February 01, 2024
For West Virginia angler Michael John Drake there’s no fishing like catfishing. And considering the record-breaking fish he hooked in December, it’s easy to see why.
Drake broke a state record for blue catfish after he landed a 69.45-pound behemoth. It broke the previous record by two pounds. It was the fourth time in as many years that the state’s blue catfish record has been broken, according to the West Virginia DNR. The previous record caught last year by Steven Price weighed 67.22 pounds. He was fishing in the R.C. Byrd Pool of the Ohio River near Gallipolis when the big fish struck. It took him 20 minutes to boat it.
"That’s about all I fish for. If I’m not catfishing, then I’m catching bait for catfish," he said in a news release from Mustad.
Drake baited fresh gizzard shad onto a 10/0 Mustad Demon circle hook on a Carolina rig with a 24-inch, 80-pound-test mono leader. The circle hook, with Mastad’s UltraPoint 4.3, assured the fish was released after certified. The catfish was measured at 50.51 inches by WVDNR hatchery manager Ryan Bosserman.
"I have relied on the Demon circle hook for many years. It suits me perfectly because I’m a CPR (catch-photo-release) guy.," Drake said in the Mustad release. "The way it works is fantastic; you engage the reel, put the rod in the holder, and then when it bends over, you crank down and the hook sets in the corner [of the fish’s mouth].
“I like to let all my fish go so I try to return them just as healthy as they were when they came in the boat,” he said. "With the Demon circle hook I rarely if ever gut-hook a fish. It’s always a perfect set in the corner of the mouth."
As the 40-pound monofilament mainline peeled off Drake's Abu Garcia 6500 reel, he knew a potential record was on the other end. “I’ve caught a lot of fish in the 45- to 50-pound range, and when they hit, they’ll pull some drag," he said. "When this one hit, it smoked my reel. It let me know really quickly that it had some shoulders on it."
Drake was able to keep the record fish alive in the 65-gallon live well of his G3 Sportsman 200 boat.
"You always hear the horror stories of everything going wrong with a big fish. You spend all the time, effort, and money going out chasing them. I try to cut out all the potential issues that could happen, and it all starts with having the right hook,” said Drake.
This article was written with information from news release information from the West Virginia DNR and Mustad.