Before Saturday, the biggest bass Brett Beasley had ever caught was six pounds. He more than doubled that on one cast at Lake Okhissa at Homochitto National Forest near Bude.
Beasley’s 12.9-pound largemouth has been certified as the new lake record, and, thanks to a lot of hard work from the angler and his partner, it is back in the lake, alive and swimming.
“That was the hard part, keeping her alive,” said Beasley, 26, of Zachary, La. “My boat doesn’t have a livewell, so when we got her in the boat I immediately turned over my 48-quart cooler, tossing all the drinks and ice in the boat and we dipped it in the water and put the fish inside it. It barely fit. I closed the lid and sat on it, so it wouldn’t bounce out.”
Beasley was fishing with friend Micah Thompson of Clinton, La., when he hooked the fish on a Zoom Trick Worm on a point on the south end of the lake. Thompson landed it by hand.
“Micah lipped it, grabbed it by the mouth and swung it in the boat,” Beasley said. “I bet everybody on the lake knew somebody had done something good because I’m sure they could hear us yelling and screaming.”
The two used a hand-held scale and weighed the fish at 11.54 pounds.
“It blew me away,” Beasley said. “It was so huge. We were so excited and everything. Then we started thinking about how to save the fish.”
The fishermen immediately raced to Okhissa’s south boat ramp, which was closer than the north ramp where they had lauched. Their intent was to find the phone number posted at the lake for reporting big fish.
“They have this number on a sign you can call if you catch a fish over nine pounds and they will come certify the fish and help you pay for a replica and put your name on a plaque so you can release the fish,” Beasley said. “When we got there, there was a couple there and they saw us looking and I guess they could tell we were excited and we told them about the fish. They asked if they could see it and I showed it to them and they said they would drive over and get the number and meet us at the north ramp.
“By then I had called a friend of mine who was fishing and he had a livewell in his boat and we were able to get the fish in it. Then we went to the north ramp.”
By the time the fish arrived, a crowd had gathered.
“There was a bunch of people there and they all wanted to see the fish,” Beasley said. “We pulled it out and weighed it on my scale again and it was 11.54 pounds. There was this guy standing there, and he said, ‘that ain’t right. That’s a new lake record fish there.’ I looked at him and he said, ‘go ahead pull on that scale.’
“I reached up and pulled on it and it stayed at 11.54. It had bottomed-out my scale, so the guy was right. It was bigger. ”
Another unofficial scale was produced and it measured the fish at 12.94 pounds. The official weight was certified minutes later.
“They have a program down there that a guy started, sort of based on the Share-a-Lunker program,” said Rick Dillard, a biologist and recreation specialist for the U.S. Forest Service in Mississippi. “The Forest Service isn’t involved, but we certainly support it. They got a company down there to sponsor it and if you catch a big fish, have it weighed and certified and release it alive, then I think they will pay half the fee to have a replica mount made and then put your name on a plaque at the lake.
“It’s a pretty neat deal and people like it because it promotes catch and release of the trophy bass. My best guess is that that fish is probably from our original stocking in 2005, so it would be 9 years old and that’s about right, nearly 13 pounds. The lake opened in 2007 and we stocked it two years before that.”
Beasley said that when the fish was measured and certified — officially 12.9 pounds, 26 inches long and 21½ inches girth — it was a great feeling.
“It is kind of a relief, too, because we went right down to the bank at the north ramp and let her go,” he said. “I watched her swim away and that was a pretty neat thing to see.”
That Beasley was fishing with Thompson, and the two were able to share the moment, was a perfect scenario.
“He’s the guy who got me hooked on fishing, about three years ago when I got sober,” said Beasley. “He took me under his wing and took me bass fishing for a hobby, something to do, a pastime. He’s taught me everything I know about it.”
And, for most of Saturday, the teacher was putting on a show for the student.
“He was kicking my tail pretty good,” is how Beasley put it. “We didn’t get there ‘til late that afternoon and he was catching them on a crankbait pretty good. He probably had six or seven and I hadn’t caught one. Then he said he had a point he wanted to fish down toward the south end, a point with a hump out from it. So we went there and he started throwing his crankbait.
“I was throwing a Zoom trick worm, and on my first cast, against a log on one side of the point, I caught about a 14-inch, pound-and-a-half bass,” Beasley said. “That made my day right there. As far as I was concerned, my day was made. I felt a lot better.”
But, it would quickly get more interesting.
“That first fish had messed up my black worm (with red and green flecks) so I bit about a quarter of an inch off the head and put it back on the hook Texas-rigged, and threw to the other side of the point up against the grass,” Beasley said. “I took my eyes off my line for a second and when I turned back it was like 15 feet off the bank and moving, so I reeled up and set the hook.
“I immediately knew it was a big fish. It was heavy. It felt heavy. Then, it made this jump, almost completely out of the water, and the sound that fish made and the splash it created, I knew it was a giant. My boat is a center-console 19-foot aluminum boat that I bought out of a guy’s backyard a couple of years ago as a project and I restored it.
“You can walk around in it and we were doing that, walking around, fighting that fish. When it got close to the boat, I let off the drag a little bit because that’s when they really fight hardest. Micah grabbed my net, but when the fish came up next to the boat, he said, ‘that fish ain’t gonna fit in that net,’ so he tossed it and reached down and lipped it. He deserves a lot of credit for that, and for helping me learn to fish.”
Beasley also gives credit to his wife, Jessica Beasley, his usual fishing partner.
“I was using her rod when I caught that fish, so she’s claiming a share of the record,” he said. “It’s a 7-foot medium-heavy Wild Black Carrot Stick with a Shimano Chronarch reel. It’s her rod, but when I was leaving the house all mine were rigged for something else and I grabbed hers for a trick worm because it already had a weight and a hook. Everybody has one lure they really like, and mine is the trick worm. I like finesse fishing, her rod was rigged for it so I grabbed it.”
Jessica Beasley also deserves an award for understanding her husband’s need to got fishing on Saturday, a day off from his job at a Baton Rouge machine shop.
“My wife fishes with me a lot, but in the summer she doesn’t go because of the heat,” Beasley said. “I was working at the house Saturday on some machines — I own my own sandblasting business and I was working on the air compressors — and it was stressing me out. I told her that I had to get away, go fishing, get away from that and she said, ‘fine, go do what you need to do.’”
Beasley was using 14-pound XPS fluorocarbon line, a Bass Pro Shop product, a 3/8-ounce XPS tungsten weight and a 2/0 Mustad worm hook.
“That hook looked so small, I guess because that fish’s mouth was just so big,” he said. “But it went right through the upper lip, right where you want it, behind that hard part of the lip. It was a great hook set and people laugh at me because I set the hook so hard.
“But I always say, you might as well set it as hard as you can because you never know when you might get the one big bite. You don’t want to miss that opportunity.”
Beasley didn’t, that’s for sure.
Click here for more information on the C-Spire Share-A-Trophy program.