Angela Eastridge readily admits she’s not much of a bass angler, but she really does love to fish.
So when she had no luck with the largemouths on a couple of boat trips with her husband earlier this summer on Toledo Bend, she decided to stay behind at their cabin in Harborlight Marina to do some old-fashioned fishing from the pier the way her daddy taught her.
“My husband bought a brand new bass boat and we took it to Toledo Bend, and I had gone with him a couple of days but I wasn’t catching anything,” she said. “He had a pole rigged up with a bass bait for me to catch bass, and I was clueless. I just wanted to fish, and he had me trying to catch a bass.
“I got aggravated, so I stayed behind to fish on the pier right in front of Harborlight where we were staying.”
Eastridge was fishing with her granddaughter, 6-year-old Kaylee Truxillo, late in the afternoon on June 2, having a blast catching bluegill with nightcrawlers under a cork.
“I grew up in Pierre Part and fished with my dad with a cane pole and a kernel of corn,” Eastridge said. “I was one of eight kids, so we lived off the land. That’s how I learned to fish.”
Around 6 p.m., her cork vanished with a jolt, and Eastridge knew the fish on the line was different than the ones she had been reeling in.
“I had been catching the small ones, and then all of a sudden, I caught a big one,” she said. “I kept trying to pull it up over the pier, but I was scared the line was going to pop. I didn’t know what I had.
“My father-in-law was screaming at me to walk it down the pier. So I walk it down and when I get almost to the edge, I just hurried up and I flung that thing up onto the land.”
That “thing” turned out to be a brute of a bream — a 10 ⅝-inch long bluegill with a girth of 11 inches that tipped the certified scales at Toledo Town and Tackle at 1.12 pounds.
“So we get to Toledo Tackle and I was just very proudly holding my little fish wrapped in a wet towel, and the young guy who came to meet us just kind of looked and smiled. He went to get another guy there and said, ‘Come check this fish out,’” Eastridge said. “I was like, ‘OK, what’s the deal?’
“So the first guy said, ‘Ma’am, you have no idea what you’re holding, do you? I said, ‘Well, a fish,’ and they just started busting out laughing. He said, ‘Ma’am, I think you might be holding the lake record for bluegill.’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’”
And just a few weeks ago it all became official — the catch was certified and stands as the current Toledo Bend record.
“When I got the certificate, I immediately started crying,” she said. “My dad passed away a year ago in May. And that was the big thing I shared with him as a kid: fishing with a cane pole and kernel corn. And I just kept looking at the picture, saying, ‘Daddy, I wish you could share this with me.’ I was so overjoyed, I couldn’t believe it.”
Catching the fish with a simple rod and reel with a worm reinforced what her father taught her years ago, she said.
“What he said to me as a kid was always the truth, and now I see it myself,” she said. “It doesn’t take anything expensive, as long as you like to fish. He would tell us, ‘If you have a pole, some string and a hook with a piece of corn, you can catch.”
And she didn’t pass up the chance for some good-natured ribbing with her husband, David Eastridge Jr., who was pursuing big bass in his new 18-foot BassCat when she caught the record fish back in June.
“I told my husband — I was laughing but I was serious — you have this big old fancy bass boat, thousands of baits and fancy fishing poles, and I have the Walmart-special rod and reel with an earthworm, and I’m the one who caught the prize fish,” she said.
The prize fish is being mounted now, and will go up on the wall in the family living room along with Eastridge’s certificate and picture, as well as Kaylee’s first fish from the trip, a nice ½-pound bream.
“When I brought it to the taxidermist to be mounted, the guy asked me if I knew where I was going to put it,” Eastridge said with a laugh. “I said, ‘Yeah, right where my husband’s bass used to be hanging.”