Humongous bass breaks Bussey Brake record

Is there any reservoir in the nation hotter than Bussey Brake?

Toledo Bend fishermen might have an argument, with better than two-dozen double-digit bass caught in 2023 – plus a lake-record specimen – but at 180,000 acres, Toledo Bend is 90 times larger than Bussey Brake.

Robert Rush would probably weigh in on the side of Bussey Brake. A resident of Crossett, Ark., he lives just across the state line from the 2,200-acre lake, which once supplied water for a paper mill that International Paper operated in Morehouse Parish.

Rush has a 26-inch long, 15.36-pound reason.

That’s how big the bass he caught this past Sunday, Feb. 26, at Bussey Brake was. It’s the biggest bass ever caught from the lake, which was drained, rebuilt and restocked by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries when it and surrounding 400 acres was donated to the state in 2013.

LDWF rebuilt the lake from the ground up, draining it and making major physical improvements. It started stocking Florida-strain largemouth bass in Bussey Brake in 2017. So Rush’s huge fish – and the previous lake record, a 13.58-pound bass caught by Todd Herrington on Valentine’s Day – put on all that weight in just 6 years. You could win the July 4 hot-dog eating contest that Nathan’s puts on in Atlantic City, N.J., and not gain that much weight, that fast.

“I hope people realize just how fantastic and fertile this lake is, and put those big fish back,” said Rush, who did just that shortly after catching his record-breaking fish around 4 p.m., then having its weight, length and girth (22 inches) certified. “I was very, very fortunate, very blessed, to catch this fish.”

Circling back around pays off

Rush headed to Bussey Brake last Sunday only after attending church in the morning. He had worked down a line of bushes, missing a fish, then catching a 3-pounder and a 5-pounder.

“I went to this spot where I’d caught some fish the weekend before,” Rush said. “I missed that big fish 45 minutes before I caught her. I felt her bite, but I missed her. I went on and caught a 3 and a 5, and I decided I’d loop around again, see if that one would bite again.

“The wind was blowing in on those willow bushes, and I love the wind. They start feeding when the wind blows. I came to that bush, and she was sitting in the same position. I just came at her from a little different angle.”

Rush pitched a Rite Bite tube jig on a 5/16-ounce weight into the bush, and the fun began.

“She sucked it in,” he said. “I knew I had a fish. It wasn’t a sure-enough thump; it was one of those spongy bites. When I set the hook, she went pretty crazy. She surged a couple of times, came up a couple of times. I saw how big she was. I thought she was 12 or 13 (pounds). She went under the boat at the end, and when she came back out, I grabbed her. I pumped my fist and said, ‘Oh man!’”

Then, only then, did Rush understand what he had hold of – but just barely.

“She had a mouth like a 5-gallon bucket,” Rush said. “She was barely hooked, right in the skin. If she’s made one more run, I’d have lost her. The hook point was under the skin, but there wasn’t 1/16th of an inch left in there.”

Getting the fish weighed

Rush put her in the livewell, in the process stepping over his landing net, resting on the floor of his boat and forgotten during the battle.

“I didn’t think about it at all,” admitted Rush, who called a fishing buddy to ask about getting the fish weighed. He was told there was a sign on the lake office with a phone number to call to get a fish weighed. He motored back to the ramp, saw the sign and called the number.

“I actually talked to two different guys,” he said. “They gave me the number (to the digital door lock). There was a guy there from West Monroe who took some pictures of me with the fish and certified the weight and length. Justin Martin, the guy who caught the 9- and 12-pound fish (on Feb. 19), he was there, and he measured the fish for me.”

Rush didn’t have to wait for the read-out from the scales to realize how big the fish was. He remembered seeing a photo of Herrington’s 13.58-pound fish in the plastic tote in which it was weighed, and in which his fish was sprawled.

“I could tell from that photo how much bigger my fish was than the 13,” he said. “They were in the same plastic tote, and you can tell this fish was much, much bigger. She just about filled up that tote. They’re going to have to get a bigger one if this keeps up.”