For Bernard Fruge, the second time was the charm – for the third time.
Fruge, from Noble, fished a certain main-lake ledge in Toledo Bend’s mid-lake area last Friday night when he and buddy Jason Webre took to the water for an after-dark bass fishing trip.
Starting around 10:30 p.m., they caught plenty of fish, a dozen or better, with a few pushing 3 ½ to 4 pounds. Several of them came from the ledge after midnight arrived, but as 2 a.m. Saturday, June 24, approached, they moved to a different spot. After an uneventful 2 hours, they moved back to their original spot, and on the first cast he made, Fruge caught a that is the third of the 2023-24 season for the Toledo Bend Lunker Program.
And that big bass was his third to qualify for the program – the other two were caught after dark, the first two coming 3 weeks apart on Aug. 1 and Aug. 22, 2020.
“In hot weather, I fish at night,” Fruge said. “Maybe 95% of the fish I’ve caught over 7 pounds have come at night, between May and September. This year, that 10-pounder made it six fish over 8 pounds.”
Waiting on the storm
Fruge likes to hit the water well after dark. He and Webre got out a little later than usual last Friday, June 23, after waiting for a storm to pass. And both had a feeling that trip held something special.
“The crazy thing was, when I met Jason, right when we were getting ready, we had to wait out some weather, and we were sitting there, and he said, ‘I’ve got a feeling one of us will get a double-digit fish tonight,’ and I said I had the same feeling – I just didn’t want to say it.”
The bruiser bass was hanging around a brush pile in 10 feet of water on a ledge that featured a little bit of rock. Fruge has caught plenty of fish off that spot over the years.
“We had gone about 2 ½ hours without a bite, then we relocated back to that first spot, and the first cast, I caught the 10-pounder; (Jason) hadn’t even made a cast,” said Fruge, who was fishing a Texas-rigged Zoom Ol’ Monster worm in South Africa Special color, with a quarter-ounce worm weight. “All three of my big fish have been caught on that exact same worm. I’ve probably got 20 or 30 bags of them.”
Comfortable at night
Webre had his bass boat sitting about 25 feet deep, and the two fishermen were throwing to the ledge and bringing their baits back toward deeper water. Fruge was fishing a 7-foot-3 Dobyns Champion Extreme Rod with a Daiwa Tatula reel spooled with 20-pound Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon.
“I think big fish are more comfortable and bite a little better at night, so I fish very, very slowly,” he said. “I use a quarter-ounce weight no matter how deep I’m fishing. I just make sure the weight doesn’t leave the bottom. The only time I lift it is to get it out of brush. I just drag the worm along, lifting my rod tip, and when I get my rod tip up, I reel up the slack and lower it again.”
This time, when he started to move the worm after letting it sink to the bottom, he felt a familiar thump.
“There are some little rocks on that spot, and sometimes you drag the worm over a rock, and when it falls off the rock – that’s what it felt like, a thump,” Fruge said. “It just tightened up and felt heavy. I set the hook and knew it was a big one; I’ve caught too many of them before. I knew as soon as I hit her.
“She peeled a little drag and tried to get back in the brush, but I got her coming. I told (Jason) to get the net, and he said he hadn’t even gotten it out after we stopped. She jumped about 10 feet from the boat, and he got the net, and I just dragged her up and he netted her. I knew it was a 10 immediately. He said he thought it was an 11.”
Getting the fish weighed
Even though it was 4 a.m., they wasted no time getting the fish to a set of certified scales. They headed back to the Webre’s cabin to get some ice to add to the livewell, called Holly Park Marina and headed there to weigh the fish. She tugged the scales down to 10.8, at 26 ½ inches long and 19 ¾ inches in girth.