Early Monday morning, the fishing gods obviously weren’t very happy with Jamie Thibodaux.
He set out shortly before 5 a.m. on Memorial Day with his 7-year-old daughter Lola for a fun day of fishing out at Lake Salvador, but before he ever got his boat in the water, things went from bad to worse.
He took the wrong exit to pick up some breakfast, then attempted to get back on the road with a U-turn that resulted in a fender-bender with his trailer.
More than 90 minutes after waiting to get his ticket from the State Police, he put his boat in the water at Somme’s Marina in Des Allemands to find out his crank battery was dead.
“I guess it had been sitting up for a long time,” said Thibodaux, a project manager for Bay Offshore in New Orleans. “So I had to unhook the cranking battery, unhook the trolling motor, hook my cranking battery to my trolling motor battery to crank it off, then unhook from the trolling motor and do all that before we took off.
“I was so aggravated at that point, I just wanted to get my line in the water. I almost started fishing right there by the landing I was so aggravated. But we took off anyway.”
It’s a good thing he did — after his brutally rough start with no breakfast, the wreck, the ticket, a dead battery and nothing to nibble on all day but crackers and Vienna sausages, the fishing gods actually smiled on the father-daughter duo just before they were about to head for home.
About 1 p.m. that afternoon, off a point in Bayou Gauche, Thibodaux set the hook on a 9-pound, 1-ounce lunker bass that made all of the difficulties earlier that day worthwhile.
“We stopped at that one spot, and I worked the bank to the point and I caught the fish right off the point. I would have probably made 10 more casts and then left,” he said. “The current was coming down the point and she was hanging out in the slack water.
“She must have been there feeding because she threw up two shad and I could see the tail of another one, so she had a stomach full of shad.”
Thibodaux caught the big bass with a Cajun Tackle House black-and-blue BOHICA jig on 50-pound Sufix braid, with a seven-foot-three-inch Falcon rod and an Abu Garcia Revo STX reel.
Lola tried to get her dad the net to put the big bass in the boat, but he ended up lipping her aboard.
“I don’t know what she was doing back there,” he said with a laugh. “I have a collapsible net and she couldn’t get it open, and then the handle fell off. I said, ‘Don’t worry about it, I got it.’”
For late May near Des Allemands, the fish was extra-special, he said.
“When Lake Cataouatche was in its prime probably four or five years ago, there were several big fish that got caught, but usually it was around the spawn,” he said. “For this time of year, being post-spawn, that’s a real trophy.”
The way his day had gone up to that point, he was mildly surprised that his digital scale was in working order.
“I was worried about that the way everything else was going,” he said. “I thought, ‘Watch the battery not work in the doggone scale.’ But it did.”
The scale read 9-1, but he and Lola were the only witnesses, and there wasn’t another soul fishing in the area to show off the lunker.
So Lola snapped some pictures of he and the bass with his phone.
“She took all the pictures,” he said. “I was shaking so bad, I couldn’t take any pictures.”
With the big fish in the livewell recuperating, Thibodaux ultimately decided to release her.
“About four or five years ago, I caught one that was almost 9 pounds at Lake Fork and put her on the wall, and after I did, I just decided I wouldn’t kill another big fish like that to put on the wall,” he said. “Maybe one day Lola might get the chance to boat one of her giant offspring.”
Thankfully the ride home to Thibodaux was uneventful, and father and daughter will share memories of a day they’ll probably never forget — for lots of different reasons.
“Everything went good after that,” he said. “It was like God eased up on me, let me catch the big fish and the rest of the day was awesome.”