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62 Pound 8 Ounce Blue Cat Caught On Reelfoot Lake, TN- May 31, 2009 

Tommy Willette 62lb Catfish

T.J. Willette Sr.

This is a true father and son fish story.  Let me tell you about my dad.  His name is T. J. Willette.  He served in the United States Air Force for 28 years.  He served in occupied Japan at the end of WWII, served 13 months in the Korean War, and 2 tours in Vietnam. My dad started taking me fishing when I was three years old and after that, he never went fishing without me. We never, I mean never, went fishing unless both of us could go together.  Fishing is the one thing that we did together that taught me so much about life, the respect for life, and the beauty of the natural world.  My dad was many things to me.  He was my hero, for he was a highly decorated soldier; he was my father, mentor, “Daddy”, but he was also my best friend.  Fishing was something we did together and amazingly enough, we only spoke a few sentences to each other while fishing from sun-up to sun-down.  My dad always said why spoil the beauty and wonder of the outdoors and the water with words that will pass us both by, while this beauty  will linger forever.  In May 2008, while staying at the Cypress Point Resort on Reelfoot Lake, the only place my dad would stay, we found a really nice spot on the lake. Dad dropped his favorite bait in the water over a hole and let it sink to the bottom.  Within 10 minutes his rod was doubled over and the reel was whining loudly as the line was being peeled off the spool at a rapid rate of speed. He was using 30 pound test line on his rod and it got so hot it melted on the spool and broke off.  Dad said, “There’s a fish bigger than 50 pounds in there.”  He also told me that one day we would catch that monster cat in that hole.  That dream never came true because that was the last fishing trip we took together.  My dad had lung cancer and his health greatly declined after that trip.  He was ill with the effects of the cancer, but he wanted to spend as much time fishing with me as he could before he died. On October 8, 2008, he died.  Well, on May 31, 2009, I decided to revisit that special place on the lake that we’d  found and I dropped Daddy’s favorite bait (skip jack) into  that hole and the fight was on!  I got that fish to the surface and my heart skipped many beats.  It took me about 10 minutes to get the big cat in the boat.  Was it that very same fish?  Who knows.  I just know that after I got him in the boat, I cried uncontrollably for a long time. I could only think how proud my dad would have been to see this monster in the boat.  Then I realized that even though  he wasn’t sitting in the seat next to me, he really was always there, and always will be. This big cat is for my dad with great thanks, love, and appreciation for all the lessons of life that he taught me while fishing.  Thanks, Dad!


Tommy J. Willette


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