David Hayes recently was honored for his world record smallmouth catch 55 years ago at Dale Hollow Lake.
To honor his catch, the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Department spearheaded an effort to have the auxiliary boat ramp at the Dale Hollow Resort State Park renamed the David L. Hayes boat ramp.
The honor is especially fitting as over the years there was a struggle to have D.L.’s record reinstated after it had be wrongfully denied him a half century ago after a man, apparently jealous, accused him of cheating.
It’s a long story, but a number of people helped investigate the case and finally obtained the record and long-overdue recognition of D.L.
I was fortunate to spend an afternoon a few years ago with D.L. and his wife at the Leitchfield home, and hear him relive the story of his record catch.
On the morning of July 8, 1955, he was fishing with his wife, Ruth and son, David. He began a trolling run in the Phillip’s Bend are aof Dale Hollow, which is partly located in Kentucky and partly in Tennessee.
After Hayes cleared a point near what is now Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park, the biggest smallmouth bass ever caught by an angler struck his pearl-colored Bomber 600 lure.
The 27-inch long smallmouth bass that Hayes reeled in from the Kentucky side of the lake that day weighed 11 pounds, 15 ounces, a world record that still stands today.
To commemorate this legendary catch, the auxiliary boat ramp near the site of the catch is now named for D.L.. The sign marking the ramp includes a life-sized image of the record fish.
“Now anglers that launch or take out their boats at Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park can compare their trophy catches to the world record,” said Chad Miles, administrative coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
The ramp dedication was a collaborative effort of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Kentucky Department of Parks and Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.
According to a news release from the KDFWR, art collectors also have the rare opportunity to purchase a copy of the Hayes smallmouth bass painted by nationally recognized wildlife artist Rick Hill.
The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation is offering 100 prints individually signed and numbered by Hill. Proceeds from the sale will benefit conservation education efforts across Kentucky. The painting depicts the life-sized fish.
A print signed by Hill and Hayes now hangs in the lobby of the Mary Oaken Lodge at Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park.
Prints are available for purchase online at www.kentuckywildlife.com
As to D.L.’s record, Ron Fox of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency never doubted the validity of Hayes’ record, and was one of the people who pushed for D.L.’s record reinstatement.
Tennessee never rejected the record and always counted the fish as its state record, and Fox worked hard to have it restored as the world record. The Tennessee agency investigated and sent its findings to the world record agencies.
Fox and Ken Duke of Bassmasters made a trip to meet with the International Gamef Fish Association, and Hayes credits them with getting the record reinstated in 2005.