CATFISHING WITH THE “OVER THE HILL GANG”
By Luke Clayton, Outdoors Editor
Lake Fork – Round up a foursome of still very active old guys, all a few months away from their 68th birthday, and chances are pretty good they have some “stories.” After all, there is just under 300 combined years of living amongst the particular group I’m referring to, plenty of time to amass volumes of life experiences, many of which are just downright funny!
Put this aforementioned foursome together in a catfishing boat for several hours with steady action on channel catfish and chances are also good that many of these “stories” will come to light! This boat is exactly where “this” old guy spent a recent morning and after almost 30 years as an outdoors writer, spending countless hours afield and on the water, I can truly say I’ve never laughed so hard in my life. If our antics were filmed, I truly believe our outing would rate a spot on prime time TV, the episode might be titled, “Four old guys telling it all!”
I was in the company of friends on this outing, a quite diverse group of friends that included editor Chuck Roy, Jerry Miller, the now retired Mayor of Yantis, Texas and kingpin of the Yantis Catfish Classic, and Stubby Stubblefield, maker of Lake Fork’s most popular catfish bait named appropriately, Stubby’s. I’ve fished with Stubby several times and we became friends a few years ago. Fishing trips with this catfish guru have been the fodder for several articles I’ve written for my newspaper columns and a couple of magazine features. After the final weigh in at the Yantis Catfish Class early this summer, I introduced Stubby to Miller and Roy, an invite from Stubby ensued, and plans were made for a fishing trip. We old guys don’t fool around; we’ve learned to pack as much fun into life as possible!
Stubby occasionally guides some of his long time clients, but his bait business requires a good bit of he and his wife, Sandy’s time. Stubby has fished all over the country and rates Lake Fork as his number one overall favorite channel catfish lake.
“Catching catfish at Fork is easy, providing you use the right bait,” said Stubby, with a grin. “For the next few months, well right into fall and throughout the winter, catching fish is easy. Simply find a change in bottom contour, the top of a hump, the convergence of two creek channels or possibly point of a tree line in water 20-30 feet deep, bait a couple of spots with soured grain or range cubes. Feed them and they will come!”
We began fishing early to beat the heat and for the duration of our time on the water, about three hours, someone was continually busy catching or missing a fish. Number four treble hooks work better than the smaller number six hooks. They hold a bit larger bait ball and are easier to remove from the fishes’ mouths. Stubby’s bait is heavy (dense) enough that it requires no weight to get it to bottom where the channel cats hang out. But without using a weight, the bait sinks slowly. Without exception, every fish we caught was close to bottom, and most were within a foot of bottom. Very often the bite occurred as the bait floated down. The strike often came the instant it neared bottom. It was important to keep slack out of the line in order to detect the bite as the bait was falling. As in any type fishing, it sometimes takes a bit of time to get the “hang” of setting the hook. We were fishing with spinning rigs and when the baits came close to bottom, we would actually hold the line in our hand in order to feel the slack if a catfish bit. When fishing with a bait caster reel, it’s important to keep one’s thumb on the spool and the other hand on the reel’s handle as the bait falls.
I’ve fished just about every good catfish lake in the state and rate Lake Fork at the top of my list for big channel catfish. On many lakes during the summer, over holes baited with soured grain, it’s common to catch lots of “keeper” size channels, averaging about 1.5 pounds each, but at Fork the average is at least 2.5 pounds and most fishing trips produce several larger fish.
The four of us “old guys” are currently concocting a name for our group. “Old Guys Fishing Club,” “The Story Tellers,” “Geriatric Fishing Support Group,” “Old School Hookers”? We haven’t as yet settled on an appropriate name, but we vowed to have one chosen by our next outing. This won’t be the last time we fish together! The trick is to get on the water early during the warm weather months and be back at home under some AC for an afternoon nap during the hot part of the day! That’s the way we old guys roll!
To learn more about Stubby’s Cheese Bait, contact Stubby Stubblefield at 817-366-5492.
Listen to “Outdoors with Luke Clayton and Friends” on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas on weekends or anytime online at www.catfishradio.org.