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How a fisherman expanded his business from selling live minnows to fishing tackle, guns, boats and motors

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Ray Sasser, Outdoor Writer

Larry Walker has fishing in his DNA. In 1946, the year after Walker was born, his parents, Ralph and Mildred Walker, started Walker Bait Shop in Grand Prairie, first selling live minnows, then expanding to fishing tackle, guns, boats and motors.

The family owns Lynn Creek Marina and the Oasis restaurant on Joe Pool Lake. They're still selling minnows, and Mildred remains the matriarch. Larry was hooked on fishing by his dad, who died at age 82. Larry's dad took him as a young child to the Brazos and Sabine rivers. While Ralph caught minnows to sell, Larry fished for catfish.

As an adult, Walker expanded his angling horizons and even ran exotic bass-fishing tours for a while. This has been what younger anglers would call an epic year, even by Walker's lofty standards.

It started at Ascension Island, a remote Atlantic blue marlin hotspot. Walker caught two marlin in the 400-pound range and had a monster look at his lure. He's made six bass fishing trips to three Mexican lakes this year. Walker caught over 100 bass one day at Sugar Lake, but his most memorable day came at Lake Comedero, where he caught 28 bass, all bigger than six pounds, on a topwater lure.

In May, Walker traveled to New Zealand, where he landed six swordfish weighing 200 to 550 pounds and a 225-pound striped marlin. At Tobago, he added three more blue marlin to his 2017 catch.

Back home, Walker was casting off the marina dock at Joe Pool Lake when he caught largemouth bass weighing 10.34 and 9.56 pounds. He took his son, Blake, 31, to a private lake south of Dallas where some of Walker's luck rubbed off on his eldest son. Blake landed a 12.76-pound largemouth bass.

Walker then recruited his youngest son, Dylan, 14, to Cape Verde, off the African coast. It wasn't a hard sell. "My sons are fishing nuts, both freshwater and saltwater," said Walker.

Dylan caught blue marlin weighing 350 and 700 pounds, and his dad caught three more as big as 400 pounds. Next on the fishing tour was Madeira Island off the Portugal coast. Larry Walker caught blue marlin estimated at 400, 500 and 600 pounds.

Dylan caught a monster blue that would easily have set a new junior world record. The boat captain called the fish a "heavy 800-pounder." They would have to kill the billfish and weigh it to claim the record, but the Walkers decided to release the big marlin.

They traveled then to Kona, Hawaii, where the action finally slowed down. They managed just one small striped marlin. Walker is heading back to Madeira Island this year, and he's also making his 12th trip to Brazil for his favorite game fish, peacock bass.

Through the years, Walker figures he's fished in 47 countries. He's caught 135 largemouth bass weighing 10 pounds or more.

"I got spoiled at Lake Yojoa, Honduras, in the 1970s when I caught over 100 of those big bass." he said. "That changed my life. Back then I was recognized in an Outdoor Life magazine article naming me one of the best at catching big bass."

His most memorable catch was a 1,146-pound black marlin caught off Australia in 1988. He also caught a 1,100-pound bluefin tuna off Prince Edward Island, Canada, and a world-record pompano in Mexico. He hasn't fished for them yet, but golden dorado in Bolivia and giant taimen in Mongolia are on his bucket list.

Walker is working on a book about his fishing adventures. Fittingly enough, it's titled From Minnows to Marlin.

CALENDAR

FRIDAY, AUG. 11-SUNDAY, AUG. 13 -- Texas Trophy Hunters Association Extravaganza hunting show at Fort Worth Convention Center. Details: ttha.com.

TUESDAY, AUG. 15 -- Hunting and fishing licenses for 2017-2018 become available.

THURSDAY, AUG. 31 -- Most hunting and fishing licenses for 2016-2017 expire.

FRIDAY, SEPT. 1 -- Dove season begins in north and central zones.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 2-SUNDAY, SEPT. 3 -- Special white-winged dove season in the entire south zone.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 9-SUNDAY, SEPT. 10 -- Second weekend of special white-winged dove season in the entire south zone.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 9-SUNDAY SEPT. 24 -- Early teal duck season statewide.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 30 -- Archery season begins for deer and Rio Grande turkey.