Hundred-pound fish reeled in at classic

Luke Clayton, Outdoors Editor. (thanks to outdoor writer Keith Sutton for his ‘on the scene'account).

On November 3, the Bass Pro Shop's Big Cat Quest Classic catfish tournament was held on the Mississippi River. Tournament headquarters was at Memphis and the event drew over 200 of the best catfishermen in the country. This results of this event will be talked about for many years to come in the circles of those that love to fish for catfish. A catfish weighing over 100 pounds can be equated to a whitetail buck scoring over 225 BC inches. TWO such fish were weighed in on this eventful day!

Around mid-morning, veteran catfish pro Phil King of Corinth, Miss. hooked a fish he knew was much bigger than anything he had previously felt on his line, and King has caught many big blues and flatheads.. His teammates, Tim Haynie and Leland Harris, pulled their anchor so they could follow the big catfish and give King a better chance of landing it. The strategy worked. After a 30-minute battle, King brought the gigantic blue cat close enough for Haynie to net.

"When we had it in the boat, I was pretty certain my dream had come true," King said. "After years of trying, I finally had caught a catfish weighing more than 100 pounds."

Three pounds more to be exact, a record weight for a catfish weighed in during a U.S. tournament. Although other teams brought in some very respectable cats as well, King's 103.11-pound blue was enough to put his team in the No. 1 spot at the end of the first day of competition. Their five-fish limit pushed the Fairbanks scale to 163.5 pounds, nearly 46 pounds ahead of second place.

"We've just seen history being made," said Ken Freeman, founder, owner and tournament director of Bass Pro Shop's Big Cat Quest. "Never before has a century-mark catfish been weighed in a catfishing tournament. I always hoped I would see it, but I never thought I actually would."

When Day 2 began, King and his teammates knew they needed to catch more good fish to maintain their lead.

"When you're competing on the Mississippi River with anglers who are the best in the sport, anything is possible," King said. "We knew we had to fish hard and bring in some more respectable cats to maintain our lead."

When Day 2 began, King and his teammates knew they needed to catch more good fish to maintain their lead.

"When you're competing on the Mississippi River with anglers who are the best in the sport, anything is possible," King said. "We knew we had to fish hard and bring in some more respectable cats to maintain our lead."

Harold Dodd and Cary Winchester of Cape Girardeau, Mo. also were fishing hard when dawn broke on Nov. 4. For 20 minutes, they had been fishing a hole where Dodd caught an almost-50-pound blue cat a week earlier. Then, suddenly, Winchester's rod went down hard. Winchester, who has caught Mississippi River cats up to 95 pounds, knew the fish was huge when he couldn't budge it from the bottom.

"It took half an hour for me just to turn its head and get it coming toward the boat," he said. "And another 15 minutes passed before I got the fish close enough for Harold to net."

Dodd and Winchester are among the country's premier big-river catfish anglers, and they had no doubt they had caught a fish equal to or larger than King's 103-pounder.

"It was hard for me to believe it had really happened," Dodd said. "But when we finally had that big scoundrel in the boat, I knew there were going to be at least two catfish over 100 pounds weighed in at this tournament. I was excited to no end."

After the first day's weigh-in, Ken Freeman had told a reporter, "I wouldn't be surprised if King's record stood for 20 years or more." He was only off by 20 years minus a day.

"There was no way I thought anyone would beat the big fish from Day 1," he said. "But then, during the second day's weigh-in, a rumor started circulating that another team in line had a fish over 100 pounds. I was so skeptical of the possibility, I thought, "Yeah, and what great angler is making that estimate?' But when I heard it was Dodd and Winchester, I knew they were fully capable of accurately judging the size of any catfish they caught. Six boats later, they came up, and when I saw that big catfish, I knew immediately it would make the mark. Assistant tournament director Denny Halgren gasped, ‘It's even bigger than yesterday's fish.'"

It took both Winchester and Dodd to carry the blue catfish to the stage. When they finally got the fish wedged in a plastic bucket and on the Fairbanks scale, a cheer went up from the crowd that had gathered to see the weigh-in at Mud Island River Park. Winchester's monster weighed an even 108 pounds, another new tournament record.

"I'm still in state of total shock," Winchester said as he watched the enormous catfish swimming in the mobile aquarium where it was transferred after the weigh-in. "This is an incredible fish, one I'll never forget catching as long as I live. And for it to happen here at the world championship with all these great catfish anglers participating, that's just icing on the cake."

If Phil King was upset that his record only lasted 24 hours, he didn't show it. But that could be because he had another dream come true on that final tournament day. He and teammates Tim Haynie and Leland Harris brought in five more cats with a total weight of 127.5 pounds. They had sweeped the world championship with a cumulative total of 291 pounds, and won almost $30,000 in cash and prizes.

"For years now, I've had two main goals as an angler: to win a world championship and to catch a catfish over 100 pounds," King said. "This weekend, I accomplished both those things. To say I'm on cloud nine would certainly be an understatement."

Listen to Luke Clayton's Outdoors Radio www.catfishgold.com on Nov. 17 to hear Phil King give an account of this tournament.