98-Pound Cat

Eric and Will Edwards are shown with Will's 97.8 pound catfish caught in Guntersville Lake. 

10-year-old Will Edwards could fish the rest of his life and not top this.

He and his father Eric Edwards took a catfishing trip on Guntersville Lake a week or so back with Capt. J.R. Hall of Backwoods Catfishing Guides.

Will caught a big blue catfish that went 97.8 pounds. That’s a giant fish by anyone’s measure, but it means even more when you consider that Will only weighs 67 pounds. The big catfish was nearly as long as Will is tall.

“I told Will, ‘This is like catching a dinosaur,’” Eric said.

The Edwardses live in Owens Cross Roads. Eric and Capt. Hall went to high school together at Buckhorn.

“J.R. had been posting some pictures of some really good catfish, so I called him up and set up the trip,” Eric said. “His clients have a great time whether they catch a big one or not.”

Eric said he would have “felt blessed” if they had gotten a 50-pounder.

“We exceeded that,” Eric said.

A couple of weeks ago, one of J.R.’s clients caught a 91-pounder, then a new record for the boat. Will shattered that as well.

“We fished a few spots and we missed a couple of big ones early,” Eric said. “J.R. said you could tell they were big ones by the way they hit.”

They kept moving around, trying different spots, and caught a 30-pounder, a 25-pounder and some 5 and 10 pounders.

“We were fine with that,” Eric said. “We were having a blast.”

But then the big one hit and fighting it back to the boat was a bit of an ordeal. In addition to fighting a large fish, the rod it hit on had gotten tangled in some bottom structure earlier. J.R. had tightened down the reel’s drag to get it out of the structure and it had not been loosened back up.

You want it loose, so if the fish surges, it can pull line.

“The guide took the rod out of the rod holder and it almost jerked him out of the boat,” Eric said.

It would have been easy to have lost the fish right then, but J.R. was able to loosen the drag and the fight was on.

To complicate matters, they were also having to fight the fish against the current.

They had 8 rods out and there were some tangles with some of the others while battling the giant.

“My son couldn’t hold the rod and reel,” Eric said. “The guide kept a hand on the rod and Will used both hands to crank the reel.”

The fish could have easily been lost a second time when it got hung up in some of the bottom structure. Eric lifted the anchor a little bit and the drifting boat created enough slack in the line for the catfish to free itself.

“That was twice the fish should have popped the line,” Eric said.

A drift bag behind the boat ended up getting tangled in the boat’s motor. So there was a whole lot of adversity between hooking the fish and actually getting him in the boat.

“J.R. thought at first it was a flathead,” Eric said. “If it had been, it would have been a new state record. When it came up, we saw it was a blue.”

Even though a whole lot went on, it only took about 15 minutes to land the fish. J.R. used a big dip net to bring the fish into the boat.

“J.R. thought it was a 100-pounder when he saw it,” Eric said. “It almost went triple digits.”

He said J.R. has been fishing exclusively for catfish for 17 years and guiding for the last year, chasing the elusive 100-pounder.

“We will definitely go out and do a trip like this again,” Eric said. “I highly recommend it. The fish of a lifetime was just a nice bonus.”

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