A Memphis, Tenn., fisher decided he wanted a change of scenery a couple months ago, and that decision led to the new Mississippi record flathead.
According to The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal, Matt Bingham, 46, made the drive down to Tunica, Miss., after growing tired of his usual stretch on the Mississippi River along Memphis. There, Bingham reeled in a monster 77.7-pound flathead, setting a new Mississippi record.
"This is a big deal to me because I've always wanted to catch a record fish, whether it was a state record or a world record or whatever," Bingham told The Commercial Appeal. "But it's even more special because I wasn't expecting it. I was fishing a place that I don't normally fish -- and even after I had landed the fish, it was a while before I knew it was a record."
The previous record holder was a 77-pounder caught by Caledonia, Miss., native Joey Pounders in 2009 on the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway.
Bingham said he began fishing on the Arkansas side of the river, where he almost immediately caught three catfish in the 10- to 12-pound range. For whatever reason, he decided to move, first to a spot that was too windy to anchor, then to a spot near a rock dike, where he landed the monster cat.
At first, he said, it seemed like the line had been snagged, but the fish began fighting soon enough. After reeling in all his other lines, Bingham fought the fish for nearly 10 minutes, making one failed attempt at netting it before finally bringing it on board.
After Bingham had heard that Tunica River Park were looking for a big catfish to display in their aquarium, he had the fish weighed at 77.7 pounds Kimble's Fish Company in Memphis.
Bingham said he still wondered if the fish would be recognized as a Mississippi record since he had been fishing with an Arkansas license. Because Mississippi and Arkansas share a border, they also have a reciprocal enforcement agreement. Bingham decided to send in his application with the certified weight and signatures of two witnesses anyway, along with a Google Earth image marking his location.
Good enough for the state, who certified the catch on May 8.
The fish eventually made its way to the Tunica River Park, and after determining it was healthy and disease-free, it was displayed in the park's alligator tank. However, there was a problem with the park's aeration system, and the fish died on May 12.
Still, Bingham is just thrilled to be a state record holder.
"It means a whole lot to me just to be in that record book no matter how long the record stands," Bingham said. "They sent me a really nice certificate that's kind of like a diploma that I can keep forever -- and no matter what happens, I can always say that I caught a state-record fish."
According to the International Game Fish Association, the world record flathead was a 123-pounder caught by Ken Paulie on May 19, 1998, at the Elk City Reservoir in Independence, Kan.