Texas angler Keith Burns was practicing for a benefit tournament Saturday (March 20) on Lake Caddo when he caught the biggest bass of his life – a 16.17-pound giant that could break the Louisiana state record if it’s eligible to enter in the record books.
That state record is in question because he took the fish out of the lake on the Texas side.
“I’d love to say I had a state record,” Burns said. “I think the fish deserves that.”
The current state record is a 15.97-pounder landed by Greg Wiggins in 1994 while fishing Caney Lake.
Burns said he was fishing “the south shore” the Tucker’s and Bird Island area, and had three bites before the 16-pounder bit.
“I had one that spit (the lure), I caught a 4 ½-pounder and I had one about 4 ½ to 5 pounds that jumped and got off,” he said.
Each bite came in about 2 feet of water, so Burns finally decided to move deeper.
“I said, ‘Let’s jump out to those deeper trees,’ and about 10 minutes of that 5-foot water and I caught this fish,” Burns said.
However, there was a bit of luck involved in the catch. Well, maybe more than a bit.
First, the Senko Burns was throwing didn’t even land where he wanted it to when he made a cast at 11:30 a.m.
“There were three trees with a knee off of one, and I guess I can’t throw worth a dang because I threw between them by accident,” he laughed.
While he waited for the 1/8-ounce sinker to drag the lure to the bottom, Burns turned to his partner Tony Cevik.
“I turned to him and said, ‘Man, let’s get out of here,’” Burns said. “There were five boats ahead of us, so I told him we should go somewhere where we at least didn’t have to fight to fish.”
However, when he turned his attention back to his lure, the line was moving through the water.
“I set the hook, and she didn’t go anywhere,” Burns said.
The fish headed toward the back of the boat, with the angler in tow.
“I told (Cevik), ‘Get out of the way; I’m coming to the back of the boat,’” Burns said.
The only problem was that Cevik was far from an accomplished angler, having only been bass fishing twice before.
“Tony can’t run a trolling motor, and the wind was already blowing us into the trees,” Burns said.
In the process of trying to help, Cevik reeled in his line quickly and the hook of his wacky worm ended up hooked into the butt of Burns’ rod.
“I’m holding the rod with one hand and this tree limb with the other,” Burns said.
At this point, Burns had no idea how big the fish was. He only suspected, based on the hook set, that it was hefty.
“It jumped on the other side of the tree, but I couldn’t see it,” he said.
Burns finally told Cevik to hold the boat in position with the tree while he fought the big bass.
“I let her make two or three runs, and when I had only about 10 feet of line out I told Tony, ‘Push off (the tree) and get the net,’” Burns explained.
The novice angler did as he was told, and readied himself.
“It was just perfect, like he’d been doing it all his life,” Burns said.
The only problem was that the bass had other plans.
“Wouldn’t you know that she went under the boat and around the big motor,” Burns said. “When I felt the line on the boat motor, I told Tony, ‘I’ll never get her.’”
But luck was still on the angler’s side, and the fish came out from under the boat without breaking off.
And that’s when Burns got his first look at the fish, as the bass swirled on the surface before heading down again.
“I told Tony, ‘This is the biggest fish I’ll ever catch,’” Burns said.
The fish quickly turned and headed away from Cevik, who was ready with the net.
“He’s sticking the net in the water trying to catch it, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh no, not from the tail,’” Burns said. “I’ve seen what happens with that.”
And that’s when the last bit of came into play.
“She turned and got on her tail and walked into the net,” Burns said. “I just fell in the floor.”
A couple of anglers in a nearby boat, who had watched the entire episode, let Burns borrow their handheld scale and the fish ticked 16.2 pounds.
The angler hurried back to Cripp’s Camp on the Texas side, where his truck was parked.
He weighed the fish there, and the scale read a tad under 16 pounds, so Burns quickly called Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials to enter the bass into that state’s ShareLunker program.
And then someone walked out and asked him if he had caught the big fish.
“I told him it was me, and he said, ‘Do you know what the lake record is?’” Burns said. “I told him I thought it was 17 pounds, and he told me it was 16.01 pounds.”
It took longer for him to realize it might be a Louisiana state record, but he said he already had committed to entering the fish in the ShareLunker program.
However, he said he planned on checking with the Louisiana Fish Records Committee to determine if it could be entered. LouisianaSportsman.com will provide updates as needed.