Saturday, 31 October 2009

Doc Hays and the Trophy Bass

Doc Hayes had a veterinary clinic on Sterlington Road a few blocks from where I lived in Monroe, Louisiana. I can still smell that place and see all the amazing specimens stored in glass jars filled with formaldehyde.

I always stopped to admire the trophy sized big mouth bass mounted on an oval board above the door between the lobby and the exam room of the clinic. Everyone who came to the clinic asked about the Big Bass, caught well before my family moved to Monroe in 1949. I couldn't quite read the small plaque below the bass. But I knew the story just like I knew Doc's reputation as an avid fisherman. He loved to talk about fishing.

Yes, that fish had a story. It took cunning to catch him. Doc tried many times. He knew where that bass lived in bayou De Siard. Doc tried all his hand-tied lures and lots of different live baits but the Big Bass wasn't interested.

Now Doc had a knack with knots and stitches. He had lots of practice on dogs, cats and livestock. When he was driving out to vaccinate cattle for TB, he pondered over that bass. At last he figured out a possible way to tempt the bass.

Using his skill with knots and stitches, Doc set about making a tiny harness to fit a mouse. I wondered if he used the clinic exam table for this job. He laced two small hooks on each side. The hooks sat flat against the mouse. Doc and the harnessed mouse headed for the bayou where Doc rowed out to where the Big Bass lived. Attaching line from his fishing pole to the harness, he set the harnessed mouse onto a small wooden board that he floated next to the rowboat. He gave the board a gentle push and it slowly floated away with the mouse toward the bass's hidey hole. When the time was right, Doc gave a little tug on his fishing line. The mouse plopped into the water and began swimming frantically.

Big Bass couldn't resist. He swallowed the mouse, hooks and all.

Doc Hays had Big Bass mounted and put in place of honor above the door. I never forgot that fish nor Doc's cleverness.

J in JaM