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Smith makes a regular practice of catching more fish than others

Natchez resident Pat Smith looks over a few of the white perch he has mounted on the walls of his family's Palestine Road home. (Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat)
Natchez resident Pat Smith looks over a few of the white perch he has mounted on the walls of his family’s Palestine Road home. (Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — If you try to go head-to-head in a fishing contest with Pat Smith, you’re more than likely to lose.

It’s not that Smith, a Natchez resident, arrogantly and intentionally tries to out-fish his challengers — he just always seems to end up on top, no matter who tries his luck.

“I don’t try (to beat them), I just fish and stay at it,” Smith said. “I just have a feel for it. They don’t give me too bad a time about it.”

Smith’s wife, Cindy, said it’s funny to her how her husband’s friends attempt to stack up their fishing skills against Smith.

“They go with him thinking they’ll beat him, and they never do,” she said.

And it’s not for a lack of effort, Smith said.

“They’re trying — they’re fishing,” Smith said. “Sometimes they say I catch more because I’m in the front of the boat, but I can go to the back and fish just as much.”

Cindy, who has joined him on several fishing trips, claims that the front-of-the-boat trick has indeed given him an upper hand, however.

“He gets up to the trees and catches all the fish, while my end of the boat is in the lake,” she said. “By the time he turns me around, he’s already caught all the fish.”

Thanks to at least several shenanigans, Cindy said she’ll no longer join him on his fishing trips if she can help it. She recalled on such instance where Smith nearly scared her to death, she said.

“I had gone one time, and he had turned the boat a certain way, and I saw a fish that came by, and half of it was missing,” Cindy said. “I asked him why that was, and he said, ‘It’s probably that alligator behind you.’”

Sure enough, when Cindy turned around, the likely culprit was waiting to greet her. And Cindy said her husband made sure the boat was close enough for the two to get somewhat acquainted.

“It let out a big roar, and I about had a heart attack,” she said.

A favorite of Smith’s is white perch, and on a trip to Lake St. John May 6, Smith caught 20 white perch, four of which had a length about the same as the width of his cooler.

“I hadn’t been back since. I’ve just been working and taking Patrick to ball games,” Smith said, referring to his son.

When he does get the chance, though, Smith is able to catch a large number of fish almost every outing, he said.

“People say I can catch a fish out of a mudhole,” Smith said, laughing. “But not really. I just have a knack for it. You just go back year after year and learn to do it over time.”

Smith gained his fishing acumen by fishing with his parents growing up. Though both are still alive, they rarely go fishing anymore — and Smith said he understands why.

“I usually stop about the end of May now,” he said. “After that, I can’t stay out past 11 in the morning. It just gets too hot.”

Since his wife won’t go with him, Smith will sometimes take Patrick out on a pier or even in a boat. But Smith said he can’t resist joking around with Patrick, either.

“I tell him to stop fishing for monkeys in trees when his line gets caught,” Smith said. “When I get hung up, he says the same thing to me.”

Patrick suffers from mitochondrial disease, which affects his body’s ability to turn food molecules into ATP, which power most eukaryotic cells’ functions. He is also mentally disabled, but that doesn’t stop him from enjoying an outing on the water.

When asked how many fish he catches, Patrick held up 10 fingers to indicate his success. But Smith said Patrick enjoys fishing no matter how much success he has.

“Whether he catches one or 100, he’s happy,” Smith said.

“One time he was fishing off a pier, and a lady put a cricket on his bream line. He caught a small bream, and he high-fived everyone up and down that pier.”