My eyes popped.

I was scrolling through the Louisiana Fish Records Program when I got to the category labeled “Freshwater Drum (Gaspergou),” I saw that four of the Top 10 entries were held by one man — Mike Kelley Sr. — and all were caught in False River.

Furthermore, another two drum caught by two other anglers also came from the same big oxbow lake in Point Coupee Parish. Was there something magical about this lake? And what did Mike Kelley know about it?

I was determined to find out.

I expected that I would find a high-strung, intense hot dog. What I found was a low-key, slow-talking, seemingly hard-to-rile 64-year-old retired widower. Only the fire in the slim, tanned man’s brown eyes gave away his fierce passion for fishing.

His modest but immaculately neat brick house in Oscar was set on the shores of False River in the middle of “Millionaires’ Row,” so named because of the size of its camps and residences.

“I tell people I am the gardener for those places,” he joked. 

He had a sense of humor, too.

Before I left home, Kelley directed me to bring an ice chest if I like to eat “gou-fish.” (Louisianans invariably contract the gaspergou’s name to “gou.”) 

Kelley releases all the freshwater drum he catches unless they look to be record book size. “I catch them for the love of fishing,” he said softly. “I love to feel the pull on my rod.”

Fishing with him was almost too easy and laid back. The entrance to Lighthouse Canal, his destination, was only a quarter-mile from his home. He anchored in 8 feet of water outside the mouth of the canal, and cast away from the bank