Angler catches pair of double-digit Toledo Bend bass

While most people are cursing 2020, Toledo Bend angler Bernard Frugé is loving it. In fact, he’s been having a great run of luck since January, catching several bass that tipped the scales at over 9 pounds.

Frugé’s two largest fish — both of which qualified for the Toledo Bend Lake Association Lunker Bass Program — came 20 days apart in August.

“I’ve got five (bass) over 9 pounds, counting the two lunkers, since January,” Frugé said.

Bass must weigh at least 10 pounds to qualify for the Lunker Program, which rewards anglers for returning these huge largemouths to the lake. Anglers who enter bass into the Lunker Program receive free fiberglass replicas.

Each bass is tagged and released into the 186,000-acre reservoir to continue producing even more bass and offer other anglers greater opportunities to battle these giant fish. The program has released more than 1,000 double-digit bass back into Toledo Bend.

Frugé’s first double-digit bass — an 11.43-pound monster — came on Aug. 1, while he was night fishing in 10 to 12 feet of water.

“I was fishing more of a ledge,” Frugé explained. “It’s not far from a bank — about 75 yards off the bank, and it just drops off pretty deep.”

He was working a Texas-rigged Ol’ Monster Worm under a 1/4-ounce Titan Tungsten weight along the drop-off.

“I don’t hop it at all,” Frugé said of the lure. “All I do is drag it real slow.”

He said he felt a fish pick up the worm as he dragged the lure through some brush about 9:30 p.m.

“I just felt bump, bump, bump, like a how a little fish hits a bait,” Frugé said.

He set the hook expecting it to be just another bass catch. It was way more than that.

“When I set the hook, I said, ‘It’s probably a pretty good fish. I might need the net,’” Frugé explained.

The bass launched itself out of the water, but the darkness prevented the angler and his buddy Bill Perry from seeing just how large the fish, although he had an indication it wasn’t a tiny tot.

“When it jumped, I heard it and I said, ‘Yeah, it’s a very big fish,’” Frugé said.

The largemouth didn’t put up much of a struggle initially.

“It didn’t fight hard,” Frugé said. “It didn’t pull drag but once.”

Perry prepared the net to land the fish, but the bass had other ideas.

“When I pulled her up and she saw us, then she went stupid,” Frugé said. “She jumped over the net.”

Frugé and Perry thought they might lose the bass, but after one more run the fish was in the net.

“When he put it in the boat, Bill said, ‘That’s a 10-pounder,’” Frugé said. “When I looked at it I said, ‘Bill, that’s 11 pounds.’”

The pair of anglers had only been fishing about 30 minutes, but they headed straight back to Buckeye Landing Marina to have the bass officially weighed and entered into the Lunker Program.

Frugé wasn’t done yet. He was back in the same section of Toledo Bend on Aug. 21, this time with nephew Bryan Frey, when he caught a second official lunker — a 12.35-pounder.

“I was in the same area, probably about 400 yards away from where I caught the first one,” Frugé said. “This time I was in about 20 feet of water, but I was about the same distance from the bank.”

The anglers were fishing a nighttime tournament out of Big Bass Marina, and Frugé was dragging the same Texas-rigged worm through brush on the bottom.

“With this fish I felt a hard thump,” he said. “And then I felt a little pressure. That one was a little more sketchy.”

He set the hook, and the fish didn’t move. The fish had buried itself in a brush pile.

“I put my trolling motor on high and went around the brush pile,” Frugé said. “I pulled on it, and I got her out.”

But he told his nephew he thought the bass was still not completely in the clear because it didn’t move much.

“I was pulling it up and I said, ‘I’m still in brush,’” Frugé explained. “She started ripping drag, and I said, ‘No, she’s not in brush; this is a big fish.’”

The bass ran directly under the boat, and when Frugé started reeling it up the fish swam straight toward him.

“Bryan was ready with the net, and when she jumped, she pretty much jumped into the net,” Frugé said.

The angler was shocked at his first sight of the lunker.

“When it hit the net, I said, ‘Oh, God, I’ve done it again,’” Frugé said. “Before he got it out of the water, Bryan said, ‘This fish is over 10 pounds.’

“I said, ‘I know. I can’t believe I’ve done it again.’”

That bass rounded out their five-fish tournament limit of bass, so they headed back to the marina to have the huge largemouth logged and entered into the Lunker Bass Program.

They won the event, by the way, with a total of 23.85 pounds.

Frugé’s 12.35-pounder logged in as the heaviest bass during the 2020-2021 season, and it is No. 76th in the official Toledo Bend Top 100 Lunkers list. Toledo Bend’s No. 1 bass tipped the scales at an amazing 15.33 pounds.

Frugé’s year of fishing proves Toledo Bend, which was named the nation’s No. 1 bass fishery in 2015 and 2016 by Bassmaster Magazine, remains a bucket-list destination for bass anglers. This year Bassmaster Magazine named the reservoir one of the Top 25 bass fisheries in the nation — tagging it as No. 6 on that list.

And this angler isn’t the only one who has had lightning strike repeatedly. Dozens of tagged bass have been re-caught, with a number re-entered into the program.

Frugé also isn’t the only angler to enter more than one double-digit largemouth into the Lunker Program. In fact, fishing guide and FLW pro Darold Gleason has entered seven fish into the program.

Another angler, Norman Land, caught two lunkers in one day in 2017, while fishing guide Jason Courville landed two program bass in a single week.

Much of the credit for Toledo Bend’s fish-producing success can be attributed to two factors: the stocking of an estimated 33 million Florida-strain largemouth bass and the release of double-digit bass as part of the Lunker Program.

The Toledo Bend Lake Association Lunker Bass Program began in 1993, and more than 1,000 double-digit bass have been returned to the lake by anglers who want to see the reservoir remain a trophy lake. Through 2015, the count was almost 700 bass weighing more than 10 pounds tagged and released to continue producing more bass.