Friends share big-bass catch almost exactly 12 months apart
By anyone’s standards, Sean Swank and buddy Danny Matthews had enjoyed a great morning on Caddo Lake last Friday (March 18). They had six bass in the livewell, with two going about 7 pounds and one being a solid 6-pounder.
But the trip became even more memorable when Swank pitched his ½-ounce black/blue jig to a cypress tree in about 4 feet of water – and hooked a 16-pounder that had actually set the lake record almost 12 months ago to the day.
“I was just slowly bringing (the jig) back to the boat when I felt just a slight tick,” Swank said. “When I set the hook, I thought I had hung up on a stump because it didn’t move.”
Seconds later, however, the De Berry angler’s line began singing through the water.
“I guess she realized what happened, and she took off,” Swanks said. “The fight was on.”
But Swank still didn’t realize he had a monster bass at the terminal end of his line.
“At the beginning, I thought I had a catfish on because she wouldn’t come up,” he explained.
The angler tugged on the fish, but couldn’t make any headway; the fish just pulled drag for a couple of minutes.
“It felt like hours,” Swank said. “It was probably a minute to a minute and a half.”
Fortunately, the 50-pound braid on his rig held, because when the fish rolled next to the boat it wasn’t a catfish. Swank’s knees when weak when a huge bass surfaced.
“I said, ‘Net her!’” he said.
Matthews already had the net ready, and quickly tried to get the massive bass in the boat. The fish tried to swim away, but Swank quickly pulled its head around and the net was pushed around its tail.
“She wouldn’t even fit in the net,” Swank said. “(Matthews) had the bottom half and I had the mouth.
“When I seen what it was, I dropped the rod and grabbed her.”
Swank estimated the fish would go 13 to 14 pounds, but he put the bass in the livewell as quickly as possible and headed to Johnson’s Marina to have it weighed.
The marina scales showed 15 pounds, 14 ounces. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department was called, and biologists were dispatched to collect the fish as part of the ShareLunker program in which anglers receive a free fiberglass replica for bass weighing more than 13 pounds.
The official weight as determined by TPWD biologists settled at 16.07 pounds.
“She was 27 inches long and had a 22 ¾-inch girth,” Swank said.
The weight puts his fish in the lead of the ShareLunker Angler of the Year contest, but came just short of the 16.17-pound lake record set last spring by Keith Burns, a friend of Swank’s.
Ironically, Burns received a call about the latest big-bass catch from a buddy, who just happened to be fishing Caddo on Friday. He initially had no idea who had landed the fish.
“He said a big fish had been caught, and that it was a heavy 15 pounds,” Burns said. “I’m thinking the whole time, ‘The guy who held the record before me held it for 18 years. If I held if for a year, or if I hold it for 20 years, I’m happy.’”
And then he received a second call.
“He said, ‘This guy says he knows you,’” Burns laughed, saying he was then told the lucky angler was his buddy Swank. “I thought, ‘If somebody’s going break (the record), I can’t think of a better person than him.’”
The two friends spent the next couple of days laughing about how close Swank had come to setting a new record, and then Swank received an email from TPWD that shocked him.
Biologists scanned the fish to determine if it had been previously caught and tagged, and discovered that it was the very same fish with which Burns set the lake record on March 20, 2010.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Swank said. “She was 2 inches longer than when Keith caught it last year, but the girth was smaller.”
After comparing notes, Burns confirmed the fish was landed this year less than 300 yards from where it was caught last year.
“I released it (after TPWD returned the bass) on the same tree I caught it on,” Burns said.
Amazingly, TPWD records show that this bass isn’t the only double-digit monster entered multiple times into the ShareLunker program. At least six fish have been caught and re-entered, and one Lake Alan Henry monster was entered into the program three years in a row.
Subscribe now, get unlimited access for $19.99 per year
Become the most informed Sportsman you know, with a membership to the Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and LouisianaSportsman.com.