West Point Blue Catfish Record Caught By Kayak Angler
T.R. Clark, of LaGrange, may be the only angler on GON’s Georgia Lake & River Records listings to have a 50-pound-plus fish that was caught from a kayak. His recent 54-lb. blue catfish from West Point Lake taken while fishing from a Feel Free Lure 11.5 kayak smashed the old record of 37-lbs, 5.44-ozs. set in 2018.
“Two years ago my wife bought me a kayak,” said T.R.
T.R. said before he was married he’d hunt and fish every chance he got. Then, life happened with a wife and three kids. Today, he has a 16-year-old son, a 17-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old daughter. His 18-year old daughter Megan is the one who took an interest in fishing and put T.R. back on the water.
“Last year when quarantine started, I came home from work early one day and Megan said, ‘Dad, let’s grab our kayaks and go to the lake.’ We live 10 minutes from one of the boat ramps,” said T.R.
Most of T.R.’s kayak fishing is done up the lake in the river in order to avoid the crowds on the lower end. He said he’ll often paddle within a half mile either direction of the boat ramp before he starts fishing.
“So we went fishing (during quarantine), and I ended up catching a few big gizzard shad and decided to anchor and fish a little bit,” said T.R. “I messed around and caught a striper and caught probably a 20-lb. flathead, and we were hooked.”
Since that day, they’ve fished year-round for catfish.
“Megan has caught a 30-lb. flathead, and I’ve caught multiple blues and flatheads that were in that 30- to 35-lb. range,” said T.R.
On Sunday, April 18, T.R. arrived home from Callaway Baptist in LaGrange and decided to spend a relaxing afternoon on the river fishing.
“Megan didn’t want to go that day so I went out and caught some big gizzards,” said T.R.
To catch gizzard shad, T.R. will often go to wind-blown pockets and creeks where the bait has been pushed into. He uses his depthfinder to locate the shad and then throws a 6-foot cast net from his kayak.
“I may have to cast 80 times, sometimes I cast five,” said T.R.
T.R. regularly runs four rods out his kayak in different combinations of Carolina rigs and Santee rigs. He’ll cast out the Santee rigs, and his Carolina rigs are often on the bottom below the kayak or suspended in the water column below him.
“I’m just trying to figure out what they want that day,” said T.R.
He tries to keep the gizzards alive using a small bait tank, but they end up dying pretty quick, and he’ll resort to fishing them dead.
“We had a prevailing northwest wind for two or three days straight,” said T.R. “I ended up fishing a southeast river bend on the edge of a creek mouth.
“It was slow. I was texting with some of my buddies and told them I was going to give it 10 or 15 more minutes, and I was going to go on to the house.”
It happens so often that right before an angler is fixing to call it day, things change for the better.
“It wasn’t five minutes later and one of my rods that I had casted out toward the main river channel got a hit, the Santee rig,” said T.R. “I am using circle hooks, and I reeled down on it and put pressure on the fish. I didn’t know what I had. I could tell it was going to be a decent fish. I could tell it was going to be a blue by the way it was rolling.
“When I got him closer to the boat, that is when he decided to start fighting. He’d rip drag and go to the bottom, and then I’d pull him up and then he’d rip drag and go to the bottom. It was on! I had to do that with him for I don’t know how long to be honest with you. We went back and forth like that a few times.
“When I finally got him up to the surface, I knew right away he was going to be a 40-plus, and I was like ‘oh boy!’ I let him wear himself out.”
T.R. was finally able to lip the fish and pull him in the kayak. He usually weighs a fish on hand-held scales if it looks at least in the 30-lb. range. However, this fish was too big to get a weight on while trying to stand up and balance in a kayak.
“I pulled anchor, reeled every thing in and went to the closest beach I could find,” said T.R. “I got my scales out and weighed him. I am a catch-and-release guy. I knew the record was 37 and some change, and if my fish was 40 or 45, I thought I may just take some pictures and have a nice story to tell, but when I weighed him and saw the scale go over 50 pounds, I knew I had a decision to make.
“I called a couple buddies and asked them what I needed to do. I had half a mind to release him, and one of my buddies said I had a monster and needed to get it certified. I decided to do that, and if he made it, I’d release him, and if not, we’d be eating fish tacos for a month.”
The next day the fish was certified and weighed and now sets the bar high for someone wanting to break the next blue catfish record on West Point.
As gas prices continue to rise, it’s comforting to know that you don’t have to own a $70,000 bass boat to catch a really big fish, or even break a lake and river record.
West Point Lake Records
|Largemouth Bass||14-lbs., 2-ozs.||Richard Little||04/15/88|
|Spotted Bass||6-lbs., 9-ozs.||Wendell Young||02/07/90|
|White Crappie||3-lbs., 14-ozs.||Willie Arnold||02/15/89|
|Black Crappie||3-lbs., 6-ozs.||Edward Cagle||03/14/96|
|Hybrid Bass||14-lbs., 12.75-ozs.||Dustin Pate||03/13/09|
|Shoal Bass||3-lbs., 7-ozs.||Danny Swafford||08/02/97|
|Blue Catfish||54-lbs.||T.R. Clark||04/18/21|
|Flathead Catfish||48-lbs.||Mike Felter||08/22/20|
|Yellow Perch||1-lb., 2.4-ozs.||Toney Booker||11/18/17|
|Channel Catfish||16-lbs., 7.5-ozs.||Owen Knabe||4/22/18|
|Striped Bass||36-lbs., 2.72-ozs.||Mike Bradford||03/08/19|
Requirements For Record Fish
• Fish must be caught legally by rod and reel in a manner consistent with state game and fish regulations.
• Catch must be weighed on accurate Georgia DOA certified scales with at least two witnesses present, who must be willing to provide their names and phone numbers so they can be contacted to verify the weighing of the fish.
• Witnesses to the weighing must be at least 18 years old, and they must not be members of the angler’s immediate family nor have a close personal relationship with the angler.
• Catch must be positively identified by qualified DNR personnel.
GON’s records are compiled and maintained by GON, to be awarded at GON’s discretion. Additional steps may be required for record consideration.
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