Jonesboro angler lands 12.3-pound hammer on Caney Lake

Morton’s big bass bit on a creature bait in about 10 feet of water Monday afternoon

One of the last times Cody Morton had a potential lunker bass on at Caney Lake, he was fishing with his buddy Bradley Shows, and his line popped right at the boat.

On Monday afternoon near the south end of the lake, the same scenario played out one more time: Morton set the hook on a giant fish, and realized he was once again fishing in his boat with Shows.

“When I set the hook, it felt like I set it on a stump,” said Morton, 28, of Jonesboro. “But I could tell a fish was on there because my line was moving sideways.

“Whenever I saw that mouth come out the water, it was the biggest fish I had ever seen. All I could was think about my line breaking again.”

From that point, a tense 3-minute struggle between lunker and angler ensued, with Morton loosening his drag and following the big bass with his trolling motor.

“If I hadn’t loosened my drag, the line probably would have snapped,” he said. “She was going out to deeper water. I thought she was going to take all my line out.”

Morton was fishing with a creature bait on a heavy 7-foot Duckett Micro Magic Pro rod with a Shimano Chronarch reel spooled with 20-pound Sunline Structure fluorocarbon.

Finally, the big fish slowed down, and Morton tightened up his drag and reeled it in toward the boat.

“When I saw it, I said, ‘Oh my God.’ It was the biggest fish I had ever seen in person, and I saw my hook in the corner of her mouth,” he said. “She was trying to jump, and I had to pull my rod down so she wouldn’t.

“Thankfully she didn’t jump because she probably would have slung that hook off. The whole thing felt like it was about 30 minutes, but it was probably just two or three minutes.”

With no landing net for Shows to assist, Morton said he didn’t hesitate when he had the opportunity to lip the lunker aboard.

“As soon as she came up on the side, I didn’t care about the hook,” he said. “I just stuck my hand in there and grabbed her. When I pulled her up, I was shaking so bad.”

His handheld scale jumped between 12.3 and 12.4, but Morton didn’t have a livewell onboard, so he put the fish back in the water on a stringer and texted a buddy fishing on the lake in another boat. His plan was to pull measurements on the fish for a replica mount and get it weighed on certified scales, then return it to the water.

But Brown’s Landing is currently closed due to a recent fire, and no one answered at Caney Lake Spillway Marina.

“It’s a bad time to not have any scales,” Morton said. “I wanted to throw her back. I throw all my fish back in.”

Then the anglers noticed the fish listing in the livewell, and tried releasing it back over the spot where Morton caught it.

“But she kept floating on her side,” he said. “I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was stress.”

So Morton reluctantly kept the almost 28-inch fish, and plans to get a skin mount of the giant bass.

“That was my biggest fish ever. I caught a 9, and I expected my next one bigger than that would maybe be a 10,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting 12 pounds. I think if she would have had eggs, she would have been up there.”

Jeff Sibley, the biologist manager for Caney Lake with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said any angler catching a potential trophy bass on the lake right now needs to find a location with certified scales for proper verification.

“It’s an unfortunate situation that you had Brown’s that had one,” Sibley said. “But if you want it for the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association records, you’ve got to have a certified scale that has a current Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry certification sticker on it. And you’ve got to record the certification number on that sticker as part of the application.”

Sibley suggested a deli, grocery store, bait shop or meat market as potential spots with certified scales.

“Any place that sells anything by weight, their scales are supposed to be certified. Even seafood vendors that sell on the side of the road that sell by pounds – they’re supposed to be certified,” he said. “That’s a requirement of the state to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.”

And if your intent is to return the fish to the water, he said LDWF biologists would try to respond as quickly as possible to your request.

“Try to find a certified scale and get that part done. The next thing would be to call one of our offices and get a biologist to certify the fish and the correct species. The paperwork can be downloaded off the Louisiana Outdoor Writers website, and that can be filled out later as long as you have accurate documentation,” Sibley said. “If an angler has a large fish that he wants to get certified and return alive, we’re going to do the best we can and get to them as fast as we can and work with them.”

Patrick Bonin
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Patrick Bonin is the former editor of Louisiana Sportsman magazine and LouisianaSportsman.com.