CHARENTON — June Goodfield, a historian, scientist and writer, once wrote, “… fate sometimes deals a straight flush … he had no idea that he would become the right man in the right place at the right time …”
That quote is a perfect fit for Wesley Verret Jr. of Lillian, Alabama, who was visiting family in his native Teche Area in mid-May when he went fishing May 16 on Lake Fausse Pointe and caught a 9.21-pound bass, the biggest of an eye-opening eight bass weighing more than 7 pounds reported this spring at the heavily pressured lake in Iberia Parish.
Verret, naturally, is very proud of his catch in the lake he grew up fishing, hunting and, even, setting out hoop nets with his grandfather, Davis Verret of Jeanerette. Still, he can’t help but wish lady luck, or fate, would have smiled instead on his father, Wesley Verret Sr., also of Jeanerette, and that the newfound notoriety would be focused on the man who taught him how to fish Lake Fausse Pointe.
“I just happened to be the guy on the end of the fishing pole,” Verret said, modestly, Tuesday from his home in Lillian.
The hawg bit on a black/green H2O Popping Frog while he was out on the lake with his father and father-in-law, Phillip Broussard.
The 39-year-old former U.S. Navy serviceman from New Iberia, who was stationed in 2006 in Alabama, said his dad always dreamed about catching trophy-sized bass and even missed some lunkers he hooked over the years in that cypress tree-lined area of the lake. There are deep holes there pointed out by his grandfather, he said, deep holes that apparently harbor big bass.
Verret, who understands the commotion surrounding the 9.21-pounder, said, “It was me catching my father’s fish, basically.”
His father uttered some prophetic words while inviting them on a last-minute bass fishing trip that Saturday.
“I said, ‘Let’s go fishing. We might not catch many but one of us might get a hawg in that area,’ ” Wesley Sr. said he told Wesley Jr. and Broussard.
The outing was special for Wesley Jr., an all-around outdoorsman who was able to appreciate the company, the scenery and the opportunity to fish.
“To be honest, to hang out with my father and father-in-law, I was just enjoying my time with my dad and father-in-law,” Wesley Jr. said.
He is an avid fisherman and deer hunter who has a deer hunting lease around Nevada, Missouri, where he often takes his father. His bass fishing approach has changed since he moved to Alabama in 2017 with his wife, Kelly, from Baldwin, where he was working for PHI Inc.
They were married in 2012. After his military service, he moved to Jacksonville, Florida, before returning to the heart of Cajun Country.
He and his wife vacationed a few times in the Lillian area between Perdido and Orange Beach. The region grew on them and they decided to move there three years ago.
“We love it down here. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for our two little girls (Aubrey and Hadley), a wonderful place to live,” he said.
Wesley Jr., co-owner of the Perdido Key Auto Spa, a car wash, had to adjust his bass fishing game to catch bass in Alabama. He has been fishing clear, clear Alabama waters since he moved to the coastal region.
“The water’s so clear here you have to fish slow, they spook so easy. Over here you have to keep the bait in the same spot,” Wesley Jr. said.
That adjustment helped him land the biggest bass of the year at Lake Fausse Pointe. At first he tried a black soft plastic popper, then changed to the black/green H20 Popping frog.
He twitched the bogus hopper imperceptibly, paused, then repeated that painstakingly slow retrieve. He wasn’t popping it or “walking” it.
Broussard poked some good-natured fun at the pace his son-in-law was fishing.
After catching a 4-pounder, then a 5-pounder using that technique, Wesley Jr. continued fishing and after one cast saw a large, dark shadow under the soft plastic frog and suspected a huge fish was scoping out a potential meal.
The sequence was amazing from the start. It unfolded like so many bass anglers might dream about.
“He (Wesley Jr.) was sitting down. He saw the fish come up underneath. He watched it,” Wesley Sr. said.
“I was basically making the frog vibrate. I mean, I barely moved it to make it vibrate. I actually saw the bass come out and look at it. I could just see the top of it because the water was a little stained,” Wesley Jr. said. “Then she took it. She swallowed it, took off and jumped three times and wrapped (the 60-pound braided line) around cypress knees.”
Their collective hearts jumped with each leap and run by the bass. One of the runs, though, nearly led to a nightmarish finish.
With Wesley Sr. on the trolling motor and Broussard in the back, Wesley Jr. fought the heavy fish that was on the end of the 60-pound braided line, which snagged on cypress knees.
Wesley Jr. urged his father to back the boat toward the cypress knees where the hooked bass was thrashing, drawn up tight to the wood. Broussard, meanwhile, was busy unwrapping braided line from cypress knees.
The angler said the hawg was thrashing like a choupique, which added to the drama. Despite the adrenalin-fueled excitement, he thought of his dad.
As Wesley Jr. held the fishing rod high and the boat inched closer to the fish, he said, “ ‘Dad, I want you to lip it.’ I knew it meant a lot.”
His father soon clenched the bass’ huge lower jaw between a thumb and fingers in a human vise grip. When he lifted it into the boat, there was a stunned silence as they sized up the trophy-sized bass.
“I think everybody was speechless for about 15 seconds,” Wesley Jr. said.
And for good reason. They were looking at a bass 24 inches long with a 16-inch girth.
“I immediately put it in the livewell. I didn’t want to hurt it. I just wanted to mount it (replica mount). I called a taxidermist to see what I needed to do to make a replica because I knew I was releasing the fish,” he said.
Unluckily, there wasn’t a scale in the boat, so they took off in search of one. Wesley Jr. said they stopped by three houseboats to see if the residents had a scale but none were to be found.
They decided to make the long trip back to where they launched the boat along the Bayou Teche at a ramp on the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana Reservation at Charenton. Fate intervened, again. A man about to launch his boat had a scale and a tape measure and offered both to the Verrets and Broussard.
Wesley Jr. was concerned about the bass surviving a boat ride back to the lake. Eventually, they decided to release it in a nearby pond of a friend of his father’s.
“I really wanted to put it back in the lake. I do wish she was back in the lake,” he said.