12.24 pound Largemouth Bass on Red River

12.24 pound Red River Bass

Bass fishing on the Red River here in Shreveport/Bossier City Louisiana has been tough lately. My second ABA tournament of the year was this past Sunday and on the Red River. I pre-fished the event a couple times and really was not very confident in my results. Add to that the fact there is a strong front coming through and my confidence was not on top of the world. I figure that if a person can connect with most of their bites, it will take around 14 pounds to win with an average stringer being about 10 pounds.

When I got up Saturday morning, the air temp was 60 degrees, and by the time I got to the launch site it was 55 degrees. The front is coming through right at day break. Just when the tournament director started calling launch numbers, the rain started in. I’m bundled up; the wind is blowing 10-15 out of the north, and the rain is started to pour; driving to my first spot was miserable.

I had told myself that I needed to cover as much water as possible before the front was completely through the area. This is in hopes to catch some active fish before they shut down for the day. During my pre-fish, I had found a few fish holding to matted hyacinths in 3-5 feet of water. I was jumping from one location to another, burning through my first four locations before finally catching a 13 inch keeper that weighed just over a pound.

It’s 9 A.M., and the rain has stopped. The north wind seems to be getting stronger, making it very difficult to fish some of my water. The air temperature has dropped into the upper 40’s. The Red River before the lock and dams were built was chalk full of trees, and now most of the trees are stumps broke off at or just below water level from the wave action over the year. What I’m getting at is that with a strong wind making it difficult to hold the boat and then bouncing of off stumps just under the surface that are difficult to see in the muddy waters of the red, is very Frustrating.

I decided I needed a break from the wind and wave action. I have a spot that is out of the wind and has always produced fish for me; never anything very big, but I can always catch a keeper or two. I head over there just to find a good friend of mine and tournament competitor already on it. When fishing I run with my gut and use things like this as a sign to try something different. I have an area on the Red River that is good about producing bass, but it takes upwards of 30 minutes of idling over stumps to get there. So it is a commitment, meaning do or die. If I take the time to get in there, I will spend the rest of the day there and try and figure them out. It will be 10 A.M. before I get back there, but I decided that with my buddy on that spot it was a sign to quit wasting time and get back there!

Once there I decided that it was obvious that covering water was not the key. The front was through the area now but still overcast and drizzling occasionally. My confidence technique in post front conditions is flipping. So I dug out my Dobyns Flipping Stick and rigged up a 3/4 ounce weight and 5/0 Trokar Flipping hook and dressed it with a Zoom Super Hog. This area is fairly steep and drops off from 2 feet to upwards of 9 feet in places. I started flipping the hyacinths that had blown up against the tangle of logs that were along the 150 yard bank line. Right off the bat I caught another just keeper for a pound and a half. A few more yards and there was a nice clump of hyacinths with a couple logs crossed up. I punched through the hyacinths and bam a two and a half pounder. It’s 11:30 now and I’m thinking that I have 4-5 pounds in the boat. But this is a long way from the 14 pounds that I believed it would take to win. The next two fish I hook, I lost on top of the hyacinths, it’s a hazard of this type of junk fishing. Both were keepers and had me very frustrated. The wind, cold hands, loosing keepers it was getting difficult to stay confident. But I put my head down and kept grinding it out.

A few yards down the bank is a perfect set up; two logs crossed up and a third laying across the front of them. Then behind the logs was filled with hyacinths and the crossing point of the logs was right on the lip of the drop off. I made a perfect flip to a tiny hole in the hyacinths, no splash very quiet entry. As I am letting the bait fall, I see the line jump. Because I had missed a few fish already, I wasn’t waiting to feel this one, I set the hook immediately. However, instead of my rod lifting and trying to get the fish to the top of the hyacinths, it loaded up and headed for the water.

There was a swirl under the hyacinths that actually threw hyacinths up onto the logs, two of the logs actually started moving away from the bank and my drag was zipping like this reel had never seen before. This area is known for alligators ranging from 6 to 14 foot and for a split second I had actually thought I had hooked one of the smaller ones and was wondering what to do next, until I seen her come to the surface on the back side of one of the logs. She pushed her head out of the water and thrashed but was way too big to clear the surface. The commotion she made was like if you had a basket ball in a pool and held it under water and let it go. It can’t really fly out of the water but just kind of boils to the surface. I could see her mouth and not my hook so I really didn’t know how well she was hooked.

Before I got her turned around, she had 20 feet of line on the back side of one of the three logs that were originally there. From this point on to the boat it was a true tug of war, I’d get some line, and she would take some back. All I wanted to do at this point was get enough line on her to get her back around the log, and I could then work her to open water. Not happening. The wind has blown the front of the boat around because I just couldn’t fight her and run the trolling motor at the same time, so I am on the back deck now. Thankfully the big motor hung on yet another log, which really helped so the boat didn’t drift away and I could keep working her. Finally, she gave in a bit, and I got her around the last log. We were in a stale mate close to the boat. With this, I was able to grab the net and get it close. Inch by inch I was able to gain line on her. When I finally got a good look at her at the side of the boat I reckon I stopped breathing because the next couple seconds seemed like a lifetime. She is sitting there at the edge of the boat with about 10-12 foot of line out, I have the net ready, but I’m afraid when she sees it, she’ll bolt yet again. I lowered the net in the water and pulled up on the rod, and she made a dash at the surface and fell right in! I tried to lift her in the boat but could not with just one hand, it wasn’t until this point that I knew I had a fish that was well into the double digits. I put the rod down and lifted her in the boat. I finally took a breath and almost passed out right there.

Shaking and panting I had to know how much she weighed. I took out the Cul-M-Rite scale, and she registered 12-4 I quickly put her in the livewell. I did not really believe the scale as I was shaking so bad that it had to be wrong; I mean she is big but that big?

Sitting on the Livewell lid, trying to catch my breath I called Laurie. I could hardly say hello when she answered because I was still trying to catch my breath. She asked, “Are you okay”. I guess because I hadn’t said anything, but finally I was able to tell her that I just caught a 12 pounder, and she needed to grab the camera and head to weigh in.

After about 20 minutes, Laurie settling me down, a cigarette and half a soda I was able to return to the task at hand, which is to win this tournament and give me a great lead in the ABA points as I won the first one already. I figured I needed 14 to win, and this just gave me 17 so I have a great chance now!

I circled back around and worked the bank line one more time and boated a three and a half pounder. Time is getting short, and I have to get out of this area without rushing as I don’t want to damage a lower unit or something. I figure I have 19-20 pounds, and that’s good enough. So I head out early. I ended up getting out of the area faster than I thought so I wanted to swing by the spot that my buddy was at earlier, to finish out the day. Well he was still there, so I just headed in.

I was very excited to see what she officially weighed. Word has spread quickly that I had a big fish, and everyone was gathered around the scales waiting on me. After several photographs at the boat, I loaded her up and headed to the scales. Twelve pounds and 24 hundredths (12.24), I guess my scale was pretty close!

My total weight for the tournament was 20.01 giving me first place and “Beth” (what I’ve named my biggest fish) gave me big bass. A great day on the water!

After several more photographs and a call to the Bass Life Program here in Louisiana, we weighed her again, measured her length at 25 1/4 inches and her girth at 20 1/2 inches and finally she was released very lively back into the red river. In fact, she thrashed her head with force when I let her go!

Get the Net it’s a Hawg
Mike Cork

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