There’s no doubt 11 is Richard “Ricky” Stephens’ lucky number.
The 37-year-old angler from Boyce has taken at least five bass weighing 11-plus pounds in his lifetime — with one 11.27-pounder previously entered into the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program.
The angler has also enjoyed the honor of winning Toledo Bend’s Sealy-McDonald’s Big Bass Splash with an 11.07-pounder in 2009.
And his biggest bass ever was a 12.9-pounder taken at the Bend some years ago, so when he launched his boat and entered the Indian Mounds area Friday evening, June 26, he knew the possibility existed for another big fish.
“I had just come in from work, and I wanted to check out an area that my partner and I would be fishing for an upcoming night tournament,” Stephens said.
The angler was on the water at 7, and 20 minutes later he caught and released his first bass which he estimated at more than 4 pounds.
He was fishing 30 feet deep on the side of the river channel, swimming an Oldham 1-ounce heavy cover jig with a Zoom Super Chunk as a trailer.
Stephens was fishing with 20-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon spooled onto a Shimano Curado reel attached to a 7-foot, 11-inch Shimano Crucial rod.
“I made a second cast and let the jig hit the bottom,” he said. “Just as I started swimming the jig she sat on it like a ton of bricks.”
Stephens set the hook and felt the thrust of the fish — along with the head-shake — and knew immediately it was a big one.
“I couldn’t turn her for a while,” he said. “Then she turned to me and came up from 30 feet wide-open.”
The big bass jumped more than 2 feet out of the water more than 50 yards away, he said.
“Usually a fish that size will only left itself up to its gills,” Stephens said.
He battled the fish during several runs, but finally netted the bass and knew it was at least a 10-pounder, possibly pushing 11 pounds.
The angler placed the big bass in the livewell, trailered his boat and headed over to Toledo Town and Tackle, where the fish tipped the scales at 11.91 pounds, with a 26-inch length and a 20¼-inch girth.
It had been previously tagged and enrolled in the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program in 2012, when it weighed 10.86 pounds and was taken by angler Red Chambers.
Stephens’ lunker was eventually released and enrolled into the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program again as fish No. 10 for the 2015-16 season.
For his lunker, Stephens will receive a replica next spring courtesy of the Toledo Bend Lake Association.