Most of my life–at least from the age of 4 yrs–I have had fishing fever. My granddad, Bunk Layfield, introduced me to fishing at the age of 4 and between my father and my granddad they sunk the hook into me really deep.
My granddad loved to trotline for big yellow catfish in a power plant lake at Trinidad, Texas and he would fish throw lines in the nearby Trinity river, which was loaded with big yellows. His favorite bait was perch or brim put on the hook live. My granddad had a great reputation for catching the big yellow catfish and crappie.
To get the brim for the lines he would take a cane pole and some hand-dug worms and fish around the bridges at Trinidad Lake. This is where I got my start fishing. He would take me with him to help catch the brim, as 2 poles were faster than just one. He was killing 2 birds with one stone; he was taking a kid fishing even before kindergarten age and he was getting some help with his trotline bait. I LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Texas Power & Light lake at Trinidad did not allow boats, but you could use an inner tube to fish near the shore. He would use the inner tube to set out the trotline from #3 bridge over to the point at the tabernacle.
If he had multiple big fish, he would call little Tommy Philips (6ft 6in, 270lbs) to come and help him. Tommy had a great reputation for manhandling big yellow cats. Well, our best catch that I can remember was when I was about 8 years old. We drove from Kerens, Texas to Trinidad early one morning. My granddad aired up the inner tube, grabbed the line, and started pulling himself across the neck of water. Somewhere around the 5th hook, he hollered to me that he had a really big fish and about that time, water splashed very high and jerked the line out of his hand. He returned to the bank paddling his feet.
We left the lake and called little Tommy to come and help us. Tommy called Charlie Baker and some more friends telling them that Bunk had a really big fish and to meet us at #3 bridge. When Tommy arrived to the lake there was a caravan of maybe 6 or 7 cars with him, all from Kerens about 6 miles away. Now we had a big group of maybe 12 to 15 guys who came to see the show.
Tommy unloaded his tube and started across the bay to where the big fish had been an hour earlier. We all held our breath and hoped the fish was still hooked. Tommy felt the big fish make a run and hollered it was still on the line. He eased very slowly up close to the fish when it exploded, throwing water all over Tommy, soaking him. Tommy took his time and finally wore out the big fish. He slipped a rope into its jaw and then he cut the staging from the line and started foot paddling back to the bank. When he got to the bank Charlie Baker jumped in the water and helped him get it onto the bank. The big fish weighed 78lbs. Tommy told us that he thought there was another fish on the line so he returned to check the line once again.
In a matter of minutes, Tommy hollered that another fish was on the line and he was going after it. He got up close to the fish and down went the line splashing water 3 feet in the air. Tommy hollered that this was a monster fish bigger than he had ever seen. He tried a couple of times more and then said something we never thought we would hear from him. He proclaimed that the fish was just too big and powerful for him and he returned to the bank.
After a lot of discussing and planning Tommy decided that the only way to land this fish was to take the tube and go to the other side and cut the trotline and all of the men would pull Tommy and the line and the fish across to the other side.
Tommy went to the other side, Charlie and my granddad cut the line, and everyone started pulling. When we finally got the line across, we not only had the monster fish but 2 more big yellow cats. The monster fish weighed 104lbs, the next fish weighed 64lbs and the last fish weighed 82lbs. We had over 300lbs of yellow catfish on that one line and everyone there said that was the best catch they had ever seen. As far as I know this is still a lake record for that particular lake.
This all happened about 1947 when I was 8 years old, which is a very impressionable age. I was so very excited and as proud as I could be of my granddad and what we had done. I already had the fishing fever even before this happened but now I was really hooked.
Next week I am going to fast-forward to 1963 when I graduated from Texas A&M and took a job coaching in Hereford, Texas. The story I am going to tell you will be totally unbelievable and will top all fishing trips you have ever heard about. Stay tuned.
I wish every one out there has a great New Year and that all things turn out better for you in the coming year.
GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR FISHING AND WEAR THAT LIFEJACKET!!!!