Luke Clayton

Gun Barrel City- Ask guide Jason Barber when he first began fishing Cedar Creek and you’ll likely find the affable guide at a loss for words. You see, Jason 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 so little, I had to set in his lap and let him help me reel them in. He 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.” said Jason as he buried his face in his graph and studied a big ‘pod’ of fish plotting on a mid lake hump.

Jason’s Granddad was an excellent teacher, and Jason a very bright student of the art of locating and catching fish. Many members of Jason’s family were involved in fishing around Cedar Creek. Most everyone who’s ever fished at Cedar Creek Lake has stopped by Big Chief Landing. The original owner of Big Chief was Cecil Barber, brother of Jason’s grandpa. Locals nicknamed Cecil ‘Chief”, thus the name of the marina. Jason’s grandmother, Wanda Barber worked for several owners of Big Chief and was well known for her friendly smile and knowledge of fishing.

Jason is now guiding full time at Cedar Creek for multiple species, after a stint as a professional bass fisherman. He placed in the money in his first professional BASS tournament on the Red River in 2000. and won the prestigious Sam Rayburn BASS Open in February 2002, beating a field of the best bass fishermen in the country. Finding the rigors of being on the road away from his family too much, Jason now works close to home, guiding clients to fun trips and heavy stringers of catfish, hybrid stripers, white bass and crappie. On a recent morning fishing trip, he jokingly reminded me that he was also qualified to guide largemouth bass trips! DUUUH!

Jason pointed to an all but blacked out screen on his graph. “Now that’s what I’m talking about, just look at those fish. I fish this hump all the time and it almost always holds fish. When I inquired as to what we wanted to target first, hybrid stripers or catfish, he pointed to the rods, one rigged with a short Carolina rig and a treble hook for catfish and another loaded with a one ounce chartreuse slab. “Take your pick, he said as I reached for the rod rigged for the hybrids. He grabbed the catfish rod, baited with a big hunk of Danny Kings Catfish Punch Bait and let the bait settle a foot or so up from bottom. He then put a big chunk of fresh cut shad on another rod and heaved it a good forty yards from the boat. The action began immediately as a smorgasbord of yellow bass and white bass kept me busy and ‘fryer’ size catfish begin attacking the punch bait and shad. I kidded Jason that catching these ‘skillet’ fish was great fun but we needed some ‘picture’ fish to accompany my article. The words had barely left my mouth when my slab was stopped slammed, somewhere down near bottom. When a big hybrid striper hits amoving bait, its intent is to kill and eat. I have always been amazed at the speed of a hybrid striper and how quickly it can hone in on the exact location of a fast moving bait. I was fairly ripping the slab through the water when the fish hit; then all I felt was pressure on the line. For an instance, I thought I was hung up on brush. Then my reel’s drag began to scream as the hybrid made its first long run. Hybrids are one of, if not THE hardest fighting fish in fresh water. They are a cross between the female striper and male white bass and they possess the characteristics of another hybrid: the mule. I liken the characteristic long, hard runs of the hybrid to a mule hooked to a plow. They don’t jump like a black bass, or bear down to bottom like a catfish, they simply pull, and they pull HARD. About the time my rod’s flex and reel’s drag system had the hybrid ready to slide into the awaiting net, Jason’s catfish rod bowed heavily toward the surface the circle hook worked it’s magic as it threaded itself into the jaws of a big blue catfish. The next few minutes is the stuff from which great fishing memories are made. We got our ‘big fish’ picture and the makings of one whale of a fish fry later that evening!

Photo by Luke Clayton

Cedar Creek is packed with big catfish and hybrid stripers. Guide Jason Barber shows off one of each.

Jason says he is just beginning his evening trips, fishing around the many lighted boat docks at Cedar Creek for hybrids, white bass and largemouths. “The action is just getting underway, we’re catching lots of big white bass around the lighted docks and usually pick up a few hybrids. When the first cool front blows in, the hybrid action gets really hot around the lights. The trick is keeping the boat out in the shadows and quietly throwing soft plastic shad imitations or floating/diving shad pattern crankbaits. It’s common to limit out on both species and the big fish action usually begins in earnest around mid October, sooner if an early northern blows in.”

Guide Jason Barber can be contacted at 903-887-7896 or 903-603-2047 or on the internet at www.kingscreekadventures.com . For lodging at Big Chief Landing, call 903-887-7480

Check out Luke’s radio show on www.catfishradio.com.