receive a replica of his fish courtesy of the Toledo Bend Lake Association next month.