Dusk was approaching, and the Edgefield, S.C., angler wanted to be off the water early because of a bad running light.
“When the sun sets, your running lights are to be on,” he said. “So my last cast was one in which I thought I was hung up not far out from the bank.”
As it turned out, he was indeed hung up – with a fish so large and powerful that landing it with a tiny spinnerbait and 12-pound test line didn’t seem at all like a fair fight.
“I snatched my line three or four times and assumed that it was loose because it got slack,” he said.
“Then I started reeling and my line tightened and I began to feel a little tug and then all of a sudden my line shot across the front of my boat, and it was on.”
After a 30-minute battle that included several line-stripping runs that required the use of a trolling motor to keep up, White finally caught a glimpse of his quarry: a mammoth flathead catfish.
“I did not know what he was until then due to the water being so dingy from the rain,” he said. “I was on the starboard side and reached with my left hand and grabbed him by the mouth on the bottom lip … and pulled him in.”
Once in the boat, White realized he had barely hooked the flathead through the rim of its bottom lip. It was too large to fit in the storage compartment, so he put a heavy tackle box on top of the fish to hold it still as he returned to the ramp.
He couldn’t weigh his catch on certified scales until Monday. In the meantime, storing it was a challenge.
“The cat would not fit in my cooler and I had to put him in a trash can that my Aunt Patsy and Eddie stored aluminum cans in,” White said
“I packed him in ice and had to get another one due to it splitting from all the weight.”
The official weight: 57 pounds, 8 ounces. The fish was also measured at 47 inches long with a 27-inch girth.
Although it isn’t a state record, it was still an exciting catch for someone using light tackle and light line, he said.
According to Georgia Outdoor News, which maintains a database of lake and river records using only fish caught by rod and reel, the largest Thurmond Lake flathead, landed in 2010 by Jake Manley of Plum Branch, S.C., weighed 64 pounds, 3.5 ounces.
The state-record flathead in Georgia is a tie at exactly 82 pounds, according to the Department of Natural Resources. Both fish were landed in the Altamaha River, the first by Carl Sawyer in 2006, followed by Jim Dieveney in 2010.
CAMPGROUNDS SAVED: Three Corps of Engineers campgrounds that were to close this spring will remain open because an April 2 lease agreement with Lincoln County, Ga., which will operate and maintain Broad River, Clay Hill and Hesters Ferry campgrounds.
Last November, the Corps announced recreation budget cuts that affected many public areas, including Thurmond Lake.
Campsites are $20 per night ($18 for primitive), and people with disabilities and senior citizens age 65 and older get a $5 discount. Online reservations will be available soon at lcgagov.org.
Reservations can also be made by phone: Broad River, (706) 359-2053; Clay Hill (706) 359-7495 and Hesters Ferry (706) 359-2746.
SAFE HOMES BENEFIT SHOOT: SafeHomes, Inc. will hold its fourth annual Take Aim at Domestic Violence trap shooting event on April 26 at Pinetucky Gun Club.
The event is open to the public. Professionals and novices, ages 12 and up, are invited to compete. Participants can sign up as an individual or as a team by April 18.
Individual entry fee is $70; individual military/service personnel, $50; youth 12-17, $40. Fees include two rounds of trap, ammunition, and a cookout with beverages. Spectators are also invited to join in the fun while showing their support by purchasing a dinner ticket for $15.
Details and registration forms are available online at safehomesdv.org or at the SafeHomes administrative office. Raffle tickets can be purchased from SafeHomes by calling (706) 736-2499 or through the trap shoot registration form. All monies raised through this event will be directed back into the local programs and services offered by SafeHomes.
BEST DAM BICYCLE RIDE: The Southeastern Firefighters Burn Foundation’s 11th annual Best Dam Bicycle Ride will be held at Thurmond Lake on April 27, with registration beginning at 7 a.m.
Sponsored by Chain Reaction Bicycles and Allegra Printing, the ride includes 25-, 60-, 80- and 100-mile road options. The mountain bike course on the historic Bartram Trail will have multiple ride options ranging from 5 to 50 miles. SORBA CSRA sponsors the mountain bike event.
To register, visit Chain Reaction Bicycles or active.com and search “Best Dam Ride.” The cost is $35 per rider in advance, $40 event day; children under 12 can ride free, if accompanied by an adult. Lunch, gift bags and rest stop refreshments will be provided. T-shirts are guaranteed for those who register by April 15.
BENDERDINKER TIME: The third annual Benderdinker canoe and kayak music festival will be held April 26 at 10 a.m. at Betty’s Branch boat ramp in Evans.
Benderdinker is a one-of-a kind, on-the-water festival, where individuals listen to live music and eat, all while sitting on the Savannah River in their canoe, kayak, raft or stand-up paddle board. This family-friendly event is perfect for first-time paddlers. Canoe and kayak rentals are available through local retailers. Registration costs $35 and includes paddle, lunch, tea and a goody bag. VIP packages are available for $45.
Registration allows for multiple people to ride on each vessel, but only one goody bag will be handed out per registration. Music will be provided by Ray Fulcher & The County Line, Skylir Hicks, and The Beauty Fools & the Mason Jars. A full lunch will be provided.
Proceeds go to Augusta Locally Grown, GRU Camp Sweet Life and Savannah Riverkeeper. Register online at benderdinker.com.