It took James Cooley of DeQuincy some real work last Thursday to get back on Toledo Bend on Friday.
Fishing with his buddy Joe Chesson last week out of his camp in the Six Mile area, Cooley had a little battery trouble. Out on the lake fishing, he couldn’t get his big motor to crank. He was using his trolling motor to get around when he flagged down another boat to borrow a set of jumper cables, to jump-start the outboard with the trolling motor batteries.
That’s when he found that his trolling motor batteries were so weak that he had to jump-start his outboard off another boat’s batteries. He got his boat on the trailer, bought three new batteries and went back to fishing on Friday.
And caught a 10.41-pound bass, the biggest of his life.
About 90 minutes before Cooley boated his lunker, Brian Phelps of DeRidder was thanking the fog that had changed his plans for a 10.33-pound bass.
Wacky wonder bass
Cooley and Chesson were fishing in the Six Mile area at about 9 a.m.
“I was fishing the bank, and there was a camp where they had cut a bunch of trees that had fallen in the water,” Cooley said. “I threw a wacky worm up in that old tree top in about 4 feet of water, and that dude hit it.
“She put up a pretty good fight; I thought at first it might be a big, old carp. She went down and I finally got her back up. She came up out of the water, then she went down under the boat. I thought she was gonna break off. I got her back up, and my buddy had the net, but the fish was so long, the net wasn’t long enough. He didn’t get it in the net the first two tries, but the third time, he got it in the net.
“When I took the hook out of its mouth, it was barely hooked. If she’d made one more little bounce, she’d have gotten away.”
A history with the lake
Cooley and Chesson fished until 11 a.m., then headed to Fins & Feathers to get the big fish weighed and entered in the Toledo Bend Lunker Program. It wound up at 10.41. The fish was 26 inches long and 19½ inches in girth.
“I broke my wrist in August, and she did a number on my wrist,” said Cooley, 57, who has been fishing since he was 4. “I have a camp in Six Mile, but I caught my first 5-pound bass at a camp in Mill Creek when I was 5.”
Cooley was fishing a watermelon seed Bass Pro shops worm on his wacky rig on 15-pound Trilene mono.
“I didn’t think that there were that many big fish in this lake,” Cooley said, his fish being the 28th to qualify for the lunker program in the 2022-23 season. “I have seen a big difference this year, really, compared to the last 3 years. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve caught fish around that hydrilla. I caught a 5-7 (on Feb. 25) in the hydrilla.”
Lose to the fog, beat the bass
Phelps has a camp on the south end of the lake, and on Friday, he and his 7-year-old son, Braden, headed out in the morning, planning to go to the Housen area to fish.
“But it was foggy, and I said, ‘Let’s stay close and fish around here for a while,’” Phelps said.
Working a grassy bank in the back of a creek around 7:30 a.m., he was casting a Cordell Super Spot in crawfish. He caught a 3 ½-pound fish, then his son caught a small bass. The third strike came from a big girl – 10.33 pounds.
“When she hit, I knew it was a big one,” Phelps said. “When she started running, I had to push the button on my reel to give it some slack, because my drag was probably set a little bit too tight. If I didn’t push the button, she’d probably have gotten off.
“I hooked her on the left side of the boat, and she ran to the right, then back to the left. My son wound up netting her on the right side. When I lifted her out of the net, all she had were two barbs on the back treble in the top of her mouth.”
A great moment for the father and son
Phelps said his fish came out of about 8 feet of water on a bank that featured hydrilla. With it misting rain, Phelps and his son headed back to his camp, put the boat on the trailer and went to Buckeye Landing, where the fish weighed 10.33 pounds, at 25 ½ inches long with an 18 ¾-inch girth.
“We came back, regrouped, ate lunch and went back out and enjoyed the rest of the day. I was really happy to have my son with me, to have him net the fish. I’ve caught four over 9 in my life, but I’d never caught a 10-pounder. It was my time.”
Unfortunately, his time came one day early. Fishing in a club tournament, he and his son finished third – with a 5-fish limit that didn’t weigh as much as his big fish had the day before.
“A front came through, and that north wind shut them down on Saturday,” he said.
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