It’s hard to be humble when you’ve just caught an 11-pound bass, but West Monroe’s Ben Raley has done both. And, as a bonus, he may have just turned a 4-year-old boy into a bass fisherman for life.
We will start Raley’s big bass story at the end, then go back to the beginning. The end was a trip to Bateaux Landing on Caney Lake this past Saturday where the 32-year-old angler watched the scales level out at 11.08 pounds on a big largemouth he caught minutes earlier. The bass on Caney haven’t gotten into the full fall feeding mode yet. As long as the bass was, had it been caught a month or so later, or in the spring, it could have easily gone over 12, possibly 13 pounds.
Raley weighed the fish, put it in his live well, rode right back to the brushtop where he landed it and released it to be caught again. He said it swam right back down toward the top.
“It’s by far the biggest bass I’ve ever caught,” he said. “I’m no professional fisherman. I just love to fish for fun and the Good Lord just looked down and said ‘Son, it’s your lucky day’. I was in the right place at the right time.”
The stars aligned
The right place was a brush pile located not far past the end of a boat dock. It wasn’t even Raley’s first pick for a starting place Saturday morning. But two other spots he had been catching some good fish on didn’t have any other fishermen near them, so he went past them to this spot to “check it out” first. He hadn’t fished there in quite some time.
The right bait was a green pumpkin Z-Craw with a 3/8 ounce weight and a 3/0 hook.
He had been catching a good many fish the past couple of weeks and they were getting bigger and bigger. After catching some over five pounds, he convinced his wife and daughters to go with him the Saturday before and he caught a 7.08 with them watching in the boat. His previous personal best was an 8 pounder out of Poverty Point.
A captive audience
On Saturday, he was fishing alone when he eased up to the top. There was a couple and a 4-year-old boy watching from the pier next door when he landed a 2 pounder. The little boy wanted to see it, so Ben stopped fishing, trolled over and let him hold it in his net a few minutes before releasing it. Ben then went back to the top, not expecting anything special. But on his first cast back in there, he felt a small thump. The bite wasn’t hard and the fish didn’t even fight hard at first. But then it jumped and they all saw how big it was. It jumped again and affirmed he had the biggest bass he’d ever seen on the end of his line.
“I was so excited, I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “My heart was pounding and I thought ‘my goodness, what a fish!’ when I lifted her in the boat. They were excited, too. They got to see the whole thing.”
When he came back to release the fish, they were still there and watched as he turned the big fish loose.
“I called my wife and told her and even before I got off the lake, I started getting texts because the folks at Bateaux had posted it on Facebook,” he said. “I fished some more, but I don’t remember if I even got another bite. I was like in the Twilight Zone.”