by Capt. Tom Bailas


Several months ago, I received a phone call from Spencer Brunson, Project Manager for the Catch-A-Dream Foundation. He wanted to let me know that they had another child and family that matched us as an outfitter to take out fishing.

Catch-A-Dream Foundation provides children with life threatening illnesses the opportunity to go on a hunting or fishing adventure of a lifetime with all expenses paid by the Foundation. I looked at the calendar and was available on the dates and the planning process had begun. John Corbell, a 16-year-old from Alabama, was set to arrive on May 13th along with his mother, father, and older brother.

John is one of God’s living miracles. He was born with a bad heart and before the age of 10 he had four open heart surgeries. At age 15 his heart had failed completely and he was on life support. He needed a heart transplant, with little to no time to spare. By God’s grace, a perfect match heart came available just in time. Shortly after the transplant, John was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He received chemotherapy treatment and was just given word that he was cancer free two weeks before arriving in Florida. John and his family are the most positive, kind and spiritual family I have ever met. This particular trip was a little different than all the others we have been a part of with this foundation. This time we had a special guest, Steve Coon aka “Coon Dog” with Drury Outdoors, aboard to film the whole experience. Also, aboard was the CEO of Catch-A-Dream Foundation, Dr. Marty Brunson as the host.

The first day the family was here the winds were blowing around 25mph with an afternoon shower approaching. We decided to take them to our community beach to search for and collect shark teeth. While we were walking the beach, they were asking what we were planning to catch, as John wanted to try and go for a goliath grouper as he had never seen one. I then made a bold and confident prediction that I would have John hooked up with a goliath grouper within 5 minutes of anchoring at our very first spot. Everyone involved said they were going to hold me to that and decided to set the timer on the cell phone when we arrived at the spot. The next morning was beautiful and we made our way offshore to my spot, about 15 miles offshore that I know has good structure. My wife Trisha threw the anchor and I backed down on a large rock pile. She then grabbed a 10 lb. Jack Crevalle out of the bait box and I sent it down on 100lb gear. Trisha then set her timer on the cell phone, so the bet was on!!! At exactly 2 minutes and 23 seconds we had a solid hookup on a very large fish. John was reeling it in as I assisted a little on the top of the rod, as they are a team effort, and had a huge 700lb goliath boat side. John did such an amazing job keeping the rod straight and reeling it in very quickly. We vented the fish and let him go back down safely.

It was so much fun they wanted to try it again and this time John’s father was able to get a 450 lb. goliath up to the side of the boat. This day was non-stop action and John ended up catching a barracuda, amberjack, Bonita, mangrove snappers and several other species. What an amazing day!!!

The next day I asked John again what he would like to catch today. His response was that he would like to catch a shark and maybe a kingfish. My goal now was to do both. We ran about 22 miles to a spot where we have caught a lot of those species and we had just the right bait to do so. We kept that Bonita from the day before to use as shark bait and within minutes we had a shark on. Pic:  Capt. Tom Bailas 07_19 sandbar shark.jpg  John again did such an amazing job fighting this shark, never giving up on the battle as they take a little while to get in. He landed his first ever sandbar shark that was estimated around 400lbs.

Over a 3-hour period of continuous fishing he caught and released another sandbar shark and then a nurse shark. Then the kingfish started to bite. They are so much fun. We ended up with a total of 4 kingfish and another Bonita. We could not have asked for a better day than that. PIC:  Capt. Tom Bailas 07_19 king.jpg  I had the privilege to fish beside such an amazing young man that has been through so much his entire life inside hospitals and fighting for his life. It really put my life into perspective. John and his entire family are such an inspiration and a breath of fresh air to be around. God definitely has big plans for this amazing young man.

Catch-A-Dream Foundation is an amazing nonprofit organization that provides these deserving kids and their families a trip of a lifetime, all expenses paid.

Check out the website at www.Catchadream.org. Any type of donations would help a child with a beautiful experience and is appreciated.  Trisha and I are truly grateful and blessed to be able to be a part of the “Vision” of this organization as outfitters and be able to take these kids and families fishing.

Isaiah 40:31 NIV

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles: they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Happy Fishing!!  Captain Tom & Trisha Bailas


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