When Michael Richard was fishing along the edges of hay grass near the Louisiana islands on Toledo Bend the weekend before last, he lost a monster fish when his hook straightened out. 

So the 53-year-old Sulphur angler headed back there this past Saturday on his first stop of the day to see if he could settle the score.

“I knew there were big fish in the area,” Richard said. “So I purchased some 5/0 Gamakatsu hooks that were better quality than the ones I used the weekend before.”

The angler was casting a watermelon-red Zoom fluke along the edges of clusters of hay grass.

“On the previous weekend, I was casting the fluke weightless and twitching it off the grass and letting it free fall,” he said.

Richard tied the lure to 12-pound Berkley Big Game mono spooled to a Shimano Citica reel on a 6-foot-6-inch All Star rod.

“It happened on my very first cast,” he said. “I felt a subtle bite and set the hook immediately.

“She started a run and began pulling drag.”

The big fish made several strong runs, forcing Richard to walk around the boat three times.

“When she came near the boat, she made a roll on top and that’s when I started getting anxious,” he said. “It was nerve-wracking because I was by myself.”

The anglers estimated that he worked the fish for five to seven minutes in an effort to tire it out.

“She made one final move to the side of the boat and I reached down and lipped her aboard,” he said.

When he finally saw the size of the huge bass, Richard immediately placed the fish in the livewell to prevent it from flipping out of the boat.

“Then I sat down for a few minutes to recharge,” he said.

Richard made the run to Buckeye Landing, an official weigh station for the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program.

On their certified scales, the huge bass officially weighed 11.54 pounds. 

“It measured 26 ½ inches long and had a 20 ¼-inch girth,” he said. “And she was full of eggs.”

Since Richard’s bass was tagged and released healthily back into Toledo Bend waters, the angler will receive a free replica of the fish in May courtesy of the Toledo Bend Lake Association.

Richard’s big bass is lunker No. 82 for the 2015-16 season. His fish is the first bass to exceed last season’s record of 81 double-digit bass in the program.

“I did go back to the area after weighing the fish and caught six more keepers – but nothing near that size,” Richard said. “Catching such a fish was very exciting, and it’s the largest bass I have ever taken.”