After takeoff Saturday morning in the Texas Team Trail bass tournament at Toledo Bend, Cody Garefalos and James Rozelle of Porter, Texas motored over to an area near Fin and Feather Resort.
They were competing against 340 other teams shooting for a cash payout plus a boat, motor and trailer - a total package valued at more than $30,000.
“We started by fishing in shallow water from 3 to 8 feet near hay grass,” Garefalos said. “In the morning, the winds were in our favor and there was some cloud cover.”
He was casting a Texas-rigged plastic worm on top of the hay grass and letting it fall along the edges of foliage clusters.
Garefalos' lure was tied to 15-pound Berkley mono spooled to an Abu Garcia MGXtreme reel that was affixed to a heavy, fast-tipped 7-foot-6-inch Duce Rod.
He had the first strike of the day when his worm got absolutely annihilated on the outer rim of the hay grass.
“I felt like I was hooked up to Moby Dick,” Garefalos said. “The drag started up and I worked her up to the top.”
Once the fish emerged, the anglers were awe-struck at the size of the bass on the end of the line.
After a brief battle with the lunker, he was able to work the fish to the net readied by Rozelle.
With the lunker safely aboard, Garefalos said, “I think I am going to cry. It’s the biggest bass I have ever caught.”
The angler didn’t even bother with weighing the big fish. Instead, he eased it into the livewell, applied some Rejuvenade and continued fishing.
“We thought the fish was maybe 9 or 10 pounds,” he said.
Throughout the day, they took painstaking care of the big bass, adding a little ice to the livewell as they searched for more keepers.
“We spent some more time there and had quite a few bites on ¾-ounce Rat-L-Traps,” he said. “We even caught two huge crappie maybe weighing 2 ½ to 3 pounds on the big ¾-ounce Traps – one with both treble hooks in its mouth.
“But we were after bass.”
Once the bite slowed down there, the anglers motored to locations near Pendleton Bridge.
“We had two bites there and added bass to the livewell,” said Garefalos, 25. “Then we went back south and added one more fish for the weigh-in.”
At the Texas Team Trail scales, the team’s bag weighed 19.53 pounds. Garefalos’ lunker officially weighed-in at 11.52 pounds and earned the angler the Big Bass award at the tournament.
And since the lunker was officially weighed and released alive, Garefalos will receive a replica of his largest bass ever courtesy of the Toledo Bend Lake Association this May.
The angler’s trophy bass is lunker No. 64 for the 2015-16 season of the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program.