BRANSON, Mo. – Jacob Friend likes sporting challenges and, with a taste of a record fish, might just go after more.
On an annual family fishing trip to Lake Taneycomo, Friend reeled in a state record and potential IGFA world record flathead catfish – twice.
Taneycomo is famous for its record brown trout, which come from their hiding holes each fall to spawn near the headwaters. Anglers plying the top section of the lake have broken the state records twice in the past five years. Friend wanted to be the next.
When he saw a big shape swimming in a hole, he cast his fly. But this wasn’t a brown, it was a huge catfish.
“They had severe flooding last year and he must have come over the spillway,” Friend said. “We’ve seen flatheads in here, some gar. You normally don’t see that.”
Friend, a call maker from Grain Valley, Mo., had some fun reeling in the huge fish then released it.
“I got back to the hotel room and thought that might be a world record fish,” said Friend, on a family trip with sons Jordan and Andrew. “We starting talking and said we’re going to go back and see if we can find him.
“I like a challenge and Jordan kind of egged me on. He said, ‘I bet you can’t catch that fish again, Dad.’ And I said ‘I bet I can.’ We were laughing and having fun.”
After catching it on 6-pound line, Friend loaded up with 2-pound tippet to increase his record chances. The IGFA, or International Game Fish Association, awards all-tackle records on most sport fish as well as line categories. They recently began offering length records for anglers who release fish.
On the second day of fishing, Friend specifically went to scout for the behemoth. He found it in a hole and presented a woolly bugger.
“I just kept putting it in front of his nose and kept jigging it and he just inhaled it,” said Friend, who played it up and down the shoal for 20 minutes before getting it on shore. “I don’t think people realize catching 37.25-pound fish on 2-pound tippet, that’s tough. I’ve lost a lot of smaller fish on 2-pound tippet.”
He carried the fish up the bank to the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery, the Missouri Department of Conservation’s largest. Officials put it in a vacant raceway, helped Friend weigh and measure it and got him started on record paperwork. It eclipsed the lake record, and he’ll get a Master Angler’s award, which the state gives out for species of a certain size.
The IGFA record is another matter. Friend said he’s going through the process of a length record, which includes “about 15 pages of regulations.” The IGFA record on 2-pound line is 52 pounds, but he thinks he’s got the length mark at 42.25 inches.
“It may be a length class record if they allow everything,” he said. “It’s a fabulous fish … My five minutes of fame. It was a just a fun experience. We’ll just have to see on the world record.
“You could have never imagined this, especially in Taneycomo. It’s notorious for big browns and big rainbows, just an awesome trout fishery. The whole thing was really unusual. They are not a cold water fish and usually would move on down the lake. The whole thing wasn’t on my to-do list.”
Getting a world record might now have just made his list. Friend sells competitive waterfowl calls through his company, Legacy Outdoor Sports, and travels to hunt and fish. Now with a taste, he’s thinking that catching a world record or two is a challenge he might take up.
“I’m totally green at it,” he said, “but now that I’ve done this, I’m going to join the club and go through it and go looking for line pound records.” Hopefully, he’ll only have to catch his next record once.