Johnboat angler lands 14-pound Toledo bass

The biggest fish Zwolle resident Joey Lafosse had caught before Feb. 27 weighed about 6 ½ pounds, and he wasn’t necessarily looking to break that record when he slipped his johnboat off the banks of his backyard. “I was just out fishing, but I’m always out fishing for big fish,” Lafosse said of the evening fishing trip. “I didn’t go out and say, ‘That’s what I’m after,’ but it’s always a goal.”

He eased the boat out to a hump that rises in about 8 to 10 feet to top out roughly 5 feet below the waters’ surface, and began making casts with a Wacky Worm rigged on a weedless, 1/32-ounce weighted hook.

“There’s a drainage ditch and a creek channel around the hump,” Lafosse said.

Several casts later, he felt a bass suck in the lure.

“At first, it felt like she was the same size as the other fish I had been catching in that area — about 2 to 4 pounds,” he explained. “She was swimming to me, but then she put some pretty good pressure on the rod.”

Lafosse began thinking he had a bigger fish on the line when it swam straight up and rocketed out of the water.

“When she came up, it kind of took me by surprise,” he said.

The big fish plunged back into the water, but quickly surfaced again.

“It didn’t come out of the water like it did the first time,” Lafosse said. “I knew I just had to play her.”

When he pulled it closer to the boat, the bass made one more attempt at escape.

“It went under the boat, and then I felt her let off pressure,” he said. “I knew she was getting tired.”

The angler reeled in the fish, and then reached down and grabbed it.

“I didn’t have a net, so I had to lip it,” Lafosse said of the fish that later weighed in at 14.2 pounds.

At that point, Lafosse was sort of confused. He had the biggest fish he’d ever hooked in his hands, but nowhere to put it.

“I was in a little bateau,” he explained. “I didn’t have a livewell.”

Ironically, Lafosse didn’t initially think about saving the bass.

“The first thought that came to mind was, ‘Where am I going to put her so I can keep fishing,” he said.

And then he noticed a small, corroded tag hanging from the fish.

“That’s what really made me say, ‘I need to get this fish to Toledo Town,’” Lafosse said.

Lafosse quickly made his way to his house and ran 50 yards up the hill to retrieve a large ice chest — holding the bass the entire time.

“I put lake water in the ice chest, and put her in there,” he said.

The bass, seemingly no worse for wear, was then taken to Toledo Town to be donated to the state’s Lunker Program. The Department of Wildlife & Fisheries was notified, and soon biologist Sean Kinney was on the scene.

Kinney said the tag revealed that Lafosse’s fish had been caught on March 24, 2005, at which time it weighed 10.6 pounds.

“That’s an excellent growth rate for a fish that size,” Kinney said. “It’s nice to know a fish that size is growing that fast.”

He said the fish was recaptured by Lafosse only about 1 ½ miles away from the release location in Lanana Bay.

“It just swam around a big point in the lake,” Lafosse said.

And the bass apparently has an affinity for soft plastics.

“It was caught the first time on a Slug-Go and this time on a Wacky Worm,” Kinney said.

The bass will be used at the state’s hatchery to produce fingerlings for stocking before being re-released into Toledo Bend.

Lafosse, who will receive a replica of the bass, said he felt fortunate to have put the fish in the boat.

“All those days of sitting on the water and not getting a bite were worth it,” he said. “It was a blessing; it really was.”

About Andy Crawford 863 Articles
Andy Crawford has spent nearly his entire career writing about and photographing Louisiana’s hunting and fishing community. While he has written for national publications, even spending four years as a senior writer for B.A.S.S., Crawford never strayed far from the pages of Louisiana Sportsman. Learn more about his work at www.AndyCrawford.Photography.