A man’s allowed to sleep late on his birthday. Right?

But sleeping through the 5:30 a.m. alarm April 4, his birthday, Joey Busbice thought he’d blown his chance at a productive day on Toledo Bend.

He’d traveled from Morgan City, knew the state’s largest reservoir turned rough after winds broke an early morning calm, and when he and his fishing buddy, Adam Mitchell, finally backed the boat in at the South Toledo Bend State Park launch — it was close to 10 a.m. — he was sure his day, his 24th birthday, was shot.

“I was thinking of either fishing Mills or Sandy creeks. I turned my TR-18 (boat) north towards the closest boat lane and was hit by 2-4 foot white caps,” Busbice said.

Knowing a sure way to ruin the trip was to try to fight those rough conditions, and get wet on a 43-degree day, he opted to head toward the dam, where he said he noticed smaller waves and make the crossing.

“I passed Indian Creek and decided to try Buck Creek,” he said. “The water still and the scene was picturesque.”

He started fishing with a Senko at first, but had a Zoom lizard tied on another rod.

He described getting “small hits” but no hook-ups until he moved to what he described as a “grass island off about 40 yards from the main shoreline.

“I tossed my Senko four feet to the left of the grass island and felt a small thwack. I set the hook, and out of the water came what looked like a 7-pound fish. I was able to work it to the boat and had bent down to grab my net when the fish had let go, my hook didn’t penetrate, and the fish had just held on this whole time. It stopped for a second and then just swam off into the depths,” Busbice said knowing, at the time, that he’d missed a chance at the “fish of the trip.”

Bass fishermen know the feeling: Busbice said he was shaking when he re-rigged the bait, threw to the other side of the island, felt a tap on the end of the line and set the hook far too hard on a 13-inch bass that he launched out of the water.

“I said to myself ‘I better leave the island alone for a little while if I want any chance of catching that big fish I missed...’ then moved back to the grass island,” he said.

He switched to the lizard, cast it near the island where he’d missed the 7-pounder and said he thought to himself, “Let’s see if God is going to give me a second shot at that big fish.”

“I lifted and dropped the lizard, and when I went to lift and drop it again, I felt a small tap,” he wrote on the attachment to his photo. “I reeled up slack and delivered a devastating hookset. For a split second, everything stopped, my hookset felt as if I had just drilled my 5/0 hook into the side of a stump.

“Then came the pull back...and out comes the biggest head of a bass I had ever seen. I instantly dove my rod tip down as to keep that big fish from going airborne again. She would pull 20 yards of line, and I would be able to recover 25 yards before she could tear off again. After doing this about four to five times, I finally was able to get her close enough for me to get the net under her.”

Once the bass was in the livewell, Busbice said, “...I just kept saying ‘Thank you, God’ over and over again. It took me 30 minutes to stop shaking and be able to make the rough ride back to the landing.”

The fish weighed 11 pounds.

Happy Birthday!

Cavell’s week

David Cavell celebrated one terrific week last week for a weekend bass fishermen.

It started on Lake Sam Rayburn at the Bass Cat Owner’s Tournament. He teamed with bass-fishing friend Albert Collins, the 2012 Bassmaster Classic qualifier from the Weekender Series.

“We caught most of our fish on a Missile Tomahawk (a 10-inch worm, Lovebug color) and a bone-colored Yellow Magic (topwater lure),” Cavell said.

They won the two-day tournament with a 10-fish limit weighing 36.23 pounds, just shy of a half-pound better than the second-place 35.82 total.

So, he left Jasper, Texas, drove home in the wee hours to sleep before heading to meet Media Series Team partner Corey Wheat for a Saturday afternoon scouting trip near the tournament’s Sunday’s Bayou Segnette State Park launch.

“We found some fish, but the habitat in the Lake Salvador are isn’t ready,” Cavell said.

Wheat explained that “habitat” meant new-growth grass in the lake’s grassbeds.

“We decided to concentrate on habitat,” Wheat said. “A lot of areas have no habitat, but areas with grass should have fish.”

Cavell said they knew of places in the Lac Des Allemands area that had grass, and “It was a place where the fish survived the big fish kill last year. Fish survive around the big lakes.”

Cavell said it helped that he caught a four-pounder on his fifth cast and that they’d found the fish on a tandem willowleaf Delta Lures spinnerbait.

“The double willowleaf didn’t hang up in the grass, especially when we put it on 40-pound braid (line),” Cavell said.

But Cavell and Wheat knew the 13 pounds on their five-bass limit was hardly enough to win.

Wheat’s experience told him what to do next: Go to big baits and stick with them.

“Caught two 4-pounders, the last two fish of the day,” Wheat said. “the first on a buzzbait, black on black, and the second punching lilies with a Missile D-Bomb, California Love color.”

Wheat said he used an ounce-and-a-half sinker to punch, but said spinnerbaits should be good enough to make for a worthwhile fishing trip.