Rodney Schexnayder feels strongly the benefits of retirement include having more time to fish — especially on weekdays.
The 65-year-old angler from Jeanerette took advantage of his extra time on the water last Wednesday, April 20, when he caught the largest bass of his life – a Toledo Bend 11.45-pounder.
Schexnayder was enjoying a three-week vacation at his Toledo Bend camp, where he typically fishes for four hours in the mornings and three hours in the afternoons.
On Wednesday afternoon, Schexnayder had two fish in the livewell by 6 p.m.
He was working an area about a half-mile south of Pendleton Bridge on the Louisiana side, making a series of casts with a Strike King Tennessee Shad Pro-Model Series 5XD crankbait.
“I was fishing a short point near one of the coves,” he said. “Although I was throwing in 4 feet of water, there was deep water right off the point nearby.”
Schexnayder was using 20-pound PowerPro braid spooled to a Johnny Morris Signature reel on a 7-foot Cabela’s XML Series rod.
At about 6:15, Schexnayder thought his crankbait was hung on a stump.
“I jerked the line a little to be sure, but it stayed still,” he said. “So I was getting ready to hit the trolling motor switch to get to my bait when I noticed the line was moving.
“I did think for a while that it must be a garfish or a gaspergou.”
Schexnayder noticed the fish make a run to the deeper side of the point, and just held on.
“It was just burning drag off the reel so I used my thumb to control the spool a little better,” he said. “When I cranked the reel, the fish wouldn’t stop running and I kept thinking it was a big garfish.”
After four minutes of wrestling with the fish, the angler finally noticed it was tiring.
“It came up shallow when it was 8 feet away from the boat and I clearly saw it was a bass,” he said. “I got nervous and had to make a scramble for the net under the console.”
Schexnayder found he had better control of his line and the fish by grabbing the braid alone with his right hand and handling the net with his left.
“The fish was pretty worn out and I was able to get it right to the net,” he said.
Once the fish was aboard, Schexnayder took a minute to admire the bass before pulling out his handheld scale.
“The scale reading was a bit above 11 pounds,” he said. “I made room for the fish in the livewell by taking out the other two bass and placing them on the other side of the divider.”
He also noticed that the big fish was tagged.
Schexnayder fished a while longer, and then decided to motor over to his camp in Lanan. But he wasn’t able to trailer his boat because his wife was using his truck, so he left the bass in the aerated livewell for the night.
“I checked on the fish at 11 p.m. and it was doing fine,” he said.
The next morning at Toledo Town and Tackle, Schexnayder’s bass officially weighed 11.45 pounds. The huge fish was later released and is now lunker No. 133 for the 2015-16 Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program season.
Information obtained from the tag indicated the fish was initially caught just about a month earlier on March 21 by Dennis Blankenship, when it weighed 12.55 pounds.
Schexnayder will receive a free replica of his lunker courtesy of the Toledo Bend Lake Association in May.