Jake Ormond of Sterlington, a bass pro and guide, saw a huge gar roll at the surface of Bayou Bartholomew Lake on Monday afternoon, July 17, around 3 o’clock, and because he had been giving a youngster a fishing lesson, he figured he’d make a cast or two, try to hook the fish and give the kid a good look at it.
He wound up with a state record.
Ormond hooked the huge longnose gar on a flutter spoon, wore it out in a few minutes in the 95-degree water in the big oxbow off the Ouachita River also known as “The Cutoff.” He subdued it, towed it to a ramp at his house, 300 yards away, looped a rope around it and dragged it up on the ramp.
The 65 ½-inch fish wound up weighing 31.48 pounds, breaking by better than a half-pound the previous record, caught from Bayou Benoit in St. Martin Parish on April 2022.
Yeah, Ormond said, his bass-fishing buddies will probably give him a little grief about catching a gar, but he’ll have a state-record certificate to show them in response.
“I was going to catch him just to show that kid,” said Ormond, who fishes the MLF Toyota Series when he isn’t guiding for bass and crappie on a handful of bodies of water within an hour of his home. “I wasn’t going to break him off, because I wanted to get my spoon back.”
Spotting the big gar
Ormond had pulled up on a point and was teaching the young fisherman how to fish a crankbait when he saw the big gar roll on the surface, gulping air, about 30 to 40 feet from his boat.
“I knew it was a big one; I’d hooked a big one on a crankbait on the same point three or four days before, but I broke him off,” he said. “I saw him roll and figured it might be the same fish I’d hooked before. “I had a big flutter spoon tied on a rod on the front deck, so I picked it up and pitched it in front of where he’d gone down. Gar like flashy stuff like spinnerbaits and spoons.
“I didn’t get a bite on the first cast, so I turned the trolling motor and I saw him on ‘perspective’ on the LiveScope, on the bottom. The second pitch, he turned, and I could tell which end was his head. The third cast, I pulled it right over the end of his nose, and he came up and grabbed it.”
Ormond was fishing a 7-foot-6 Kastking Speed Demon Pro rod with a Kastking Speed Demon Pro reel filled with 20-pound KastKing Kovert fluorocarbon, and when he set the hook, he immediately punched the button on his reel and let the fish run. It made two strong runs, and on the third, it started across the channel toward a visible tree top. Ormond was able to turn it back toward the channel, away from the obstruction, and he wore it down in another minute or two.
“He wasn’t gonna fit in the net, and I didn’t have any way to put him in the boat, but I was only maybe 300 yards from the ramp at my house,” he said. “I trolled with him hooked next to the boat. I called my dad, and he said to get a rope around him and drag him up on the ramp, so I did. I got him halfway up on the ramp and got a rope around his tail and slid it up behind his gills, and I pulled him up on the bank. I got my pliers out and got my spoon back.
“The kid thought it was real cool,” Ormond said. “He’d never seen a big fish before. He was asking what I was going to do with it.”
Getting the fish certified
With the fish on land and the kid’s lesson over, Ormond found an old tool box, filled it with water and put the big gar in it so it wouldn’t dry out. He’d googled what the state record was, and he’d weighed the fish – with the rope still around it – on a set of scales he had; it showed 31 pounds.
“I figured I was close to the record, so I started calling around to some grocery stores, convenience stores, but they either weren’t going to let me weigh him, or their scales didn’t weigh more than 25 pounds. Finally, K&M Coffee & Camo in Farmerville said they had some certified scales that would weigh up to 50 pounds, so I took him and weighed him there.”
Ormond took the fish home, borrowed the biggest Igloo cooler he could find and put the fish inside on ice – “You couldn’t close the lid, he was so long,” he said – and he took him to a nearby Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries office the next day to have him inspected and fill out the paperwork needed to certify the fish as the state record.
Then, the fun began. Ormond has been experimenting with some taxidermy work over the past year, mounting three largemouth bass, and guessing that it would cost a small fortune to have a taxidermist mount a 65 ½-inch fish, he’s going to do it himself, starting with the chore of skinning the fish, which is protected by plates of big, tough scales.
“I didn’t have a pair of scissors strong enough to cut through his scales on the back side, so I wound up using a Dremel tool,” he said.