I first fished with my friend guide Jason Barber about 12 years ago while doing the leg work for a magazine article on Cedar Creek Lake. I remember asking Jason what species we were going to fish for. His replied with a question, “What do you wish to catch”? Through the years I’ve witnessed him back up that statement many times by putting me on some red hot catching for hybrid stripers, white bass, largemouth, trophy class blue catfish and ever the most finicky of all freshwater fish, crappie. When I need to do an article of Cedar Creek fishing, regardless the species, Jason has always obliged.
Jason’s as much a part of Cedar Creek Lake as the catfish and hybrid stripers that swim the lake’s fertile waters. You see, Barber grew up on the lake and learned many of the fine points of fishing from his Grandfather, Leroy Barber.
“My Grandpa took me fishing when I was barely able to hold a rod and reel, I had to sit in his lap and let him help me reel them in.” Barber said as he buried his face in his graph and studied a big pod shad. “Grand Pa was a great teacher and I was lucky to have him around as long as I did. He’s catching those catfish in Heaven now, but he instilled a lasting legacy in me by teaching me to fish and love the outdoors.”
If you’ve ever fished with Jason, you will attest to the fact that the elder Barber was an excellent teacher, and his grandson a very bright student of the art of locating and catching fish. Many members of Barber’s family were involved in fishing around Cedar Creek. Most everyone who’s ever fished at Cedar Creek Lake back in the day has stopped by Big Chief Landing. The original owner of Big Chief was Cecil Barber, brother of Jason’s grandpa. Locals nicknamed him Chief, thus the name of the marina. Barber’s Grandmother Wanda worked for several owners of Big Chief and was well known for her friendly smile and knowledge of fishing.
As my friend Jeff Rice and I pulled into the parking lot of Sandy Shores Marina, Barber was standing by and in a couple of minutes, we were in his comfortable 26 foot Southshore center console with his son and expert deck hand Jacob, heading out for an afternoon of fishing. What species? We left that entirely up to Jason. Jeff and I just wanted to feel the bend of our fishing rods and hopefully harvest enough fillets for a shore lunch on the banks of the creek. I had a cardboard box filled with everything necessary for a big fish fry. With a recent influx of fresh runoff water, blue and channel catfish were drawn into the moving water as though by a magnet. Jason headed the bow of his big guide boat toward the northwest and we were off to the shallows near the mouth of a major feeder creek. We stopped near the mouth of the creek and with a few expert throws of Jacob’s castnet, we had plenty of fresh shad in the bucket. There is absolutely no better bait for catching blues than fresh shad and these were about as fresh as they get.
Jason nosed the boat up to the bank on a little secondary point and six rods were soon heaved out into the shallow water and placed in rod holders in the boat’s stern. The first bite occurred almost immediately and we proceeded to catch more than enough fish for our planned fish fry and, some to take home for later enjoyment.
Every outdoor outing has its highlights and for me, It was watching Jacob perform his duties as deck hand and display some of the skills he learned at an early age from his dad. I had fished with his dad many times and had absolutely no doubt we would catch plenty of fish for our planned cookout. He could handle that cast net as well as most guides with years of experience. A half mile or so up into the seclusion of the creek, Jason again nosed the boat to the bank and went to work with the fillet knife, transforming those eater size catfish into snow white fillets. I positioned myself beside my little fish cooker and proceeded to get the cooking oil hot. Throughout the day, I was joking about what I might have forgotten in the culinary department. Something as simple as not having a fire starter for the propane burner or corn meal would have put an end to our plans for this fish fry in a very remote location. With an aluminum pan almost full of crispy catfish fillets, I opened up the container of potato salad and indeed, I had forgotten something! No forks! I noticed some dead bloodweed stalks growing nearby and soon we had 4 ‘scoops’ fashioned from pieces of the hollowed out stalks. I think Jacob got a kick out of me ‘making do’ with what was around us. He, in turn cut a 4 inch locust thorn from a nearby locust tree and tied it to a 6 foot stem of dried blood weed. “I can go primitive too,” he kidded as his showed off his homemade spear!
We could have limited out on catfish during this trip, but that was not our plan. We wanted to catch enough for a creek fish fry and that’s exactly what we did. I mentioned to Jacob that when he becomes as old as I am and that will be a long, long time, I bet that he will never forget this fishing trip or fish fry on the banks of a creek with his dad and a couple of old guys that knew how to make the most of their time in the great outdoors. Jacob agreed.
Contact guide Jason Barber through www.kingscreekadventures.com or call 903-603-2047.
Watch the video produced by Jeff Rice on this outing by searching “A Sportsman’s Life’ on YouTube.
Outdoors writer Luke Clayton can be contacted via www.catfishradio.org .