At about 10:30 a.m. on Friday, May 2, the sun finally peeked above the trees that skirt Toledo Bend Reservoir near 6-Mile Marina. It was beginning to feel a little warmer after being 38 degrees earlier that morning, and 69-year-old Ollie Pruett Slaughter of Prairieville wondered how the late cold snap of the past few days would affect the fishing.
He was right to wonder, the cold would make the fishing slow for Slaughter, his 12-year-old great-nephew, Brayden Zeller, and Brayden’s father, Brad Zeller — who joined him in the boat — but the wonder and worry would only serve to make the next few minutes of his life that much more special.
Slaughter was about to catch an 11.82-pound largemouth bass, the kind of fish men dream of, a fish that would qualify for the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program.
“We were mid-lake near 6-Mile,” said Slaughter, who likes to use a 7-foot, medium-action rod and a reel with dependable drag when he fishes Toledo Bend.
“I like to fish Toledo with 12-pound-test, Big Game fishing line,” he said, “because the water is so clear. I feel like you miss a lot of strikes by not fishing clear line there.”
The right spot
Slaughter was fishing a wacky worm in about 4 feet of water. He chose to fish a spot where a few logs were bunched near the bank.
“I usually fish depth,” Slaughter said. “That’s what I was doing, fishing that 4 1/2 -foot to 6-foot depth of water on the outside of those logs.”
Slaughter was retrieving the lure when, wham!, a bass hit, and it was big.
“The fish made a run back up underneath the boat, of all places,” said Slaughter, who could only lessen the drag to take the pressure off the line and rod as he headed to the stern.
“Once I got (my rod) around the motor, I tightened the drag,” Slaughter said. “I thought, ‘If I can keep it tight, and the fish in the water, we’re good.’”
He was right. By the time he reached the back of the boat, he didn’t have to play the fish long. The bass was out of gas, and its future was no longer in question.
After he caught the fish, Slaughter had it weighed at Toledo Town and Tackle in Many. Afterwards, the fish was released back into Toledo Bend Reservoir in accordance with Toledo Bend Lunker Program rules. He will receive a replica fish to commemorate his achievement.
“You know, if that fish hadn’t already spawned, she would have been (more than) 13 pounds,” Slaughter said. “I caught her as she was heading back out. But it’s a good story. It was one of those things where, what could have gone wrong, didn’t.”