Taking a kid fishing instills in them an attitude of appreciation for the outdoors, but hooking them up to a 76-pound blue catfish is subject to creating an angler for life.

That’s okay with Robert Kelly, who treated his 10-year-old grandson, Gavin Garcia of Goose Creek, to a guided catfish trip on March 25, and Garcia would land a blue cat from Lake Marion that would be 4 pounds heavier than he was.

Kelly, from Branford, Fla., related his grandson’s enthusiasm as he claimed the rods that he would watch as the crew drifted a spread of Santee rigs in and out of the main-river channel.  

“He told me that the three rods in front of him were his, but what he didn’t know was that whatever rod got bit was his,” Kelly said.

As repeat customers of Bill Saltzman of Captain Bill’s Fish’n Guide Service, Kelly and his party were confident they would catch fish. However, Saltzman (803-524-1951) was unable to get the small herring or gizzard shad he prefers for butterflying and threading on 5/0 circle hooks. He settled for large herring that he cut into chunks for their rigs, comprised of a 24-inch, 50-pound monofilament leaders tied to 30-pound braided mainline, and held on the bottom by 2 ounces of lead.

It didn’t take long for the group to realize the change in baits wouldn’t be a problem. Soon after starting their drift, one rod bowed with the weight of a heavy fish.  After being pried from its holder, the rod was given to Garcia, who was encouraged to start reeling.

After three big runs, the fish came to the boat relatively quickly, but it refused to come to the surface. Garcia requested a little assistance from the grown-ups. 

“He asked for help, but we told him just to keep reeling,” said Kelly, who admitted that he and Garcia’s mother, Kyle, both gave the young angler a break.

After a 25-minute battle, Saltzman scooped the fish into a landing net, and he and Kelly hoisted it over the said onto the deck of Salesman’s boat, where Garcia marveled at its size.

“He told us that he didn’t know that fish got that big,” Kelly said.