This past weekend’s catch of double-digit bass at Toledo Bend proves at least one thing: you don’t have to have a fancy, fully rigged boat to catch big largemouths.
Take, for instance, Pat McFatter of Lake Charles and Cade Malmay of Stonewall, who caught the two biggest bass among seven that broke the 10-pound mark on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 25 and 26.
McFatter was fishing from a 16-foot Alweld boat with no depth finder, no livewells, and a 40-horsepower outboard. His big bass, caught at 9 a.m. on Saturday, weighed 14.02 pounds.
Malmay was fishing from a jon boat with a 25-horsepower, tiller-steer Yamaha outboard, a boat with no livewells when he caught his 11.37-pound fish at 7:15 a.m. the same morning.
Somehow, both fishermen managed to keep their big fish alive while running to certified scales to get their fish weighed and entered into the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program. Malmay used his ice chest; McFatter didn’t have a cooler big enough to hold his fish, so he called his brother – who was out on the lake in a bass boat – and met up so the fish could ride to the scales in his livewell.
The other double-digit fish caught this past weekend included an 11.32-pound lunker caught Saturday by Joe Taylor of Jennings, a 10.77-pound fish caught Saturday by Darrin Touchet of Lafayette, a 10.23-pound bass caught by Cheyenne Melden of Boyce, a 10.30-pound bass caught Sunday by Stony Cotton of Baytown, Texas, and a 10.16-pound bass caught by 14-year-old John Paul Monk of Lake Charles on Sunday.
McFatter’s wacky morning
McFatter, 66, was fishing with his brother-in-law, Fred Bennerscheidt, on Saturday morning when they pulled up onto a wide flat that featured scattered clumps of hydrilla. A few minutes later, McFatter’s brother, Boo McFatter, pulled up in his Ranger bass boat – along with his son – and spent a few minutes talking. McFatter said about 30 minutes later, using a baitcasting outfit featuring a Shimano Curado reel, casting a watermelon red plastic worm rigged wacky style on a 5/0, straight-shanked Gamakatsu hook, into 7 feet of water, he caught the fish.
“The fish bit, then it started to run to the right,” McFatter said. “I thought it was a choupique (bowfin). As I got it closer to the boat, my brother-in-law could see it, and he said it was a bass. When he really got a good look at it, he said ‘Oh, my God!’ He went crazy.”
When McFatter got the fish into the boat, he quickly understood his brother-in-law’s excitement. He was looking at a bass 27 inches long, 24 inches in girth.
“I’m holding it up, and my brother-in-law and I, we’re going cuckoo,” he said. “I had no idea it was that heavy.”
McFatter realized immediately that he had a problem: how to get the fish to a weigh-in station with no livewell and only a couple of coolers too small to hold the fish.
“I called my brother; he was fishing about 400 yards away on the other side of a small island,” he said. “We met up, and I put the fish in his livewell, and we followed him to Fin & Feather, where we weighed the fish, did all that stuff, and turned her loose.
“It took me about 2 hours to quit trembling after we weighed her in.”
McFatter and Bennerscheidt headed back to the area where he’d caught the fish. There were a few other boats around, when one pulled up, an angler pulled a fish out of the livewell and his partner started taking photos.
“They were talking back and forth with the other boats, and they said they’d just weighed him at Fin & Feather and he weighed 9 pounds. They said, ‘Some guy weighed in a 14 while we were there,’ and my brother-in-law said, ‘That was us.’ I tried to hush him up and keep him quiet. We didn’t need to let them know that much.”
A cooler ride to the scales
In the mid-lake area, Malmay was fishing by himself in a jon boat around 7:15 a.m. Saturday when he moved into a pocket and started fishing button bushes in 1 to 2 feet of water.
“The pocket I was fishing, the deepest spot was about 3 feet,” he said. “I lost one fish at the boat, but it was a dink. Then, she hit.”
Malmay, whose personal-best bass was a 9-pounder, was fishing a watermelon red Zoom Brush Hawg, Texas-rigged, when the big fish hit.
“She took off, swimming with it, swimming out of the bush; she helped me that way,” he said. “I was kind of surprised at the way she was fighting; she gave up pretty quick. I got her close to the boat and lipped her. I didn’t have a net.”
Malmay said he had a cheap set of scales on board; the fish weighed 11 pounds. That’s when the enormity of the fish hit him – he had to get the fish to a certified weigh station, without a livewell.
“I had a cooler, and I filled it with some lake water and some ice I had, to cool the water down,” he said. “I took off, then I saw another boat, and I stopped and asked him if he had a scale. He was super nice – I don’t even know who he was – and the fish weighed 11.37 on his scales.
“I took off again, going as fast as I could. I was worried the whole time about the fish. It took me 15 or 20 minutes to get there.”
Once at Living the Dream Guide Service, Malmay took the bass out of the cooler and found that she was just fine – no noticeable stress, no injuries, nothing. He put her on the scales, and the fish weighed 11.37 again, then measured 26 ⅜ inches long. Once the fish was tagged and released alive, Malmay headed back to the place he’d been fishing and caught two more 4-pound fish and “a bunch” of 2- and 3-pounders.
“The lake is absolutely on fire,” said Malmay, who fishes for bass and white perch about three days a week. “I had a buddy catch a 5 and a 6 on Saturday, and a cousin of mine caught a 7 (Monday).”
Two more casts, Dad
After a long, slow day of fishing, Aaron Taylor of Jennings was about ready to pack it in and head to his camp on Toledo Bend with his father, Joe Taylor of Jennings.
“It was about 6:15, about a half-hour from dark, and I told my dad, two more casts and we’re going to leave,” Aaron Taylor said.
“That’s when he hooked her.”
Casting a green pumpkin Senko rigged wacky style, Joe Taylor, 65, felt a tap and set the hook on what he figured was a bass.
Fishing in the back of a creek on the south end of Toledo Bend, the bite came out of 3 to 5 feet of water. Taylor picked up on the fish, felt some weight and set the hook.
The way the fish fought, Aaron Taylor figured it was anything but a bass.
“I could see the water boil and knew it was a big fish, but he took off to the right, pushing water – like a redfish in the marsh,” he said. “Big fish always jump, but this one didn’t. He turned around, came back to the left and took off again, peeling off drag.
“Then, it got crazy. He got hung up. I said, ‘Dad, I don’t think it’s a bass,’ and he trolled over there, and he was right on top of where the bass was hung up, banging his rod tip up and down, and he took off again. I told my dad to crank the drag down and get that fish in.
Joe Taylor was horsing the fish back to the boat – after not putting much pressure on it throughout the fight – when Aaron Taylor finally got a good look at the fish.
“I yelled, ‘That fish is green, bring it in!’” Aaron Taylor said. “He was pulling her to the boat, and she was tired out, and I netted her.”
Aaron Taylor said after the usual celebration, they realized it was getting dark, and they had to make a decision. Aaron Taylor’s camp is close to Buckeye Landing, but they were fishing closer to Fin & Feather – both sites being official weigh stations for the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program. Aaron said the fish was hooked deep and bleeding so he cut the line and put her in the livewell. They decided to run to Fin & Feather; when they got there, the fish had stopped bleeding and was recovering well in the livewell. Aaron lifted her out, put his hand in the fish’s mouth, and the hook came right out.
After being weighed at 11.32, the fish was measured and was 26 inches long and 22 inches in girth. She was tagged and released alive.