Once and Future King

David Hayes leads a quiet and comfortable life, retired in Leitchfield, Ky. Now in his early 80s, the angler who caught the biggest smallmouth bass anyone has ever seen can look at his mounted trophy without any consternation whatsoever. But it wasn't always that way.

July 9, 2007 marks the 52nd anniversary of Hayes' world record catch. On this date in 1955, the angler was trolling the waters of Dale Hollow Lake on the Kentucky-Tennessee border when the big one struck. It weighed 11 pounds, 15 ounces and was soon recognized by record-keeping authorities as the biggest bronzeback ever certified.

And so it was for 40 years.

Then, in the mid-1990s, an old statement made by a disgruntled dock hand was found, casting aspersions on Hayes' catch. On the dock hand's word alone, the International Game Fish Association, National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and State of Kentucky all stripped Hayes of his title.

It took another 10 years before an article in the October 2005 issue of Bassmaster Magazine set the record straight. Soon thereafter, the record-keeping authorities put Hayes and his catch back in their rightful places.