Chad Soileau always thought his largest bass ever would come from one of those fabled big bass lakes in Mexico.
After all, he and several Ville Platte bass anglers usually visit there every year, but recently curtailed their trips because of the increase in crime south of the border.
Now the 55-year-old angler and his friends visit Toledo Bend, where on Saturday Soileau landed his largest bass ever – a huge 11.83-pounder in the 1215 area.
“We have 10 teams that fish together every year, and we were on the Bend Thursday afternoon until Saturday evening,” Soileau said.
The anglers had rented one of the lodges at Toledo Bend’s Wildwood Resort during their stay, and Soileau along with Ville Platte’s Tim Fruge’ launched from the site Saturday morning.
“We had a bad start, as the cables disengaged from the trolling motor,” Soileau said. “So we had to return to the landing where Fruge’, an ex-farm boy, was able to take the motor apart and refit the cables.”
Also at the landing was another team having problems of its own. Zach LaHaye and his partner had to replace one of the batteries on their boat.
“They invited us to follow them to the 1215 area, so we did,” Soileau said. “We arrived at the end of E-W 14 and we motored to the west in the area.”
Soileau observed several boats fishing the area – many that were participating in the Haynesville Shale bass tournament.
“Everyone was working the bushes in the shallows, so I started by flipping a black-blue ½-ounce Mesu swim jig with a blueberry Zoom Super Speed Craw trailer,” he said.
Soileau had the jig tied to 30-pound PowerPro braid spooled onto a Shimano reel with a custom AC Ardoin rod.
In 15 minutes, Soileau picked up a 4 ½-pounder on the outside of one of the bushes.
“The tournament boats were so close to us that Tim and I heard them saying, ‘They’re throwing black-blue,’” he said.
Just 10 minutes later, Soileau flipped the jig to another bush where he felt a “different bite,” similar to the way a sac-a-lait loads up on a tube jig.
“There was just strong resistance when I set the hook,” he said. “The fish was just 10 feet away from me and it wanted to pull both the rod and me out of the boat.
“She shot out so fast, and I screamed at Tim to get the net.”
The fish swam out of the bushes pulling drag and headed for deeper waters.
“Then she swims under the boat to return to the bushes,” he said. “That’s when I saw the first flash of the fish and knew she was a huge bass.”
Finally, Soileau was able to pull the fish away from the bushes and into his partner’s waiting net.
“We were screaming, hollering and hugging like 15-year-olds,” Soileau said. “But she was just so full of eggs and her tail was bloody – so I was concerned.”
Fortunately, the boat with the tournament scales was fishing just across the channel from him, so he motored there immediately.
The lunker weighed 11.83 pounds and was the largest bass Soileau had ever taken.
“After a quick photo, I decided to immediately release her in the area where she was taken due to her condition,” he said.
He watched happily as the bass vigorously swam away.
“Since it was weighed, it counted as part of my catch and I was happy to release her in the vicinity,” he said.
Soileau’s lunker anchored a bag weighing 24.6 pounds for the day, giving his team both the winning stringer and Big Bass awards.
“It was a very fulfilling experience,” he said.