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Mike Thornberry figures that if a man has to be laid off from work for three or four weeks, it couldn't happen at a better time than when summer-like weather is prevailing throughout Guilford County, the state and eastern half of the nation.

A machinist, Mike said layoffs in his field aren't uncommon during this time of the year. In most cases, it is only for a few days, but Thornberry has been out of work for three weeks now. However, he isn't complaining just yet.That's because bass fishing has been good.

``I told the folks at work that I didn't mind at all, that I was just going to go fishing and catch Ole Mr. Big,' said the 25-year-old angler. ``I'm single, and I don't have to ask anyone's permission to go fishing. I just take off whenever I want.'

He ``wanted' on a recent afternoon. The result of that outing was his best catch ever - a largemouth bass weighing in at 11 pounds, 8 ounces. He let his fellow workers know he had indeed caught Ole Mr. Big.

The fish was weighed on a certified scale at a curb market near his home.

``That fish hit a spinnerbait, one weighing about three-eighths of an ounce,' said Mike. ``I was fishing it in deep water near the dam but the bass wasn't too deep. I threw it out, let it drop for a couple of counts, then started reeling it in. I guess that fish was about three feet deep, not more than five.'

That trophy weighed 4 pounds, 8 ounces more than his previous best bass, another farm pond catch that now is on the wall of his den. The bigger fish also will occupy a place of honor on that wall. Mike, who successfully completed a course in taxidermy at Guilford Technical Community College, will mount the recent catch.

He doesn't plan to work at taxidermy, just to mount the fish he catches and some trophies caught by friends. He mounted one raccoon, but said that required so much work that he will work only with fish in the future.

``I fished Lake Jordan last weekend and had pretty good luck,' said Mike. ``I caught several bass down there and one of them as a good fish - a little better than five pounds.'

When the local angler wants to fish a long day, he heads to Jordan, Lake Brandt, High Rock Lake or Badin Lake. But when he has just a couple of hours to fish, he heads for farm ponds in the southern part of Guilford County.

``I fish with my brother, David, and with Terry Atkins a lot,' he said. 'I have permission to fish some ponds, and each one of them has access to other ponds, so we usually have a pretty good place to fish.'

The Thornberry brothers acquired their love of fishing from their dad, Mack. The family for the past 20 years has owned a cottage on High Rock Lake, and it was there as children that they began fishing.

Mack started the boys by working with them on the pier at the family cottage. It was only a few years later they were venturing on the water in a fishing boat powered by a 5-horsepower motor.

``We started fishing by the time I was 5 and David was 7,' said Mike. ``We would get up at 5 o'clock in the morning and go out on the pier and start fishing. We didn't even put our clothes on, just wore our pajamas. By the time David was 10, we were going out on the lake in the boat. Dad liked to sleep later than we did, so we had some strict rules about the boat. We had to stay right in front of the cottage when using it when we were real young.'

Mike's early boating education comes in handy today. While he has a bass boat powered by a 70-horsepower outboard motor, he also fishes often from a 14-foot aluminum boat. When putting the aluminum boat on a small lake or pond, Mike powers it with a 2 1/2-horsepower outboard.

David, in the formative stages of his fishing education, caught a 5-pound largemouth bass. Mike recalls they took the big fish to the cottage, someone took a picture of David and the bass, then David returned to the lake and released the fish to provide sport for another angler on another day. David years later caught a bass a bit bigger than that early catch.

The brothers Thornberry have caught a lot of bluegills, catfish, largemouth bass and white bass through the years from High Rock. They haven't used the cottage for several years because it has been rented. However, Mike continues to fish that lake as often as possible.

``Spring is my favorite time to fish it, too,' he said. ``That's when the white bass start schooling on top, and you can catch them two-at-the-time every now and then.

``We tie on a Little Cleo and then tie on a small Roostertail spinner behind that. When the white bass are schooling, you can really catch them with this rig. The best fishing usually is about mid-April, but you can also catch a lot of white bass in September.'

Being out of work can be a disaster. It doesn't have to be if you are single, 25 years old and love fishing. And if a layoff has to come, it might as well be at a time when the bass are cooperating.

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