Houston angler catches Toledo Bend lake-record bass

Bill Cook of Houston, Tex., with the 15.67-pound lunker bass he caught on Feb. 11 that is Toledo Bend’s new lake record.

Good things come to those who wait.

Bill Cook of Houston can understand that sentiment. This past Saturday, Cook, who has fished for largemouth bass on Toledo Bend Reservoir for more than 50 years, caught a bass bigger than any taken from the 186,000-acre Sabine River impoundment.

Fishing in a Bass Champs tournament with partner Ken Burgess of Houston, Cook cast an Alabama rig at a pod of what he thought might be bass – or carp – that he’d seen on his LiveScope. One of those bass decided she liked the jingling, jangling collection of wires and swim baits and swallowed it.

Record breaking bass

A few minutes later, after no small amount of searching around Cook’s bass boat, Burgess found the landing net and dipped it under a fish like none other – at least in Toledo Bend’s waters. A 15.67-pound largemouth, it broke the 22-year-old lake record previously held by a 15.32-pound fish caught by Eric Weems.

“It was my day in the sunshine,” said Cook, 78. “For an old guy like me, who has been fishing Toledo Bend for more than 50 years, hundreds of tournaments, millions of hours – what a time to catch a bass like this.

“I have been blessed with good health. I still fish a lot of tournaments, stand up and fish all day, and for this to happen at this time in my life, I’m really blessed. I couldn’t be more pleased. I’ve had so many people call or text me and say such nice things.”

All, essentially, because he was smart enough to take a lesson when his co-angler blistered him from the back of the boat in an MLF Bass Fishing League tournament a week earlier. That day, Cook’s co-angler, Michael Fagan of Big Sandy, Texas, caught an 11-pound lunker and won the co-angler division on an Alabama rig.

“He asked me if I had one, and I said I had one tied on a rod in my garage,” Cook said. “I went home, said, ‘Stupid me; not gonna happen twice’ and I got one rigged up, watched a few videos and put it in the works.

“You can be old and hard-headed, but if somebody whips up on you that bad, you’d better learn your lesson.”

Get the net!

Shortly after the 7 a.m. blast-off, maybe 10 minutes out, Cook and Burgess were sitting in 22 feet of water in the mid-lake area, casting to a ledge. He saw what he thought were four nice fish on his LiveScope, but he wasn’t sure.

“I’m not good with it – only had it a couple of months,” he said. “I saw one I thought was pretty nice and cast at it – I thought it might be a carp – and she came up off the bottom and ate it. My poor partner. I have a new Phoenix boat, and he couldn’t find the net. I told him he’d better hurry, because it was a really big fish. I had it stored (in a storage area), and I told him to put his finger in this one hole and open it. He got the net out and netted it. We thought it would go about 12 (pounds).

“After we caught the big fish, we tried for another big fish for an hour, then we decided we’d better go shallow and get four more to go with it. We went to shallow crankbaits and caught them.”

An impressive fish

At the weigh-in, Cook’s fish weighed 15.67 pounds, measured an amazing 28 ½ inches long and 23 ½ inches in girth. He and Cook finished third overall with a 5-fish limit weighing 25.96 pounds, good for $2,200 for the place and $500 for the big fish.

“This fish replaces a record for Toledo Bend from the year 2000; I have no expectations that this one will last that long,” Cook said. “Technology has come so far, and these kids are so good at it. There are some big fish in this lake, and the kids are really good.

“I fished in the old Red Man tournaments, went to the All-American, went to BASS for a year or two, had all that deal. Now I just fish tournaments around here, and to catch the lake record on my home lake, that’s something.”