Why We Catfish A Guest Editorial by Justin Brucker

How a teenager (catfish) can change your focus.

Brucker’s best fishing buddy is his son Layke.

Brucker’s best fishing buddy is his son Layke.

My family and I are located in Devol, OK, a small quiet town in southern Oklahoma. We are lucky enough to have two very good catfish fisheries close by with Lake Waurika in Oklahoma and just across the state line in Texas we have Lake Arrowhead. But it didn’t start there.

I grew up bass fishing with my dad and older brother. We would fish every weekend. It wasn’t until much later in life when I finally made the switch and started targeting blues.

A childhood best friend Johnny Bailey invited me out on his boat and we started drifting for blues. It wasn’t long until I hooked a 13-pound blue and that teenager changed everything I thought or knew about catfishing. Up until then, my biggest cat wasn’t but a pound or two. I went home and sold every bit of bass gear along with my bass boat and focused solely on chasing blue cats.

Now I fish from an older 1920v Lowe with Minnkota and Humminbird electronics, and T-bar rod holders. It has an open floor plan so it is perfect for catfishing, allowing me to either drift or anchor.

Brucker is shown here with his dad who passed just two weeks following their last fishing adventure together.

Brucker is shown here with his dad who passed just two weeks following their last fishing adventure together.

I believe very strongly in catch and release, especially in the larger fish. I personally do not keep anything over 10 pounds. I have taught my son the same. He has become my best fishing buddy and I am lucky to be able to share my passion with him.

Of all the fishing trips, and all the bigger fish I caught after the 13-pounder there are two trips that I will never forget. One included my dad; the other was with my son.

The first was on Veterans Day 2013. With me being ex-navy I go fishing every Veteran’s Day but that year would be forever different. I went to my parent’s house and woke my dad up and told him I didn’t want any excuses. I told him to get dressed you’re going fishing. He didn’t miss a beat. He got dressed and hopped in the truck and off we went. Two weeks later he passed away in his sleep. That was our last trip together.

Layke Brucker holds the Texas Junior Angler record for blue catfish from Lake Arrowhead with this 47.55-pound beauty.

Layke Brucker holds the Texas Junior Angler record for blue catfish from Lake Arrowhead with this 47.55-pound beauty.

The second was with my son Layke when he set the Lake Arrowhead Junior Lake Record for blue catfish. In Texas, they have implemented a great angler recognition program for area waters. They have both a lake record program and a junior lake record program. At that time the current lake record blue cat was 42 pounds.

On November 26, 2016, my son Layke and I were fishing at Lake Arrowhead located in North Texas. We were fishing the back of a wind-blown cove in 3 feet of water using cut shad. While I was getting my rods ready one of my son’s rods doubled over. When he reeled down and picked it up the fish took off!

That was probably the most stressful 10 minutes of my life. I knew it was going to beat his personal best of 30 pounds, but I did not know by how much.

After many runs, tail flips, and spooling drag I was finally able to net the fish. When it was onboard, I knew it was going to be close to the junior lake record. I called the parks and wildlife office and made them aware of the possible lake record. The official was waiting on us at the dock with the certified scales.

After everything was said and done the fished tipped the scales at 47.55 pounds, beating the old record by 5 pounds. To be totally honest I couldn’t tell you who was more excited Layke or me! He also has my personal best beat by 7 pounds and trust me when I tell you he lets me know about it!

We are right at the two-year anniversary of my son’s lake record catch. That is the proudest dad/fishing moment that I have and I’m not sure if it will be topped. As I write this commentary it is still the standing junior lake record at 47.55 pounds.

While on the water there are a few things I try not to take for granted. We often get in a rush when heading out—from stopping for gas and ice, catching bait, getting to the area first, and so on and so on. The most important thing for me is the appreciation to be there in the first place and to be able to share it, be it with my family or friends that venture to the lake with me.


Epilogue: Tip Up Reel Down

I love sharing my moments on the water with everyone. My son and I have a Facebook page where we share live feed streaming of our fishing adventures every Friday. You can find us on our page at Tip Up Reel Down. We do everything from on the water Q&A’s to videos at home setting up gear and everything in between. It is our way to help other anglers get into catfishing. —Justin Brucker

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