by Chris Berzas
(Note: story as appeared on Louisiana Sportsman website)
Avid angler Johnny Watkins of Lake Charles has had his best spring ever with catching huge bass – a couple of 9- pounders, as well as 8s, 7s and 6s on Toledo Bend’s lunker largemouth waters.
So when he decided to make a quick morning run on Tuesday, June 4 to the Calcasieu River just a few miles east of his home, he never expected a turn of events that could lead to his catching one of the largest largemouths ever to be taken taken on his home waters.
“It was supposed to be a short, fun, morning fishing trip,” said the 36-year-old angler. “I was planning to leave early in the afternoon to pick up my son.”
Upon arriving at Calcasieu Parish’s White Oak Park, Watkins launched his boat and motored a few miles north and began fishing the western banks of the river.
“I started out at about 7 am flipping a half-ounce, black/blue Stanley Flipping jig with a 3.5- inch black/blue YNOT trailer,” said the angler. “I was targeting the edges of cypresses on the western banks of the river.”
According to the angler, the weather was partly cloudy and the waters were stained.
“The tide was also slack,” he said.
Watkins also said that for a two-hour stretch, he didn’t have even one bite – not untypical for fishing the Calcasieu River under these conditions.
At approximately 9 am, the angler reached a big cypress where he cast the jig on the tree’s outside cut in 4- feet of water.
“I felt the fish and set the hook, and I thought I had a choupique on,” said the angler.
“She then comes up from the water and I get a look at her mouth . . . and I saw clearly it was a big bass,” he said.
Watkins was still quite visibly shaken as he weighed the fish on a hand-held Berkley at 10.6 pounds. He then placed the lunker in his livewell for pictures to be taken at the landing.
After all, he was fishing the Calcasieu River – not well known for lunkers of such size as most anglers who frequent these waters know very well.
“Prior to this fish, my largest bass on the Calcasieu River was a six-pounder,” he said.
Watkins later released the bass in the afternoon after a brief set of pictures.
Watkins’ 10.6- pounds bass is one of very few lunker largemouths to ever be taken out of the Calcasieu River. In fact, a bass at 6- pounds is considered “big” in this river environment that also supports a solid spotted bass fishery.
This past February, a 9 ½- pounder Calcasieu River lunker was taken by a bass club angler, Terence Cahee, when fishing with Lake Charles’ Big Cypress Bass Hustlers (see Louisiana Sportsman story). As reported in the story, another 9- pounder and a couple of 8s have been taken since Hurricane Rita in 2005.
It is also well known in the Lake Charles area that many huge bass taken out of Lacassine Pool at the Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge have been released into the Calcasieu River.
Odds are this bass came from one of those releases.
A caveat to anglers however, such releases from one public body of water to another are now prohibited and illegal due to the ongoing threat of Largemouth Bass Virus.
Another report on the Louisiana Sportsman website indicated that a possible 12- pounder was taken in March, 2011 by a crappie angler using shiners, but this was never verified.