Toledo Bend spawner finally bites after nerve-racking time
On the morning of April 9, David Perales of Oakdale, a 65-year-old retiree turned hard-core bass fisherman, arrived at Toledo Bend’s Blue Lake Launch. The Louisiana Oilmen’s Tournament was underway, and he’d come early, hoping to beat the crowds.
As he motored away from the launch, he couldn’t have foreseen that when he returned later in the day, he would have a 10.14-pound largemouth bass in his boat, a fish large enough for entry into the Toledo Bend Lake Association’s lunker bass program.
He began the day fishing a point, but his mind drifted, returning to a spot where water lilies and buckbrush had enticed him the last time he’d fished Toledo Bend. That’s where he headed.
It was a hard place to fish. The bank was a tangle of dense buckbrush, notorious for grabbing line and not letting go, but bass love it. The bushes spill from the bank into the shallows, providing plenty of cover for bass on their beds. Farther out, where the water is a little deeper, lily pads cluster on the surface.
Scatter the bait
Perales eased into the lily pads, towards a gap in the buckbrush that looked fishable. He set his HydroWave unit to ‘Shad Blitz,’ a setting that transmits the sound of agitated shad into the water to get the real shad moving.
“There was a gap in the buckbrush where I could see the shad and the bass,” he said. “That’s what I fished.”
The baitfish began to panic, making a small area near the bank begin to roil, like a hard rain was falling there and nowhere else. Then, like a long wave rolling diagonally to the shore, a large bass pushed through the dark water toward the alerted shad, and then another bass followed.
Perales thought one of the bass looked like a trophy-quality fish. He couldn’t be sure. The water was muddy and the fish were in a frenzy.
Perales made a perfect cast to the near side of the bass, but she didn’t budge. He cast again and again, changing lures three times without getting a reaction. He decided he needed to present the bait in a different fashion.
He decided to move the boat so that he could cast to the other side of the fish. He’d have to cast over a low bush to get to her, but he was determined to try.
Using a Lew’s rod and reel combo spooled with 15-poung Big Game mono, Perales slung a watermelon Fluke over the bush. The lure fell with a satisfying plop. He let the weightless Fluke sit, twitched it a time or two, until the bass slammed the bait.
“I set the hook,” Perales said, “and reeled as fast as I could to try to get her out of the brush.”
But the line was tangled in the gnarled branches. The bass never cleared the bush. “It was (suspended) half out of the water thrashing around,” he said. “And I could see the fish, and I could tell that it was big.”
The bass fought the line, the bush and fate itself, trying to get free.
“The head and about half of its body was above the surface thrashing back and forth,” said Perales, who cranked the trolling motor to high and edged toward the fish.
“I was churning mud, and the trolling motor was getting bogged down with all the lily vines,” Perales said. “Everything seems to go in slow motion when you hook a big fish like that; you are just so excited.”
He’d hooked a monster, and if he couldn’t get to her soon, she’d sling the hook and untangle herself. Perales fought his nerves, fought the trolling motor, fought his inexperience with the boat, which was relatively new, and he fought his fear.
Grab 10 pounds
“I managed to get to the fish,” said Perales, who could do nothing but reach down and grab the line as close to the fish as he could and haul her up, breaking free of the branches.
“It was a good hookset, so it took a few minutes to get her unhooked,” Perales said.
Once she was unhooked, Perales tossed the big bass into the livewell, and then it was all over.
After the fish was weighed and certified at 10.14 pounds, it was entered into the Toledo Bend Lake Association’s Lunker Bass Program. Like all fish in the program, it was released back into the reservoir. Perales will receive a replica fish to commemorate the impressive catch.
“I’m just blessed,” said Perales. “Truly blessed that I got to catch another one over 10 pounds.”