It took Jackson Cooper of Dry Prong a few minutes of idling around, observing, then two casts, to land the biggest bass of his life and get his biggest payday.
His second cast, on the first spot he fished May 20, produced a 10.41-pound lunker — he called her a “warhorse” — that wound up winning the 3-day Big Bass Splash on Toledo Bend Reservoir, good for $10,000, a fully rigged Phoenix boat and a Dodge pickup truck.
His fish was also the first entry in the Toledo Bend Lunker Program’s 2022-2023 season.
“Lines in was at 6 a.m., and I didn’t catch her until between 6:30 and 6:45,” said Cooper, who won $5,000 for catching the biggest bass of the tournament’s first hour, another $5,000 over the tournament’s overall big fish, plus the boat and truck.
“I milled around a little, starting shallow, looking for the shad spawn, and there were a lot of boats around me; I don’t know if the other boats were trying to take advantage of the shad spawn or hiding from the wind,” he said. “But most of them were shallow, and I noticed a lot of baitfish, shad and bream, out in deep water. And I didn’t see any shad popping up on the bank, so I was fishing offshore. I knew there were some (brush) tops around. I was fishing offshore. She came from 15 feet of water, out in front of some docks.”
Cooper was fishing a V&M Wild Thang, an 8½-inch plastic worm, in blue flex, on an 7-foot-3, medium-heavy baitcasting rod mated with a Lew’s reel spooled with 17-pound fluorocarbon. Cooper was Carolina-rigging.
“I lost a fish on my first cast, and I threw back in and she took hold of it,” he said. “I think she caught it on the drop. When I picked up the slack, it felt spongy, so I set the hook and she immediately came to the surface to let me know it was her.
“Once she shot to the surface, I knew she was a big one, and that got me pretty fired up. She surfaced twice, came to the boat, then took me under the boat three times to try and break me off. Luckily, my equipment held up. I got her to the boat and belly grabbed her.
“Once I had her in the boat, I knew I had a heckuva chance (to win). That’s when it hit me. I put her right in the (livewell) because I was afraid I was going to drop her. She was actually a real warhorse. She was finished spawning; her tail was clean, but she had a lot of damage to her face — she was blind in one eye.”
Cooper, who was fishing by himself, took the big fish to Cypress Bend Park, where he was camping for the weekend. He got the big fish weighed, measured, certified for the Toledo Bend Lunker Program, and he sat back to wait out the weekend and see if his personal-best largemouth held up as the tournament’s best.
“My family came in, and I spent Sunday with my family,” he said. “I wanted to make it a fun day. I was planning on a little ‘weather defense’ on Sunday. When I woke up in the morning, it was raining cats and dogs. I didn’t sign up to fish. About 7 or 7:30 a.m., it turned pretty, and it wound up being the most nerve-wracking Sunday I’ve ever had.”