The grizzled veteran perched on the bow of the small flatboat expertly swung it in a half-circle in the swirling current of the Tangipahoa River.

He tossed a 2-pound spotted bass (locally most often called Kentucky bass) back into the water with a crooked grin. “If I’m eatin’ fish, I prefer a 12-incher. I like thin fish. Why kill the big ones?”

He also throws back everything 10 inches and under explaining, “I’m not pressed to keep them if I am confident of getting my limit.”

Joe Lavigne speaks with a mixture of awe and regret about his biggest spotted bass, a 4-pound, 6-ounce giant, equivalent to a 10-pound largemouth. “I didn’t register it in the record book. The guy I was with ate it.”

And he was reverential about the river. I asked why such passion. 

“Look at this,” he smiled, as he waved his hand over the scenery. “No camps; no people; lots of wildlife; and that right there,” he grunted, as he set the hook on another fish.

I had to admit the view was breathtaking.

“It’s a challenge to fish the river,” he went on. “How to handle the boat in the swift current and around all the logs by simply using a sculling paddle. 

“Also, you need superb casting ability. Sometimes a foot makes all the difference.” 

Every cast of his seemed to be within an inch of the bank or a nook in the logs.

“The angle of the cast is important, too,” he added. “Fish want the bait coming downstream or at a right angle to the current.