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A Catfishing Memory and the Intrigue

There are moments we experience while growing up that we forget. Others survive the test of time through being revisited; I often refer to this as memory through remembering. Then there are those moments you experience that are significant enough to burn their own special place in your everyday thought process. These are those special events, that for one reason or another, influence and often change our opinions or even our way of thinking. Sometimes these ‘special’ events are remarkable enough to have certain effects on decisions we make or the directions our lives take.

One such outstanding memory for me was courtesy of catfish and was planted during Thanksgiving ‘weekend’ in 1982. My family had a long-standing Thanksgiving tradition of gathering at my great aunt’s plantation in Eutawville, SC on fantastic Lake Marion. There were far too many awesome things about Thanksgiving holiday at Lake Marion to mention in one article, so I will focus on an event involving catfish that changed my angling thought the process and general intrigue regarding catfishing to this day.

Catching catfish was always a given during this holiday trip. There was never a shortage of catfish on Lake Marion in SC. It was not uncommon for us to catch several off the dock on any given evening. One afternoon, on the Friday after my 11-year-old Thanksgiving, My Uncle Don approached the dock in his john boat. It was a perfect afternoon just before dusk when he announced his plan to head out to the ‘big water’ on an overnight catfishing journey. Of course, my immediate response was, “Take me, take me!!!”. Well before the age of 11, I was in love with anything to do with fishing. Sadly, my Uncle Don declined my eager pleas, and as I sat sulking on the dock, he slowly disappeared into the vast, sunset horizon of the lake. At the time, I didn’t completely understand the dangers of Lake Marion. I later learned that my great-grandfather lost his life on the lake long before I was born. It was not to be taken lightly. Furthermore, my Uncle Don was clearly looking forward to some peaceful time to enjoy an adult beverage and go one on one with Mr. Whiskers. 

At dusk the following morning, I was waiting on him at the dock when he returned. As he went to the front of the boat to toss me his bow line, I noticed the enormous tail section of an oversized fish hanging out of one of his two well-used 48-quart ice coolers. I could tell Uncle Don was clearly tired, but he had a gratified sort of grin on his face; like a football player who has just finished an overtime battle against fierce competition. At final count, he had seven ‘smaller’ cats, two in the 20-pound class, and a 63 pounder who was twice as big as the cooler he was laying in. My imagination was running wild; there were so many thoughts in my head I didn’t know where to begin. I didn’t know where to start. Questions began flowing from my mouth like a willow on the wind. Learn all about the catfishing records by state.

That’s when I first saw the broken six-foot six-inch, medium-heavy, casting rod in the bottom of the john boat. This was not one of your lighter weight bass fishing rigs, but a heavier made musky-style rod broken about 30 inches from the butt end. Under the blanket of that lonely, dark night, a monster had taken Uncle Don’s offering. The epic battle that surely must have ensued was not discussed with much detail. At most, I remember a comment like, “That big son of a b*tch got the best of me. There are some huge catfish out there nephew; that’s what makes it fun.”. Uncle Don was a proud man. A Vietnam Veteran standing well over six feet and weighing a conservative 300 pounds. With a 63-pound blue already in the boat, my uncle was clearly no pushover when it came to battling big catfish. After all, he grew up in Alabama fishing famous lakes like Guntersville and Wheeler. Not to mention the Chattahoochee, Tennessee and Alabama Rivers.

Since this cool Fall morning in 1982, I have replayed the possible scenarios of the fight between Uncle Don and this freshwater behemoth dozens of times. Each version with a different set of factors during the epic tug of war. Every version with the same outcome; the catfish was victorious. This was one of the earliest and most pivotal moments in my life that brought the intrigue of fishing into full light; especially fishing for catfish and other species that have the potential to grow very large.

Catfishing is a sport that people of any walk of life have easy access to. It doesn’t require a boat. The tackle needed to catch catfish is quite simple, and more times than not, catfish are not overly finicky when it comes to eating. By just putting your bait in the right body of water, there is that distinct possibility that the catfish nibbling at the other end of your line could be well over 100 pounds. And there is an even better chance that you are going to get owned if you are not properly equipped. This factor is what makes catfishing one of my overall favorite sports. I have always relished more than just the potential reward of the catch, but also the possible conflicts that may occur between fish and man. The endless list of storylines and endings make catfishing extremely intriguing. Hopefully, the following information will help you better enjoy the engaging and fascinating world of catfishing.

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