The story behind a new lake-record bass on Toledo Bend

Whether it’s football, baseball, basketball or corn hole, records are made to be broken. It’s not every day that a person gets the opportunity to set or break a record of any kind. It usually means the person setting the new record has played a particular sport for a long time. He or she has put in many hours of practice and is very dedicated to being the best. No matter how big the record is, the day will come when it will be broken.

In 1932 the world record largemouth bass of 22.4 pounds was caught in Georgia’s Lake Montgomery by George Perry. This record has stood for over 90 years! But, in 2009, a Japanese angler by the name of Manabu Kurita caught a 22.5-pound bass in Lake Biwa in Japan.

Based off simple math, you would think this would be a new world record by one ounce. Hold on, though. There’s a rule with the IGFA (International Game Fish Association) which certifies all fishing world records. It states that to be a new world record of any kind, the fish must weigh at least two ounces more than the previous record. But IGFA did give him credit for tying the world-record catch.  

Now let’s look at what happened on Saturday, Feb. 11, during the Bass Champs Team Trail event on Toledo Bend. Somewhere between 7-8 in the morning, Bill Cook of Houston set the hook on what he knew was a big bass. After hooking the bass on what’s called an A-Rig (an umbrella-style rig which imitates a small school of baitfish), Bill knew he had a big fish, but had no clue what was about to transpire. 

Bill had spotted the fish on his forward-facing sonar in about 18 feet of water on the edge of a drop-off. He made a cast in the direction of the bass and let the A-rig sink to the bottom. While watching his bait on his depth finder like a video game, he then engaged the reel and began to slowly retrieve the bait just off the bottom when the big fish came up and bit his lure.

After a tough battle, his partner (Ken Burgess) netted the fish. At first glance, they thought the fish might be a 12-pounder which was bigger than any fish Bill had ever caught before. They had no idea that Bill had just caught a new Toledo Bend Lake record of 15.67 pounds until they hit the scales during the weigh-in that afternoon.     

The funny part of this story is that the weekend before in a MLF BFL tournament, his co-angler partner (Michael Fagan) caught an 11-pounder off this same spot on an A-rig along with a 6.14-pound bass to finish second on the co-angler side of this event. The co-angler asked Bill if he had an A-rig tied on. Bill, thinking he had one rigged up in his rod locker, opened the locker, only to discover he had left that rod with the A-rig in his garage!

He made sure he had it in the boat for the Bass Champs event the next week and as they say, the rest is history!

The previous record of 15.32 caught by Eric Weems had stood for 22 years. Bill Cook is no stranger to the waters of Toledo Bend and has fished that body of water for over 30 years. He’s had a lot of success in tournament circuits like the BFL’s, Toyota Series and team trails. Bill is one of those anglers who you hope to be paired up with if you’re fishing as a co-angler in any event. He’s not only an excellent angler, but an even better person.

No one is more deserving of a record like this than Bill Cook. Along with a lot of other anglers, I hope his record catch stands for a long time — unless the fishing gods shine down on me with such an opportunity!

Until next time, good luck, good fishing and don’t forget to set the hook! You never know, it just might be a new record!

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