Early this year, Florien’s Joe Cooley shared a goal with brother-in-law Martin Mayo that each would catching a Toledo Bend bass weighing at least 10 pounds during the season.
For Mayo, it happened in early April with an 11.21-pound that earned him the big bass award during the Louisiana Oilman’s Bass Invitation. That huge fish anchored a 36.87-pound stringer Mayo and Cooley put together for a ninth-place finish in the tournament.
Since then, Cooley has been busy moving, but he was able to get on the water June 8 — and that trip ended with bass that not only accomplished the goal of catching a double-digit bass but bested his buddy’s lunker by almost a pound.
The 12.2-pounder came after Cooley launched at 4:30 p.m. from the Army Recreational Site landing with his canine companion, Toby, whom the angler referred to fondly as his “net man.”
“I had four white perch rods aboard, so I set out immediately to fish some (brush) tops in the area,” Cooley said. “I checked three different tops and there were no white perch.”
So he decided to change over to bass fishing and motored to the Six Mile area.
“Once I arrived, I saw some schooling activity,” Cooley said. “I grabbed a Zara Spook and started casting.
“By 6 (p.m.), I had four bass in the livewell ranging 2½ to 3 pounds.”
Cooley fished for another 25 minutes without another hit on the Zara Spook, so he tied a plum apple 10.5-inch V&M Wild Thang worm on the business end of a Carolina rig.
He had found patches of hydrilla in 9 feet of water in the area, and he went to work.
“I made a few casts and I caught a non-keeper,” Cooley said.
The angler made another long cast, and then eased up on the rod and reeled in about 1½ feet of line.
“It felt like the line got heavy,” Cooley explained. “So I maintained pressure on the rod tip, and then felt a thump.”
The angler set the hook hard.
“At first it felt like a log was coming to me,” Cooley said.
The bass soon was thrashing on the surface, and Cooley knew the fish was big.
“I told Toby, ‘We now have our 10-pounder,’” he said.
The bass surfaced again, and then it headed toward the boat.
“I backed off the drag a bit by one turn because I knew the bass would get spooked when she saw the boat,” Cooley said. “She came up on top of the water in front of me while I was keeping that rod tip down trying to stop this from happening.”
Cooley turned his drag a little looser as the fish neared the trolling motor of his boat.
“She then turned and headed straight for the back motor,” he said. “She jumped one more time, and I was happy to see her hooked well.”
The fish made another 10-foot run before the angler could turn her back to the boat.
“When she came close, I reached down and grabbed her,” Cooley said.
Once the fish was aboard, Cooley knew the bass weighed north of 10 pounds. So he put her in the livewell and strapped down his rods.
“I told Toby, ‘Let’s go weigh her,’” he said.
On Fin & Feather Resort’s certified scales, Cooley’s bass officially weighed 12.2 pounds.
It was during the process of certifying the catch that a tag was seen near the fish’s dorsal fin.
Toledo Bend Lunker Program records revealed that Cooley’s fish had been taken earlier by Opelousas’ Kacy Fisher when it weighed 14.16 pounds during the spawn. It was the largest bass taken in the 2015-16 Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program season.
The huge bass was released — again — and Cooley will receive a replica of his fish courtesy of the Toledo Bend Lake Association in May 2017.