Indiana's Chris Myers has been tournament fishing for 37 years, but none of his competitive days on the water compared to March 8 — when he weighed in an 11.6-pound bass during the B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional event held on Toledo Bend.
"You don't get many chances to weigh a fish like that in a tournament," Myers said. "It was the biggest fish I've weighed in a tournament, and it's the biggest bag I've weighed in a tournament."
The huge bass came on the tail end of his trip to Toledo Bend, which was a bit of a break from a crazy work schedule.
"I hadn't been fishing all year," Myers said.
So leading up to the B.A.S.S. Nation regional, which didn't involve any off-limits period, the angler rented a place on the lake and divided his time to scout and work each day.
"I would go fishing in the morning, and come in and work, cook dinner, go to bed and get up and do it again the next day," Myers explained.
That allowed him to locate some fish on the south end of the lake, but ferocious winds the first day of the tournament made the lake so rough Myers decided to forego a bruising trip down to his area.
He didn't catch much that day, but on March 8 the lake laid and opened the opportunity for the run south.
"We pulled in there, and there was a covey — I guess that's what you call it — of seagulls, pelicans and water turkeys," Myers said. "More than 1,000 of them.
"And they were chowing down on the shad."
The veteran tournament angler saw that as a sign of things to come.
"I shut down the motor and turned to my partner and said, 'We're going to sack them today,'" Myers said.
He began with a ChatterBait, while his co-angler picked up a Power Worm and quickly caught two fish.
Myers wasn't stubborn; he switched to a Strike King Ocho and made a cast over submerged grass in no more than 6 feet of water.
When he picked up the dead-stick plastic on that first cast, it was too heavy. So he quickly sank the hook.
"I leaned back on that fish, and I said, 'Get the net. This is a good one,'" Myers said.
While his co-angler prepared to boat the catch, Myers worried he wouldn't be able to turn the fish. He was using a 7-foot medium-heavy Quantum PT rod with just 15-pound Berkley 100% Flourocarbon line, which he felt was a little light for a huge bass.
The fish at the end of the line still hadn't shown itself, however, so Myers wasn't certain it was a largemouth — but whatever it was beelined straight toward him.
"When she got to the boat, she decided she wasn't going to stop," Myers said. "She was like a train."
That became a problem when the fish pulled all the slack from the line, since Myers had the drag cinched fairly tight.
"I literally had to get on my knees, put two-thirds of the rod in the water and let off the drag so I could regrip the rod because she almost ripped the rod out of my hand," he said.
The fish made a second hard run, getting the line caught on the head of the trolling motor.
Myers disentangled the fluoro, and the fish made run No. 3.
"It went right down the center of the boat," Myers said.
His co-angler, Jefferson, was ready with the net — but Myers cautioned him.
"I told him, 'Do not put that net in the water until I tell you to,'" Myers said.
And, truth be told, the angler still wasn't certain it was a bass. He had caught a large catfish earlier in the week, but this fish didn't shake its head like cats often do.
The fish finally turned and ran right by Myers, giving him a quick glimpse.
"She was about 6 inches under the water, and I saw the lateral line," he said. "So I knew it was a bass."
The huge fish had one more run left, and then Myers was able to pretty much ski it across the water to the boat and into the net.
"I looked at it and said, 'That does not even look real,'" Myers said.
Myers quickly stuffed the bass into the livewell and prepared to continue his tournament day — a feat easier said than done.
"I sat down to retie my line, and it took me a good four or five minutes," he said. "My hands were shaking so bad."
The 11-pounder anchored a 23 1/2-pound stringer.
Myers left the location of the catch vague, because of a promise made to the angler who turned him onto the area.
"It was on the south end, and it was on the Texas side," Myers said. "That's all I'm going to say."