On a bass-fishing trip Sunday afternoon on the lower Amite River near Bayou Barbary, Curtis Little took "ripping a lip" to a whole new level.
The 68-year-old retiree from French Settlement got quite a surprise when a freaky looking largemouth — well, sort of — smashed his topwater lure in overcast conditions about 1:30 p.m.
“It hit like a normal bass. I was using a jerkbait and it was by a log, and I pulled him in and when I went to pick him up, I said, ‘What in the hell?’ Little chuckled. “I showed my buddy, and he said, ‘I never saw anything like that.’”
Little’s deformed bass — which measured about 13 inches long and weighed between 1 and 2 pounds — was missing its entire upper lip.
The injury —which appears like an old one — didn’t stop the fish from trying to hit a black and gold Smithwick Floating Rogue outfitted with three treble hooks.
“It was hooked in its lower jaw, and another hook was on the side of his gill,” Little said. “When I passed a log that was sticking up, he hit it.”
Alex Perret, operations manager for inland fisheries with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in Baton Rouge, suspected the injury likely occurred when the bass was young. Similar healed injuries have been noted in carp, paddlefish and striped bass, he said.
“It could be any number of things. It could be something like an alligator gar taking a swipe at him and getting him, or an egret or a heron taking a stab at him and not totally getting him, but wounding him,” Perret said. “We see lots of fish with bird wounds, and what we believe to be alligator gar marks on their sides.
“My guess would be that something happened during development — more than likely something tried to take a bite out of him and didn’t get enough of him … I would definitely lean toward a natural predator-type injury.”
Despite missing its entire upper lip, the fish was obviously doing enough to survive, Perret said.
“He could still eat. They don’t necessarily chew their food — they pretty much inhale it. So it wouldn’t keep him from eating,” the biologist said. “It looks like something he kind of learned to deal with.”
Little said he and his buddy caught seven bass in about three hours Sunday afternoon, and when he got home he filleted the one-lipped fish — a decision he now regrets.
“After I cleaned it, I said, ‘You dummy. Why in the hell didn’t you mount that?’” Little said with a chuckle. “I could have given it to Bass Pro so everybody could see this weird fish.”