• She's Sold on Fishin' - Fishers Smorgasbord

    The first glimpse of Kathy Taylor in her favorite fishing environment tells you something important about this sports enthusiast from Somerset, Kentucky.

    Chances are she'll be sharing a boat with her longtime husband and fishing guide, Charley, and she's likely brought along a cousin, a nephew or a neighbor's kid. Kathy believes fishing is an ideal way to build family values and cement important relationships between adults and the youth of our state.

    Though without kids of their own, Kathy and Charley have spent their entire married life taking oodles of kids to the lake, teaching them the values of sport fishing and what angling can mean to their lives. As much as anything else, Kathy is convinced that fishing is a value builder. Fishing, she notes, is synonymous with sportsmanship. "If you learn sporting ethics in Kentucky, you'll be the same kind of individual anywhere in the world. And that can't be anything but positive," she said.

    Kathy was born on the banks of Fishing Creek in Pulaski County during the Great Depression. Both sets of her grandparents lived in the narrow valley that would later be flooded by the deep waters of Lake Cumberland.

    Growing up, she remembers there were bottomlands to tend near the stream, but she also recalls there was always a cane pole and a can of worms handy. Fishing played an important role in her family's life in those days. The deep, clear pools of Fishing Creek provided fresh fish for supper and afforded much-needed recreation in a remote area located far from the nearest town.

    After Lake Cumberland was impounded, Kathy's mom and dad obtained a concession to build Lees Ford Dock on the same arm of the lake where she had spent many happy hours as a youngster. It was here, alongside her father, whom she counts as one of the best bass fishermen of his day, that Kathy learned the fundamentals of bass fishing.

    Kathy was 15 at the time and working the morning shift at the dock's restaurant. A stone's throw away, five-pound bigmouths were as thick as fleas and beckoning in the new lake. A shy young man named Charley, who tended the boats and was doing some guiding on a part-time basis, soon became Kathy's regular fishing partner.

    A smile crosses her face as she recalls the great times she and her new friend had casting Jitterbugs and Hula Poppers to the big bass that literally swarmed the shoreline during the first 10 years after Lake Cumberland was impounded.

    Later Charley would go off to the University of Kentucky on a baseball scholarship and Kathy headed in the opposite direction, pursuing a degree in nursing at the University of Vanderbilt. But the two never stopped fishing together. Holidays and summer vacations were spent on the green-tinted waters of the big reservoir.

    Eventually, the boy and girl fishing pals grew up, fell in love and married, forming a partnership that would see sport fishing continue as one of the most important aspects of their relationship.

    In those early fishing-pal days, Kathy realized she'd have to become an expert if she wanted to keep fishing with her father and young friend, Charley. These were rugged, no-nonsense mountain men who took their sport seriously. Kathy was acutely aware she wasn't physically strong enough to skull a flat-bottom johnboat for hours and she'd not win the resulting reward of fishing from the front of the boat. But that was okay. From the beginning, Kathy recalls being satisfied with casting from the rear of the boat. With her highly competitive spirit, she knew there were a few things she could do to make this second position more productive.

    A world class bait-casting champ whom Kathy remembers only as "Ann" was a regular visitor to Lees dock during the 1950s era. The sophisticated champion taught Kathy the fundamentals of bait casting and encouraged her to develop and fine-tune her angling skills. A casting plug and some old tires became her practice tools and the wide expanse of lake was her laboratory. Before long, Kathy was pitting her newly acquired casting and angling skills against the top of the lot in the region, and sharpening those skills allowed her to compete with the best.

    As the lake grew older, new methods were needed to continue finding and catching the lunkers Cumberland was renowned for. Nighttime was most productive for finding big bass in the shallows. "I can still remember the thrill of hearing a truly big bass explode on a black Jitterbug back in coves. The splashing noise always sounded like I'd hooked the biggest bass that swims," she recalls.

    The clearing water and increased traffic on the lake forced Kathy and Charley to learn how to fish deep water. In the beginning it was tough because of the limited number of deep-water artificial lures marketed at the time. The Doll Fly gig, dressed with a thin strip of pork rind, became the lure of the day. But hang-ups were a dime a dozen. Lures were expensive and wages low in the 1950s. The Taylors realized there was a need for better deep-water probes that were less likely To be left hung on a stump 20 feet below.

    The era's new-fangled spinnerbaits only proved effective when fished in waters less than 10 feet deep. But this we Lake Cumberland where drops, ledges and other structure held fish 25 to 35-feet deep most of the year.

    Educated, practical-minded and expert at their craft, Kathy and Charley decided the spinnerbait might be the secret to fishing bass in deep lakes if they could figure out a way to make it work more effectively in deep water.

    A thousand alterations followed. They experimented with every model of spinnerbait marketed from the late '50s through the early 1970s. They substituted different hooks, made stronger hook-to-body ties, tested different sizes shapes and weights of blades and altered the lure's arm length.

    What eventually evolved was a single lure constructed from the best parts of three different spinnerbaits. The final design featured a strong, sharp Eagle Claw hook, unique, rigid tie of the hook to the wire body, a genuine Sampo ballbearing swivel, the finest rubber skirt and the best quality Hildrabrant brass blade.

    "Considering the quality of components used and the expert workmanship that went into each lure, there's no doubt we were constructing the Cadillac of spinnerbaits in America," Kathy said recently.

    Even though the couple has never been recognized for designing the first truly effective short-arm spinnerbait in America, expert anglers who've tested Kathy's and Charley's design for more than 30 years are convinced the shortarm spinnerbait model produced by T's Lures Inc. not only was the first of its kind, but we question, is one of the most effective lures for deep-water fishing in man-made reservoirs.

    The short-arm bassin' weapon revolutionized the way countless anglers in America fished. Heading the list of those who knew how to fish the lure best, of course, were Kathy and Charley. With the lure's workable design, the couple could open up lake areas far deeper than most artificial bait tossers had ever gone before. Because of the effectiveness of the unique spinnerbaits, hundreds of anglers in the Lake Cumberland-Dale Hollow region wanted to buy them. At first the couple gave the lures to friends, but the demand became so great that Kathy and Charley decided to start a small luremaking business in their basement and T's Lures Inc. was formed.

    Eventually, the basement workshop expanded into several buildings to satisfy the customer demand for hundreds of thousands of the original short-arm spinnerbait design, plus several other lures T's produces and markets throughout North America and a dozen foreign countries.

    Even though Kathy averaged fishing 150 days a year before the lure business's success cut into her recreation schedule, she has never fished a single tournament. And she admits winning such events would be difficult because she's never fished for anything but big bass. While some professional anglers are highly successful catching 12-inch bass, a "keeper" to Kathy is one of those five pounders she fished for back in the shallow coves during her courting days.

    But who knows what the future holds? She's tried lots of things most ordinary folks don't consider, and tournaments may or may not be in her future. Meanwhile, Kathy's goal is to supply the world's bass anglers with the finest line of fishing lures she and Charley know how to make and, perhaps more importantly, to convince as many families as possible to learn to fish together. For Kathy Taylor, fishing is the finest way she knows to really keep relationships fun, close, warm and exciting.

    Kentucky-made Lures Travel Abroad
    Kathy Taylor is the driving force behind the sales operation of T's Lures, Inc., located in Somerset, Ky. The company officially started in 1979, when 65,000 spinnerbait lures were marketed, mostly in Kentucky. By 1988, company sales had increased to more than five million pieces.

    Currently, T's offers a full line of spinnerbaits, both long- and short-arm models, buzzbaits, jigging spoons and jigs. Additionally, a complete line of plastic lures are marketed under the T's brand. Annually, Kathy attends some 30 outdoor product shows and stays on the road for a full three months, showing and selling T's products throughout the U.S. and to a dozen foreign countries including Japan and the Soviet Union.