Mark Burns catches bass of a lifetime

Photo provided by JOHN STEPPSMark Burns holds a giant bass taken from a canal off Bayou Cheramie in the Lake Verret Basin. It was the only largemouth caught on a mid-February trip with his frequent fishing partner John Stepps. Burns said he was using a chatterbait. The lunker weighed 10 pounds, 4 ounces on a hand-held digital scale, was 23 inches long and had an 18-inch girth.
Photo provided by JOHN STEPPSMark Burns holds a giant bass taken from a canal off Bayou Cheramie in the Lake Verret Basin. It was the only largemouth caught on a mid-February trip with his frequent fishing partner John Stepps. Burns said he was using a chatterbait. The lunker weighed 10 pounds, 4 ounces on a hand-held digital scale, was 23 inches long and had an 18-inch girth. "I could see the fish was heavy with eggs, and decided that she should be released," Burns said.

Somehow, you’ve got to feel for John Stepps.

Stepps was fishing with his buddy Mark Burns a couple of weeks ago and, after launching at Attakapas Landing near Lake Verret, the two anglers tried spot after spot with no success, nothing for almost four hours.

Bayou Cheramie and canals off the bayou between Grassy Lake and Lake Palourde were their last stops. After an hour of more frustration, there was this one cast Burns will remember forever, and Stepps will wonder why he didn’t make a cast around that wellhead, although he won’t say exactly where they were.

“I watched John pitch a tube jig and work it down the side of the platform. By this time, I was just going through the motions,” Burns said, adding that he considered picking up another rod.

But he stayed with a chatterbait and made a long cast down the side of the platform Stepps had just fished.

“Just before casting, I noticed that the depth finder indicated a depth of 6 feet, so I let the bait sink to a count of 5 before starting a slow retrieve,” Burns said. “When the bait reached the corner post of the platform, something stopped it dead, and for a second I thought I had snagged something attached to the platform. Then I saw and felt my line move, and knew it was a fish.”

“I set the hook, and within two seconds this huge bass came right to the top of the water with its mouth wide open,” Burns said.

“She was just three, maybe four feet away from the back corner of the boat (and) I could see the fish clearly and knew instantly this was the biggest bass I had ever seen.”

What else was a giant bass supposed to do but run back to the wellhead. Burns won that round, but the issue was undecided when the largemouth ran back toward the outboard — and the prop — but Burns won that one, too, and Stepps was there with the net.

From there, the celebration started.

A handheld digital scale showed the bass weighed 10 pounds, 4 ounces. A tape measure went 23 inches down and 18 inches around the giant fish.

Burns decided it was best to release the roe-laden female.

He was fishing from the back of the boat for this one fish, but one memorable fish excursion.

Burns said he had his trophy, a 7-9 taken during the Top Six Tournament on Toledo Bend.

“I mounted that one, and aside from a few members of my family and some friends, no one sees it. This one I’ll have pictures of on my cell phone and my home computer to show anyone who may be remotely interested, and probably plenty people who aren’t,” Burns said.

St. Rose champion

OK, so Florida angler Tadd VanDemark took the Pro Division’s top money ($26,300) Sunday in the Lucas Oil IFA Pro-Am Redfish Challenge out of Chalmette, but Mac McElroy of St. Rose won the Co-Angler title and the $4,000 that went with his three-day, 44.06-pound total. VanDemark weighed in 45.02 pounds. They fished together on the final day.

VanDemark said he looked for wind-protected areas and worked the Delacroix area with soft plastics under a poppin’ cork.

“I learned something every day of the tournament,” McElroy said in IFA release. “I fished patterns that I wouldn’t normally fish. I fished areas that I normally fish, but I had never fished it that way. I can’t put a price on what I learned over those three days.”