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Big fish on the Big Muddy

By Dave McCaskill

It was a late summer day and my wife Shelly was going for a bike ride at the Washington Riverfront bike trail. I said I would go along because I wanted to try out my new fishing reel. I really didn’t expect to catch anything I just wanted to test the reel. I tied on a 3/4oz. jig with a plastic minnow that I had used in Florida last spring to fish for Cobia. When we arrived at the bike trail I headed for the river right below the old sand plant. It’s a nice shady spot for the afternoon and the river channel comes right up next to the bank.

On my first cast I realized I could really sail the 3/4oz. jig. On my third cast I gave it a good hurl and let the jig sink in the current while I adjusted my drag. When I reeled up the slack and my line came tight, I realized I was snagged on a solid object, my first thought was “what could I possibly be hung up on way out there in the channel?”, so I reared back and gave it a jerk. At that point I realized I am not hung up I am hooked up. The spool on my new reel began to zing as the fish took off strait for the opposite bank.

I tightened my drag down just as much as I thought I could get away with. Looking down at my spool I saw that about half of my 200 yards of 10lb. test line was already out and the fish seemed to have no intention of slowing down. With that much line out I knew the stretch in the line would allow me to put some pressure on the spool. I slowly put more pressure on the spool with my palm and the fish finally came to a halt. By then I only had about 30 yards left on the spool.

I have been in this spot before; the first time it happened I was on a fishing pier in Florida I had hooked a 100+ lb. Tarpon. On that day I had regained quite a bit of line by palming the spool and walking backward, then running forward and reeling like heck. That worked for awhile but when the Tarpon made a second run I was left with about 10 yards of line. Well I had no other good ideas for this fish so I tried it again.

I walked back up the bank and then quickly walked forward reeling over and over. By now I have what looks to be about half my line back but if I let up any pressure I lose what I just regained. I know my 10lb. test may not hold out much longer, but if I can land this fish it may vary well be a line class world record. I have seen Blue Cats taken from this area well over 100 lbs. All I know is this fish is big and I am not giving up until he does.

I kept up my strategy of walking the fish backward and reeling forward until he was about 50 yards out. Stopping for a rest I can hear my tight line whistling in the wind and suddenly the whistle stopped the line went slack and I reel up my jig. The fish won and my bid for a line class record was gone.

You never know when you are going to be in the right place at the right time. Most Catfish (if that is what it was) are normally not caught on artificial baits so this incident was very unusual, never the less one should never pass up a chance to wet a line. You never know what might decide to bite and I sure had more fun than I had bargained for!