An 8-year-old boy from Acadiana wore one heckuva gigantic smile a few hours after lunch on Nov. 2, opening day of the deer hunting season in Texas.
He was wearing a long-sleeved camo shirt, sweat pants and boots while gripping for dear life a trophy, the prize of a lifetime for outdoorsmen of any age. The camera captured him and the prize in various photos.
No. It wasn’t a big buck. It was a “hawg,” a huge largemouth bass.
Bo Nicholas Harrington, the son of Bo and Brittany Taylor Harrington of Youngsville, “hooked” and boated, the latter with assistance from his uncle, a trophy-sized bass. The Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School third-grader got his little hands on the bass while fishing a private lake on family property.
He was with his uncle and aunt, Tim and Shelby Boling of Lafayette, in a small aluminum jo-boat paddled by Uncle Tim. The Bolings’ 6-year-old son, Porter, was along for the fishing trip. The cousins wanted to go fishing on opening day and they did.
After less than an hour on the water with no bites but beaucoup hangups, Bo Nichols’ uncle had had enough and started paddling back to shore. His nephew took one last cast with a Zebco spincast reel loaded with 8- or 10-pound test line on a full-length fishing rod and promptly got hung up with the small spinnerbait tied to the light line.
“I was paddling as fast as I could to get back in. I assumed he got stuck on a log on the bottom of the lake. His pole was bent like a (an upside down) U. I for sure thought he was stuck on a branch in the water,” Boling said.
As the snag grudgingly neared the boat, Boling did a double-take. He saw a big white belly in the brown, stained water (visibility about 6 inches) and at first thought it was a small alligator.
His wife said, “He (Bo Nicholas) said, ‘I think I got something!’ It was so huge he couldn’t do anything. Tim helped him.”
When it got closer, Boling realized it was a very, very large bass. The weight of the fish was too much for the youngster to gain ground, so he took the fishing pole from the boy, cranked it the rest of the way and lipped it.
The spinnerbait inside the fish’s mouth fell out.
“It was laying on his lip. He hadn’t even sunk the hook,” Boling, a 38-year-old operations manager for PetroTech Solutions, said, still incredulous. Apparently the bass closed its jaws and never opened them until his thumb pried them apart.
“It was a big ol’ fish. It was huge. We were all pretty surprised,” his wife said.
“He (Bo Nicholas) was so happy he couldn’t talk. It was the biggest fish I’ve seen in my life,” Boling said, noting his lifetime best bass is a 5-pounder. “I was happy for him. Everybody was happy for him.”
Boling gave his nephew the option of releasing it or to have mounted by a taxidermist. Privately, he was thinking a bass that size was eating a lot of fish in the pond.
Bo Nicholas chose to take it home. His aunt, a Westgate High School graduate who works as a registered nurse at Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s and Children’s Hospital, said they had to bend the 24-inch long (check) bass nearly in half to fit it in an ice chest in the boat.
They didn’t have a scale or camera or cell phone (little or no service) handy, so they waited until they got back to measure it and take pictures.
Boling, who has had his fishing line snapped a few times by big bass in the lake, said the hawg with a big belly may have been a double-digit bass.
“I wish I could have weighed him. If you go by the length and girth, they’re saying it’s 8 or 9 pounds. It was a struggle to lift him up one-handed. It wasn’t a 9-pound fish. It was closer to 11 pounds. It was a heavy fish. I’m not making up fisherman’s tales. You could have fit one of those Biddy basketballs in its mouth,” he said.
That was the highlight of the latest venture to the area in Texas.
Earle and Cindy “Ci Ci” Taylor of New Iberia, Bo Nicholas’ maternal grandparents, started bringing their two daughters to the family’s property for opening day of the Texas deer hunting season a little more than three decades ago. The annual trip became a tradition as the girls grew up.
Now Brittany Taylor Harrington and Shelby Taylor Boling have children and family members, as many as possible, travel to the area just southeast of Alto, Texas, each year for that first day of deer hunting, a ritual in the Lone Star State.
“Since the girls were 3 and 5, Earle took them hunting. It’s a 33-year-old tradition. They get there and they enjoy it all the time,” Bo Nicholas’ grandmother said about time spent on the 200-acre tract with a lake, pond and deer blinds.
Her 8-year-old grandson enjoys playing baseball and basketball, she said. His No. 1 love for the past two years is bass fishing, so much so that he and his young cousin fish a pond in his neighborhood as much as possible.
Bo Nicholas’ mother was born and raised in New Iberia, where she was a student/athlete (softball) at New Iberia Senior High School. Brittany Harrington teaches at St. Mary Early Learning Center, a prekindergarten school in Lafayette, and is following in the footsteps of her mother, who was teaching at North Street Elementary School when she retired after 33 ½ years as an educator.
That big bass, which she said will be mounted — with the spinnerbait — by Spencer Gondron, who was recommended by the Taylors’ friends, Mike and Melanie O’Brien of New Iberia, was a source of pride.
“He was even beyond proud,” his grandmother said.