June 2, 2005

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

Most of us have just one thing on our mind when we catch a big catfish Ė what type of batter to fry him in. Odds are, batter was the last thing on the mind of Tim Pruitt when he finally landed his catfish last week. The Illinois angler was probably more concerned about his giant blue catfish taking a bite of him.

The world record fish tipped the scales at a whopping 124 pounds and measured 58 inches in length with a 44-inch girth. Pruitt hauled the monster out of the Mississippi River near Alton, IL, on Sunday, May 22nd. Letís put this into perspective. If this fish was standing next to you, heíd be wearing size 44-waist jeans on his 4í10Ē inch frame. Thatís the equivalent of one husky sixth grader.

The monster barely fit into the boatís livewell, but it made it to shore where the record weight was verified by an Illinois Conservation Officer as well as a biologist from the stateís Department of Natural Resources. The fish easily eclipsed the Illinois state record blue catfish that weighed a measly 85 pounds. It was a closer race for the world record, but the Pruitt fish bested the former record holder, a 121-pound, eight-ounce fish caught in Texas last year.

In case youíre wondering, the Missouri state record for a blue catfish caught on reel and line is a 113-pound mammoth taken from the Missouri River back to 1991.

The story quickly made national headlines. But unfortunately for Pruitt, and the fish, the story ended on a sad note just days later when the giant unexpectedly died in transit to Kansas City where it was to be placed in a live display in the Cabelas store. Now the company will have to make due with a replica of the national record holder, and will send a second copy of the fish back to Illinois for display.

As if I really needed an excuse to go to Cabelas, but still it sounds like a good reason to travel to KC to view the replica. I sure would have loved to see the real thing though.

I realize Cabelas has plenty of money (plenty of my money for that matter) but I still would have hated to have had to pay the taxidermy bill for the big fish. It cost me a couple hundred bucks to have a 9-pound bass mounted, so I suspect you can add at least one zero to that total for a 124-pound catfish to be replicated. But unlike my living room, where admission is free and I have no merchandise for sale, Iím sure Cabelas will probably be able to induce a shopper or two into leaving some money behind to help pay for the mount. Theyíll be selling the magic bait which Pruitt used to catch the record to go along with the same fishing line and the rod and reel that the new master angler will soon be cashing in for endorsing.

Cabelas never called about my bass. I couldnít get any endorsement deals from the spinner bait manufacturer and I donít even recall what rod and reel I used or what type of line I had. Iím sure my wife would love to donate one of her least favorite living room decorations to the outdoor store, even if all they did was pitch it in the trash. Then again, my fish was several pounds shy of the 13-pound, 14-ounce Missouri state record largemouth bass caught by Marvin Bushong on Bull Shoals Lake in 1961.

My biggest bluegill didnít measure up to Robert Giovaniniís 3-pounder caught in 1963 out of a private pond near Bevier. Iím not any closer in the crappie category, as my personal best two pounds and three ounces, is less than half the state record holder, a four-pound, nine-ounce fish caught by Sam Barbee in 2000. Oh well, Iíve never expected to get famous from fishing.

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