Ryan Brunk did a good deed last weekend, and he was almost immediately rewarded.
Brunk, from Germanton, Ohio, agreed to drive his father-in-law, Don Geer, to his home in Boyce, La.
“He wanted to take my three kids down there and show them his boyhood home, visit his cousins and pick up a buckboard wagon to take home and fix,” Brunk said. “I told him that I’d drive him down. I knew one cousin had a camp on Toledo Bend, and I wanted to go fishing.”
Brunk got off work on Thursday, drove all night to Boyce, and on Saturday, the cousin, Billy Dekeyzer, took him fishing.
They were skunked Saturday morning, went back to Dekeyzer’s camp for lunch and to do some chores, then got back on the lake around 3 p.m. An hour later, he was admiring an 11.68-pound bass, the biggest of five double-digit lunkers weighed in at Toledo Bend that day – the only one not in a tournament.
Fishing in a team tournament out of the Army Recreation Park, Tony Coburn of Lake Charles boated an 11.57-pound lunker and Lane Masters caught an 11.37-pound fish. The same day, fishing in a Southeast Texas High School tournament, Lane Ward of Livingston, Tex., boated a 10.27-pound bass, and Layne Mercer of Lumberton, Tex., boated a 10.09-pound largemouth.
Windy, sunny bank produces huge fish
Fishing around mid-lake, Brunk and Dekeyzer started on a wind-blown, western bank that had gotten the sun all day and was holding 58-degree water.
“I was using a stick worm, a Senko-style bait, wacky rigged, in probably a foot of water, right off the grass,” Brunk said. “You had to really let it soak. I felt her take it, and I didn’t know he was big until I set the hook. I knew I had a decent-sized bass on. Billy, in the front of the boat, said, ‘Do I need to get the net out?’ and she came up and just kind of porpoised. When he saw that, he started screaming. I told him to calm down.
“She didn’t fight until she got to the boat. She went under the boat, but I got her back out, and I got her turned, and she swam right into the net. Billy said it was the biggest bass he’d ever seen.”
A mad dash to find a scale
Without a set of scales onboard, Dekeyzer made sure he had a livewell full of water, cranked his outboard and headed back to his camp.
“We flagged down another boat close to his camp and asked if they had a set of scales, and they did,” Brunk said. “It weighed 11.44 pounds on those scales. I told him I wanted to get a replica made, and Billy said, ‘You’re going to get a replica, and you’re going to get one free.’”
Brunk and Dekeyzer put the bass in a 50-gallon ice chest full of lake water and headed to Living The Dream Guide Service in Many to have the fish weighed and measured for the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program. She was tagged and released and swam away, in Brunk’s words, “real calm – she wasn’t any the worse for wear.
“There’s a bar there, and I went in and bought everybody a drink,” he said. “I didn’t have any expectation of catching that big a fish. I knew Toledo Bend had been the No. 1 bass-fishing lake in the nation a few years ago, and I just wanted to catch a few fish bigger than I’m used to catching (in Ohio).
“I’m still high about that fish.”
Bass makes angler jump through hoops
Bass fishermen don’t really love to see fish jump, especially big fish, and especially in a tournament. There are too many things that can go wrong while a fish is airborne, resulting in the hook being thrown and a payday being lost.
Now, multiply that by 10. Tony Coburn got to watch a huge bass jump on him last Saturday in a team tournament out of the Army Rec Park. Only it jumped on the opposite side of the boat from where he had his rod tip buried in the water, trying to keep the fish down.
“She went nuts so fast after I set the hook,” Coburn said. “She came out and jumped, and I had turned my boat a little to try and get her out of the bush. She came out and went all the way under the boat. I had my rod tip buried, then, she jumped on the other side of the boat. I figured I was never going to get her. She was going to hang up on the big motor or the trolling motor – and you don’t think about picking them up when that’s going on.
“I really didn’t know she was a giant until she jumped. She rolled, then she jumped. She came back under the boat from the other side, and the first time she came by the boat, my partner, Ricky Trahan, missed her with the net. When she came by the second time, he got her.”
A change in luck
Coburn and Trahan were fishing down a mid-lake bank about 1 p.m., in 54-degree water. Coburn caught a 5-pounder, and Trahan said, “Well, let’s hope that changes our luck.” Coburn said they decided to turn around and fish back down the bank from the opposite direction. Coburn pitched a Texas-rigged Senko in tilapia magic color into 4 feet of water.
“We were flipping every bush, and I picked it up and it felt heavy,” Coburn said. “I know on this lake when you get a bite, you better set the hook hard, because you never know whether it’s a 2-pounder or an 11 ½-pounder. So I set the hook…. It seemed like it took about an hour to get her in, but it probably wasn’t 2 minutes.
“I caught her around 1, and the weigh-in was at 3,” he said. “I was a nervous wreck. We went in 30 minutes earlier so I could get her weighed.”
At the weigh-in, the fish weighed 11.57 pounds, but Coburn still needed to get her weighed in at a weigh station for the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program. He’d never had a double-digit bass, despite catching five heavier than 9 pounds, including two the same night.
“We finished third with 22.7 (pounds) and won $400. The big fish was $250. Then, we took her to Buckeye (Landing). She was 24 ½ inches long and 20 ½ inches in girth.”
Finally, it’s the Masters turn
Lane Masters has watched some huge fish caught in February on Toledo Bend, but it wasn’t until this past Saturday, Feb. 18, that he was on the catching end, with an 11.37-pound lunker that anchored a 5-fish, 33-pound limit that won the tournament out of Army Rec Center.
“Cody, he finally let me have his double-digit shoes,” Masters said, referring to Cody Pitts of Elmer, La., who caught an 11.79-pound lunker and a 42.30-pound stringer fishing with Masters in a Game Changers Outdoors tournament on Feb. 11. It was one of three double-digit fish that Pitt has boated since Jan. 27, including a 13.6-pound monster on Feb. 4 in a MLF Bass Fishing League tournament.
Masters’s big fish this past Saturday came on the same bait, in a similar spot, to Pitt’s biggest fish.
“Our fish are still deep,” he said. “This was the first fish I caught, at 9:45. The sun got up, and that got ‘em where I needed them to be. She was on a channel swing. I caught her on a V&M football jig, blue shadow color, with a V&M J Bug trailer in green pumpkin.
“I was just crawling it across the bottom, and she knocked slack in the line; it was a really good bite. She fought so hard – came out of the water twice. When you hook ‘em that deep, they all feel like giants. She came out of the water twice, and I waited to see her when she came up before I knew how big she was.
“I caught a 7 and a 6 right behind her. They were all close to 21 feet deep.”
Getting the fish weighed
Fishing on the lower end of the lake in 53-degree water, Masters had a good limit in his livewell when he culled his two smallest fish, a couple of 3-pounders, with a 4½-pound fish and a 3½-pound fish. After the tournament weigh-in, he headed to Buckeye Landing to get the fish weighed on certified scales for the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program.
“She was fat, fat, fat,” Masters said, describing his 25 ⅛-inch long, 21-inch girthed fish. “This was my second Lunker Program fish. I had an 11(-pounder) in 2009. It’s been a while for me.
“I don’t know where they’ve all come from, but I’m loving it. It’s kind of crazy. It’s going to be wild in a couple of weeks, with all this grass coming back.”
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