Mike Nolen kicked off the new year right last week when he reeled in a 12-pound bass during his first trip of 2016 at Toledo Bend. 

“I started out by fishing areas in the Indian Mounds, and then worked my way down to a few spots in Six Mile,” said Nolen, 33, of Evans.

The day was cloudy, and lake levels were high with readings greater than 173 feet.

“It was pretty rough fishing,” he said. “By late afternoon I only had taken a couple of keepers, one at 3 pounds and another about 15 inches.”

Nolen had one more spot he wanted to try, so he trailered the boat and made the quick trip south to an area near the Toledo Bend Dam.

“I wanted to try fishing a point on the end of a flat with some grass,” Nolen said.

The angler was fishing a Carolina-rigged 6-inch watermelon-red lizard in 15 feet of water. The C-rig was tied to 17-pound Vicious fluorocarbon spooled to a Daiwa Tatula reel on a 7-foot, 3-inch medium-heavy Richard Phillips River Bottom Custom rod.

“It was about 5 p.m. when I arrived in the area,” he said.

On his fifth cast across the point, Nolen felt a bite.

“She inhaled it, and after a brief moment I set the hook,” he said. “Immediately I knew it was an extremely heavy fish as she nearly pulled the rod out of my hand.”

The fish eventually came up to about 2 feet, and Nolen was able to clearly see it was a huge bass.

“I then made sure I worked the drag with my thumb,” he said. “I also had a time getting the net out with my foot as I worked the fish with my hands.”

After netting the prized bass, the angler got a weight of 11.15 pounds on his handheld scale.

“I placed her quickly and carefully in the livewell and immediately headed out to Fin & Feather for a certified weight on their scale,” he said.

At Fin and Feather, the bass officially weighed 12.11 pounds on certified scales, but the fish had to be “fizzed” because of an over-expanded swim bladder.  Watch this classic Doug Hannon video to observe the proper fizzing technique.

The fish recovered, and was safely released back into Toledo Bend waters. Since Nolen’s bass was at least 10 pounds, and was also tagged and returned to Toledo Bend waters, he will receive a replica of the trophy from the Toledo Bend Lake Association in May.

Nolen’s fish is bass No. 47 in the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program for the 2015-16 season, and it’s his second bass entered into the program after an 11.84-pounder last March.

 According to TBLBP coordinator Dinah Medine, entries are 29 ahead of last season at this time, so another record year of Toledo Bend lunkers is expected.