It was September. 

It was hot, and it was late in the day.

Bream season was long over with in most places in Louisiana — but not on Old River.

The youngish couple was picking and poking their way among the derelict pier pilings on the levee side of the big oxbow lake. Gene Francois, standing on the bow and jockeying the trolling motor, was intense. His focus was on crappie, mostly called sac-a-lait here in Cajun Pointe Coupee Parish.

His wife Padra, at first glance, appeared to be laid back. She was fishing with a simple Zebco 33 spincast reel on a 5-foot Slingshot rod. She was dunking a cricket, mostly straight down.

They called it combo fishing: He was chasing one thing, and she was chasing another.

But looks can be deceiving —Padra was a serious bream specialist. 

She was catching bull bream one after the other, but wound up battling a pretty special fish that day.

The bite from the big one came like any bream bite, but the giant fish fought sluggishly. Later she thought that maybe it was just old and it was its time to be caught.

When the beast came up, Gene immediately began hollering and jumped to get the landing net. He knew it was a recordbook fish.

The 1-pound, 6-ounce monster was so big it looked deformed. Its steep forehead was creased crossways, giving it a hump-headed appearance. Its body was so thick and bulky that it looked stuffed, and ultimately it placed seventh in Louisiana’s all-time record book.

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