As evidenced this spring, Toledo Bend’s 185,000 acres are home to an untold number of lunker largemouth bass that roam throughout the reservoir.
Of course, lots of other species call the Bend home, like bream, crappie, catfish, carp and striped bass, among others.
And even though you don’t hear much about longnose gar, an unplanned bow-fishing trip late last month might have resulted in a new lake record — if the fish would have been officially verified and submitted.
Justin Lanclos, 32, of Sulphur, was enjoying some family time at his camp near Walker’s Landing on the evening of Friday, March 27. He was on his back porch overlooking the water when he noticed a boat rigged out to bow fish approaching a little after 8 p.m.
As a member of the pro staff of Bear Archery, Lanclos quickly headed down to the bank and struck up a conversation with the fishermen.
“It’s a funny story. I saw these guys with an aluminum boat, and they had built a platform and had lights and a generator and everything. I could see them shooting carp and I walked down there to talk to them and said, ‘Hey, I have a bow,” Lanclos said with a chuckle. “And they were like, ‘Go get it. Come on!
“I mean, I didn’t know these guys from John.”
It turns out the group was a family from Hornbeck, including three teens, who made him feel right at home and gave him the first shot much of the night as their guest.
Unfortunately, over the steady roar of the generator, he didn't get their names.
“They were really cordial. Real nice people,” Lanclos said. “He kept saying, ‘Don’t laugh at my homemade boat.’ But it was a 16-foot aluminum boat with an aluminum platform, a railing and construction lights mounted. It didn’t have an outboard, it had a trolling motor. He even had a backup trolling motor for it.
“It was perfect for what they were using it for. He had thought of everything.”
Lanclos accepted the invite, quickly retrieved his Cajun Bowfishing Sucker Punch bow and hopped aboard with the group he had met just minutes before.
“They were literally using their deer-hunting bows,” he said. “I said, ‘Man, y’all need to turn those things down.’ They were shooting, and it was taking four of them to pull their arrows out of the bottom of the lake every time they shot.
“I was shooting like 25 pounds, they were all shooting 60.”
The group trolled along the shoreline of the entire cove, and shot about 10 carp. Around 9:30, they came across the gar.
“It was sitting in a big grass bed,” said Lanclos, who works for Axiall in Westlake. “I actually missed him the first time through and we went down and came back and I got him on the second try.”
His Cajun Piranha broadhead found its mark that time, and the teens also shot the big gar when it resurfaced.
“When I shot it, it went to the bottom and I was afraid to pull on it too hard and pull my arrow out,” he said. “When it came to the top, they shot it again.”
The longnose weighed 26.6 pounds on a handheld digital scale, but the group kept the gar and Lanclos didn’t realize it could have been a potential record fish until the following Monday when he did an online search of Toledo Bend records. (The lake’s current bow-fishing longnose gar record is 13.77 pounds by Richard Fleury from March 30, 2014.)
“I was just curious because the more I thought about it, all the big gar were all alligator gar. Records don’t really matter and I know that it can’t be verified, but you can look at it and obviously see that it’s over 13 pounds,” he said. “I still don’t know if it was the lake record, but it’s the biggest one I’ve ever shot.”
After about three hours together that Friday night, the group dropped Lanclos off back at his camp and took a picture with him and the big gar before they headed out.
“I kind of got in trouble, actually, because I didn’t tell my wife when I left,” he said. “I just ran in the shop, grabbed my bow and jumped on the boat.
“I had my phone and she texted me. A few hours later, she was like, ‘Are you still alive?’”