A CANEY LAKE MONSTER
By: Troy Harrison
As any tournament angler knows, what you start out planning to do on a given day is often not what you end up doing in a bass tournament. Most successful anglers can look back to one specific moment where a change in strategy really made it possible for them to win the tournament. The ability to abandon what you thought was a “sure fire” plan when it doesn’t produce the expected results and adapt to conditions by selecting a successful alternate plan can sometimes be a tough talent to learn. Jason Ledet, a 26 year old operations manager at Rolling Hills Ministries in Ruston, LA and a Navy veteran who has completed five years of service to our country, had one such day fishing in the American Bass Anglers Division 98 tournament on Caney Lake near Chatham, LA, on May 19, 2012.
Jason had pre-fished a couple of different days leading up to the tournament, and thought he had a good plan in place having caught five fish over the slot (Caney Lake has a 15 to 19 inch slot limit) and several slot fish on flats with wood in 8 to 12 feet of water on big worms, but he couldn’t get not one bite after repeating that pattern on the tournament day all through the morning and up until lunch. “It was a tough day, and the fish had either moved out or were just being hard-headed and I hadn’t had the first bite,” he said.
It was around the time when he was going to make a move that he noticed his boat was extremely slow to take off. While scratching his head and trying to figure out what was wrong, Jason saw water coming up out of the drain in the floor of his boat and realized his boat was filling with water. He immediately put his boat up on plane and turned on the manual bilge pump until all of the water was out. He then proceeded for the tournament launch area. Once there, he contacted Troy Harrison, the ABA tournament director, and was given permission to make repairs. After pulling back out of the water for the repair Jason was able to determine that his plug had come out, but was still attached to his boat. He replaced the plug and went back to fishing after losing valuable fishing time.
While Jason was working on his boat, he reflected on the day experienced so far, “I was thinking of what all changed the past week and what was different about the days I practiced. The practice days were cloudy and cooler.” The tournament day had been a few degrees warmer with clear skies. He continued, “I got to thinking that if I could find a place that had shade, heavy cover and was around 10 to 12 feet and had even deeper water within a close distance, it would be my best bet.” Jason decided that, since Caney was a slot lake, he might still have a chance for success if he could just get a couple of bites from fish over the slot limit (Caney Lake anglers are only allowed to keep two fish over the slot).
The first place Jason went to look at turned out to be ideal. It had everything he was looking for, including a sizeable brush pile in 12 feet of water. He began fishing a jig and pig almost vertically through the brush pile, taking time to work the lure up and down a few times before pulling it over each branch of the brush. On his second cast, he caught a big slot fish, just short of the 19 inch upper limit of the slot. Encouraged by finally snagging his first bite (and a big bite at that), he cast back to the same brush. Ledet had worked the bait into the middle of the brush pile, and as his bait fell after pulling it over one branch he felt a soft thump and tension on the line. Jason hauled back on his rod and the fish immediately surged stripping line. Almost immediately, the big fish became so tangled it could not move, and Jason decided just to take a chance and give some slack and hope the fish would free itself.
The gamble paid off as he finally felt the fish move off from the brush pile. The fight was back on. No sooner had Jason started working the fish back toward his boat as the fish charged for deeper water, stripping more line and burying itself in another brush pile. Jason, although frustrated, didn’t give up. “By this time, I’m thinking it’s just a big catfish because of the heavy set-up I’m using, and it’s still ripping line like it’s nothing,” Jason Ledet said. He finally worked the fish out of the second brush pile and up towards the surface. With the fish still about 5 feet down, he saw it roll in the clear water of Caney Lake and finally knew it was a bass for sure. “I about had a heart attack!”
Ledet was finally able to get his shaking hands on his prize and get her in the boat at around 11:50 AM. Once the fish safely was deposited in the livewell, he noticed that about 10 feet of his line was frayed from the battle. He continued to fish the area catching a couple more slot fish but no more keepers. Jason knew the fish was big – really, really big –, but he didn’t know how the other anglers had done. After watching the other tournament anglers weigh in, the leader only had just 8.61 pounds. Jason Ledet’s big old bass weighed-in at a whopping 11.06 pounds! As well as catching the biggest fish in his life, Jason had also won the tournament with a single fish.