Baker angler hauls in Toledo Bend lunker bass

Paul Norwood figured the jig was up – if you understand he was fishing with a crankbait, not a jig when he hooked an enormous bass at Toledo Bend on the afternoon of March 2.

“The odds of me getting her in the boat were unreal,” Norwood said. “When we got her in the boat, she had one hook left – in the back of her head.”

“She” was an 11.65-pound largemouth that Norwood, from Baker, La,. hooked at about 1 o’clock after a morning spent catching smaller fish.

In the boat with fishing buddy Henry Boudreaux of Baton Rouge, Norwood had a Bandit 200 crankbait – baby bass color – tied on 12-pound test line when he cast up close to an underwater stump in the Slaughter Creek area, fishing in water that was about 60 degrees.

“I was fishing about 2 or 3 feet of water and threw up next to a stump, and something came out and ‘ticked’ the line,” Norwood said. “I told my buddy that I’d gotten a hit. I threw in again, and something ticked it again. Then, the line went heavy, and I set the hook.”

A nerve-wracking battle

A big bass on the other end of his line came up and swirled near the surface, offering Norwood a brief look and the realization that he had the fish of a lifetime hooked up.

“She wasn’t hooked that good,” he said. “She went under the boat three times, and I told Henry, ‘We’ve got to get her in the net the next time.’

“The first time she came around the back of the boat and went under the boat, then she went to the motor, and I couldn’t stop her. She was hung up on the motor for a second – the line went slack – then she must have reversed course, and the line got tight and she came on out. I told Henry, ‘If she goes under the boat again, we’ve got to get her in the net.’”

Boudreaux was up to the task, swinging the net under the big fish and putting her in the boat.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Norwood said. “I couldn’t believe we got her in the boat. If he hadn’t netted here, I don’t think I get her in the boat. She just had one (barb) on the back hook in the top of her head. I think she’d probably had the front hook in her mouth at one point.

“I was lucky she didn’t break off. She never took any drag, but I couldn’t control her. She was in control the whole time. When she would go under the boat, I’d stick the rod down as far as I could, so I wouldn’t put any strain on the line.

“The one time she swirled, she came at the boat. She came up and went to jump, and I stuck my rod tip in the water and she stayed down.”

Giant bass

Norwood put the big bass on a set of scales he had in the boat, and the fish weighed 11 pounds, 2 ounces. He and Boudreaux picked up and ran to Buckeye Landing to get an official weight, and the bass tipped the scales at 11.65 pounds – 11 pounds, 12 ounces. She was 27 inches long and 21 inches in girth, the 15th fish of the 2021-22 season to qualify for the Toledo Bend Lunker Program.

“Once you get her in the boat, the feeling was unbelievable. It took me 45 years to catch one and 10 minutes to land it, but the adrenalin doesn’t end there. I was still shaking an hour later,” he said. “My best one ever before this one was probably 7 or 8 pounds.”

The bass was in perfect shape, a green brute full of eggs but nowhere near spawning.

“I thought she had just come out of deep water, because we were fishing close to deep water,” Norwood said. “She was so full of eggs, and her tail was not torn up at all. I think she just hit the bait because it came past her. She was just sitting next to that stump, ready to go back in.”