When I set out to tell the story of David L. Hayes and his magnificent trophy smallmouth bass, I had no idea how huge this story had become and how far its word had reached. I guess that’s why they call them “World” records. This one fish has made history in so many ways. From day one, this record had made a name for itself, as well as those that share the number two and three positions on the world record chart.
Caught on the Tennessee/Kentucky State Line, both states have laid claim to David’s 11-pound beauty since its scales first felt dry air. With rumors and half-truths buzzing through the Dale Hollow current, I simply wanted to let the world know the story. Three men sat quietly on the sidelines of this controversial tale and watched as their fish jumped up and down that world record chart. In this book’s writing, I hope I truly captured the fish tales behind all the drama of the media. From D. L. Hayes to John Gorman and Paul Beal, I wanted to tell the fun history that captures the hearts of those that love a good story—and love to fish. In my studies I eventually encountered the many Smallmouths caught by Billy Westmorland, also. This man’s name is on the chart many times! All of these men have great stories all twisted into one, right here on Dale Hollow.
I thank them and their families for their wonderful tales. Here is how it all happened.
“The One That Got Away”
D. L. Hayes and his buddy, Paul Miller, sat comfortably in their little fishing boat in the middle of Dale Hollow Lake. It was a cool day with a few ominous clouds rolling in the sky. The two had trolled most of their day around Lillydale Campground in the heart of where the Obey and Wolf Rivers meet. It was a favorite for both men, and this particular day was worthy of their admiration. They’d caught several good fish over the course of the day, but both were still anxious to catch what they’d come for … one of those Dale Hollow Smallmouths.