Admittedly “not a very good golfer,” Carl Hanchey wondered about 18 months ago – after he scored a hole-in-one – whether or not the game was going to be all downhill for him from here on out.
He started wondering the same thing about bass fishing a couple of days ago, after boating an 11.65-pound giant from Toledo Bend.
Hanchey, a 54-year-old contractor from Deridder, was fishing well after dark with buddy Joe Bordelon, crawling a black/grape, Texas-rigged Zoom Mag 2 worm down a series of mid-lake ledges – from 16 feet to 20, then 23 – when he felt the bait tick a brush pile. He hopped it once, never felt it hit bottom again, reeled in the slack and set the hook.
“The fish was 26 feet deep,” he said. “There are a couple of ledges on this drop: one from 16 to 20 feet, then it drops to 23, then 25 feet, and there’s a brush pile on it. I got the worm down to 20 feet, felt the brushpile, and I knew I was close to the edge where it would drop to the next ledge. I hopped the bait one time, never felt the sinker hit bottom, so I reeled down, it felt heavy, and I set the hook.”
A good night on the Bend
Hanchey and Bordelon had boated six bass by the time the big girl hit at 12:30 a.m. On the water at 8:30, Hanchey had caught a 5-pounder, and the pair had boated a 3-pounder and four 2-pounders. The 5-pounder taught Hanchey a lesson that paid off almost immediately – as did a new fishing outfit: a Dobyns Champion XP 7-foot rod paired with a Shimano 150XG reel spooled with 15-pound Seaguar Red Label fluorocarbon.
“The 5 I caught, I just pulled him straight up,” he said. “It was really hard to keep him alive – the surface temperature was 92. So this time, when I set the hook and knew it was a good fish, I backed off the drag, took it slow and easy. I didn’t want her to get up to the surface too fast; I was afraid she’d really struggle. So I just stood up and let her peel off some drag. I finally got her close enough to the boat to see her, and I freaked out. I told Joe to get the net, then I played her some more. Then, I could feel her coming up, and I said to myself, ‘Don’t jump!’ but when she breached the surface, she just rolled over on her side, and I dragged her into the net.
“She was a ‘no-doubter.’ I’ve caught some fish over 9 pounds that I thought were 10, but there was no doubt about this one.”
Getting the fish weighed
Hancher immediately started calling around to find a weigh station open after midnight where he could get a certified weight and get the fish into the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program. He called Buckeye Landing first, and when he got no answer, he called several other places with the same result.
“The guy who bought Buckeye, Marcus Henry, he told me to call him 24/7 if I needed him, so I figured we’d run to Buckeye and I’d beat on his door,” Hanchey said. “But I decided to call him one more time, and he picked up.”
With the fish in the livewell – but “struggling,” Hanchey admitted – they ran to Buckeye, where the fish weighed 11.65 pounds on certified scales, measuring 26 ½ inches long and 20 inches in girth. They put her in a tank of cool, aerated water, “fizzed her a couple of times” – released air from her swim bladder with a hypodermic needle – then Henry clipped a pair of belly weights to the fish’s pectoral fins, and she drifted upright in the tank for awhile, regaining her strength and equilibrium, before Hanchey released her, tagged and alive, back into Toledo Bend.
“Those belly weights, man, they did the trick,” he said. “I bought some as soon as (Henry) showed them to me. Then, we waited 45 minutes while we did the paperwork, and I took her and released her.”
The huge bass was Hanchey’s second “double-digit” fish. At least that’s the story he told people before he caught her. He said he’s caught 10 bass that weighed between 9 and 10 pounds, the biggest at 9.96. But one July several years ago, he caught a fish in the mid-9s that was tagged; a little investigation found that the fish had weighed almost 12 pounds when it had been originally caught, entered in the TBLP and tagged four months earlier.
“So I tell people I’ve caught a double-digit bass – it just wasn’t double-digits when I caught it,” he joked.
Hanchey said he’s had little success catching big Toledo Bend bass during the spring, when they’re in relatively shallow water and weigh the most. But come hot weather and summer, he starts waiting for the sun to go down and targets them almost exclusively at night.
“I don’t know how to catch ‘em in the spring,” he said. “This is the only way I know how to catch ‘em – at night during the summer. That’s what I do this time of year – fish at night. All the daytime guys can have it; it’s way too hot for me. Come summer, this is what I like to do: night fish.”
Hanchey sticks mostly to deep, main-lake drops, humps and ledges, and if they’re on the main river channel, so much the better.
“I keep asking people, ‘Is it all downhill from here,’” he said. “I’m not a real good golfer, but I had a hole-in-one about a year-and-a-half ago, and I figured it was all downhill from there. I wonder if it’s the same thing.
“But fishing is my therapy. It’s the only thing that keeps me sane.”