When you’re totally and completely obsessed with catching your first double-digit bass, apparently — in some weird, twisted way — hooking up with a big 9-pounder can somehow be seen as a crushing disappointment.
That’s how Lane Martin’s morning started last Friday at Toledo Bend: The 46-year-old instrument advisor at the Marathon Refinery in Garyville was fishing with his son Hunter in the Housen area when he reeled in a lunker.
“Everybody who knows me knows how bad I wanted a 10-pounder to get into that Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program,” said Martin, of Paulina. “I’ve been doing this since 2010 hard at it, and I’ve caught a 9.55, a 9.47 and an 8.8 all within the last three years.
“I didn’t think it was ever going to happen.”
When Martin’s scale onboard read 9-13 Friday morning, he was hopeful it was slightly off and he had finally landed his elusive first double-digit fish.
“So I told my son, I said, ‘These handhelds are a little light,’ so we took off on a 4-mile ride to Fin and Feather — and it weighed exactly 9-13 there like my scale weighed,” Martin said. “So I told the lady, ‘I’m going to be back. I’m going get me a 10.’ And she said laughing, ‘I’m going to be here.’”
Little did he know — on what turned out to be one of those rare, once-in-a-lifetime days when the bass gods are smiling and everything works out just right — he’d be back less than two hours later with the lunker bass he’d promised.
All on a trip that almost never happened.
“Everybody was telling me it was post-spawn,” Martin said. “I said, ‘Man, I’m not going over there for a topwater bite.’ I’m telling you, I almost cancelled.”
It was Martin’s fifth trip to Toledo Bend this year, and the March trip he took with buddy Neal Normand at the height of the spawn would prove hard to beat: Normand caught a 10.59-pounder, with several 8-pounders in the mix.
“We killed them,” Martin said. “It was a great trip.”
So with very low expectations, Martin and his son headed out from a launch in the Indian Mounds. Normand was with them in his own boat doing some advance scouting for the upcoming Big Bass Splash.
“We started trying to catch a few topwater fish in the hay grass because we were trying to catch the tail end of the shad spawn, and we heard they were busting shad,” he said. “We fished with a Ribbit and caught a couple, but it wasn’t paying off. I told Hunter, ‘Man we need to to do something else, and back off and see if they’re a little deeper.’”
Both father and son were fishing with a punch rig, including a ¼-ounce Reins tungsten sinker, a G-Money punch skirt and a matching Reaction Innovations Kinky Beaver in magic craw swirl. They worked the edges of the hay grass in 7 to 18 feet of water, he said.
“We were fishing very, very, very slow,” Martin said. “Painfully slow. Just dragging it, not even popping it. That’s hard for me to do.”
But it didn’t take long for the move to deeper water to pay off: Martin caught an 8-11 about 8:30, then the 9-13. About 11:30, the fish he’d been dreaming of for years finally came his way. See a compilation video of the day's action here.
“When I felt it, I really thought it was a 12- or 14-pounder,” he said. “When Hunter netted it and it was flopping on the front deck, everybody thought it was 14 or 15 pounds.
“But I knew — there was no doubt in my mind that I had my double-digit fish.”
He and Hunter made the run back to Fin and Feather, where the same person who weighed his first fish that morning was there to weigh the second one.
“She said, ‘No way.’ I said, ‘Yes way,” Martin said with a laugh. “She freaked out.”
The big bass tipped the scales officially at 10.24 pounds, and Martin finally had the lunker — which was successfully released — he’d been working for.
“I was relieved. I finally got it,” he said. “Then I started worrying about my son and coaching him to get one.”
Hunter had been catching fish, but nothing more than 4 pounds. As the day wore on, Martin encouraged his son to keep on trying.
“I said, ‘Just put your head down and fish. It’s going to happen. It just takes one cast,’” he said. “At 6:20, he laid into one, and it was 8 pounds, 8 ounces. He was jacked up.
“We both beat our personal bests. I beat mine twice.”
Hunter’s previous personal best was 6-2, and the sophomore at Lutcher High School debated on whether or not to keep the big bass.
“I told him we knew it wasn’t 10 pounds. But I said it’s up to you. If you want to mount this fish, I’ll pay for it,” Martin said. “And he said he didn’t want to kill it. He said he wanted to get a double-digit and get a free replica, so he let it go.
“That’s awesome for a 16-year-old.”
When the dust settled, their five biggest fish weighed-in at 42.97 pounds on a day both father and son will likely never forget.
“I tell everybody, ‘I will never see this again,’” Martin said. “There’s no way I’ll see this again. Not in my lifetime. No way.”
Martin will get his long-awaited 10-pound-plus lunker replica in a couple of weeks at Toledo Bend, but catching the fish might have actually been the easy part. Now he’s in negotiations on where he’ll get permission to hang it.
“I'm going to try to convince my wife to put it on the mantle,” he said with a chuckle.