You could forgive Tater Reynolds if he felt stunned after this past Saturday’s MLF Bass Fishing League Cowboy Division tournament on Toledo Bend Reservoir.
After all, he brought a 31.14-pound, 5-fish limit to the scales, anchored by a 12-pound, 10-ounce lunker – and he didn’t win the tournament or big-fish pot.
Kevin Lasyone and Dylan Smith probably felt something along the same line, with bass weighing 10-13 and 10-9 coming out of their livewells. At least Michael Fagan won something with his 11-pound lunker – big-fish honors for co-anglers fishing from the back of the boat.
But those aces all fell short, thanks to angler Cody Pitt’s full house – a 39-pound, 15-ounce limit anchored by a 13-pound, 6-ounce bass – the biggest ever caught in a BFL event.
“I really figured I’d need more than 31 pounds to win,” admitted Reynolds, from Florien, La., who is one of Toledo Bend’s top local anglers. “But 12-10, that should have been the big fish. Mine was almost 13 pounds and didn’t win big fish.”
Lasyone, from Dry Prong, La., and Smith, from Midlothian, Texas, both finished in the money at Toledo Bend. Lasyone was 17th with 13½ pounds, winning $374, and Smith was seventh with 17-2, winning $812. Reynolds cashed a $2,436 check for his second-place finish. Fishing as a co-angler on his first-ever trip to Toledo Bend, Fagan finished second among co-anglers with three bass weighing 17-4, good for $1,585. His big fish was worth another $367.
Reynolds’ big fish – and Smith’s – were caught almost as soon as the tournament started. Reynolds was fishing a Sixth Sense Alabama rig in 20 feet of water along a creek bend at mid-lake when he caught his lunker 15 minutes into the tournament.
“She hit it, but not aggressive at all,” he said. “The first time she jumped was into the net.”
Reynolds’ fish was 26 inches long and 19⅝ inches in girth. It was his first double-digit fish at Toledo Bend – qualifying for the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program.
“I caught my biggest fish, 14-12, in December at a smaller lake, and I had one last year at Toledo Bend that was 9.9, but this was my first 10-pound fish here,” he said.
Fagan, who moved to Big Sandy, Texas, from Hot Springs, Ark., over the winter, had never been on Toledo Bend before he climbed into Bill Cook’s boat last Saturday. He was fishing Keitech swim baits on an Alabama rig about 12 to 15 feet deep over submerged grass on the lower end of the lake at around 9:30 when the big fish hit.
“The bite was real subtle, but the fight was good, really good,” Fagan said. “She just kept taking line, taking drag, tearing off aggressively. My boater came back and walked me through what to do. I got her about to the boat the first time, and he said, ‘Watch out, she’s going to do that again,’ and she did. The next time I got her to the boat, he netted her.”
Fagan’s 11-pound fish – his personal best – was 25¼ inches long and 19½ inches in girth.
Like Fagan, Smith had very little experience on Toledo Bend; his first outing was the day before the tournament, for only a few hours. But he learned enough to get in the right area on tournament day, in Housen Bay.
“I wanted to start on this hydrilla point, but when I got there, there were all kinds of boats on it, so I pulled over to a little ditch with an isolated grass clump,” he said.
Smith’s fish, which was 25½ inches long and 19½ inches in girth, was sitting on the clump of grass in about 12 feet of water when she hit a Megabass OneTen+1 jerkbait in mat shad color.
“I saw the grass clump on my LiveScope,” he said. “My first fish was a 3-pounder. A couple of casts later, I got the jerkbait down 5 or 6 feet and worked it through the grass clump, and that’s when I saw the big fish coming after it.”
At first, Smith wasn’t sure the fish was a bass; as big a mark as showed up in his LiveScope, he was worried it might be a big catfish, and he wasn’t sure for a big part of the battle, which he said lasted 3 or 4 minutes.
“She didn’t jump, so we didn’t see her for a while,” he said. “She came up one time but pulled back down, and I didn’t get a good look at her. Then, she came up at the boat and we got her in the net.
“All that happened in the first 10 minutes after we started fishing.”
Lasyone’s big fish was caught around 9 a.m. in a mid-lake area where he was fishing ledges – casting into 20 feet of water while sitting over 30 feet. He was fishing a V&M J Mag worm in black/blue, Texas-rigged on a 3/0 hook with a half-ounce bullet weight. He believes that the worm fell and landed on top of a stump, and the fish picked it off the stump.
“I went to one spot to start with, and the guy fishing with me caught one between 4 and 5 pounds,” Lasyone said. “The next place I went to, she hit on the second or third cast. I let her have it for a minute, and when I set the hook, I didn’t realize it was that heavy a fish. I thought it might have been wrapped up in the stump, but she came up, and I knew when I felt her coming up she was heavy – not a 6- or 7-pounder.
“I had her on 20-pound line, and she came up and went back down, and I got a little excited and probably pulled on her a little more than I should have. But I leaned on her and got her to the top, and she went straight into the net. I don’t know what she had eaten right before I caught her, but when she came in, she blew stuff all over the boat.”
Lunker Bass Program
The fish was Lasyone’s biggest ever at Toledo Bend and his first Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program entry. He caught one several years ago that bore two 10-pound tags, but he didn’t bring it in to weigh, opting just to call in the tags to the program and have his own replica mount made. His biggest ever is an 11 ½-pound fish from Lake Amistad.
“It was amazing, all the big fish that were caught,” he said. “I just couldn’t get anything to go with mine. I tried to catch another big fish all day, until the last hour, then I went somewhere to try and fill my limit.”