As far as epic father-and-son fishing trips go, they don’t get much better than the one Steve Rockweiler had with his two boys and his son-in-law this past weekend at Toledo Bend.
During their four-day stay at Fin & Feather Resort, Steve and his two grown sons — Adam and Eric — each recorded their personal best bass, with their three heaviest fish weighing-in at more than 31 pounds.
Eric, who turned 26 during the trip, got things started with an 8-pound, 11-ounce fish on Thursday, followed by Adam, 32, who landed an 11.15-pound lunker on Friday.
Not to be outdone, the elder Rockweiler — who has already landed six double-digit largemouths, mostly from around Des Allemands and Lake Cataouatche — caught an 11.4-pounder Saturday morning.
Eric’s 8-pounder, which came in about 15 to 20 feet of water in front of hay grass at the Indian Mounds — in combination with what Rockweiler observed happening along the banks shortly after they arrived last Wednesday — helped them formulate a successful fishing game plan during their stay.
“When I saw lots of the nests were empty or had males on them, I said, ‘You know what, this is not going to get y’all a big fish. We can catch 3-, 4- and 5-pounders back home. So let’s go out and fish for staging fish’,” said Rockweiler, of Luling. “And we made the right choice.
“Those fish were coming out of the main lake from deeper-water winter spots, and they were just holding off in these 15- to 20-foot-range waters in front of the hay grass.”
All three big fish were caught on 10 ½-inch junebug Zoom Ol’ Monster worms with a 3/16-ounce sinker and a 5/0 hook, Rockweiler said.
Adam caught his lunker Friday morning at about 11 on the south end of Housen Bay.
“They found a spot with 20 feet of water, and right in front of the hay grass there was a channel. He said he was only about 12 feet from the hay grass, and it was 20 feet deep where his boat was sitting, so it was a pretty good drop,” Rockweiler said. “He just flipped it underhand — like a 10-foot cast — and let it go down right there.
“When he started hopping it back to the boat, that’s when his line picked up and the fish started swimming off with it, and he set the hook. Then he said all heck broke loose.”
With only about 10 feet of line out, Rockweiler said the fish jumped three to four times.
“He had his heart in this throat, and on about the third jump, he almost jumped into the side of the boat,” he said.
Eric eventually netted the fish, and the two boys made their way over to show the lunker to their dad, who was fishing with his son-in-law, Shawn Klibert.
“He pulled the fish out of the livewell, and I said, ‘Man, that is a toad, son,” Rockweiler said.
Adam headed over to Fin & Feather, where the big bass — which measured 25 inches long with an 18 ½-inch girth — officially tipped the scales at 11.15 pounds and easily became lunker No. 80 for the 2015-16 Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program.
Rockweiler decided to stick with the same deeper-water formula on Saturday, even though lots of other anglers were trying a different approach.
“Everybody was in that hay grass fishing,” Rockweiler said. “And you’ll catch fish like that, but that’s not the ticket if you want to catch something big.
“So we stayed out in the deeper water where the fish were moving from deeper depths and staging.”
The elder Rockweiler made his way over to a spot in the Indian Mounds where he had detected an underwater bush while retrieving his lure earlier during the trip. When he had ripped the worm free of the bush, a big bass hit it, but had gotten itself free of the hook.
Klibert made some casts near the bush Saturday morning without any luck, so Rockweiler threw his Zoom Ol Monster that way.
“As soon as it came through the bush, that fish nailed the big worm and I set the hook,” he said.
But the giant bass made a beeline back to the safety of the bush, Rockweiler said.
“If that was a 4-, 5- or 6-pound fish, I probably would have lost it,” he said. “But this fish was so powerful, he uprooted the whole bush when the line got tangled up. So he started swimming up, and I had a bush on my line.”
The bush started getting caught up in hay grass, but Rockweiler eventually got the bass to the boat, cleared his line and Klibert finally netted the fish.
“It looked like a twin to Adam’s fish,” Rockweiler said. “But this fish, if you put your fingers on the belly, it was hard like a rock. It was round like a barrel.”
At Fin & Feather, the fish measured only 23 inches long — 2 inches smaller than Adam’s fish. But its girth was a whopping 20 inches, and the hawg tipped the certified scales at 11.4 pounds, definitely big enough to become lunker No. 83 for the TBLBP. Steve’s previous personal best was a 10-15 caught in Florida.
Both big Rockweiler bass were returned healthy to Toledo Bend waters, and Adam and Steve will receive free replicas of their fish this May courtesy of the Toledo Bend Lake Association.
So during their stay, in addition to the 8 and two 11s, Rockweiler estimates the group caught about 60 bass total, with lots of 3-, 4- and 5-pound fish.
“You couldn’t ask for more,” he said. “The good Lord was smiling on us.”