Few people ever get the opportunity to reel in a fish that weighs more than they do.
Even fewer anglers ever experience that thrill with a new potential state record on the end of the line.
But 12-year-old Lawson Boyte did both Saturday when he hooked a massive 114-pound blue catfish in the Mississippi River near Lake Providence.
If certified by the Louisiana Outdoor Writer’s Association, Lawson’s catch will be the state’s brand new No. 1-ranked blue cat, coming in about four pounds heavier than a 110.19-pound monster caught by Keith Day on the Mississippi near St. Francisville in 2005.
“I was reeling in to check my bait and pulled up so it wouldn’t get hung on the rocks,” said Boyte, a 5-foot-2-inch, 100-pound seventh grader at Oak Grove High School. “When I pulled up, my pole went back down in the water.
“When I started reeling, I was yelling, ‘Get out of my way,’ but they didn’t believe me until they started hearing the drag come out.”
Boyte was fishing with his uncle, Jim Danley, and Danley’s 12-year-old son, Bo, when the big cat sucked in his shad in about 30 feet of water 12:45 Saturday afternoon.
“He was wanting to move to another spot, and I always tell ‘em when we’re getting ready to move to get your rod up high and reel in real fast so you won’t hang up on nothing while you coming in,” said Jim Danley, 44. “When he picked it up to to reel fast, it worked out perfectly. It bit just the moment he picked the rod up and started reeling.
“He said he had a good one and I looked up there and he was holding it with both hands and it was just taking out line. He held on for a while, and when the fish quit taking line, I showed him how to pull back and reel as your rod tip goes back down.”
Boyte, who was fishing with a 9-foot Ugly Stik and a Penn spinning reel spooled with 65-pound Power Pro braid, said he fought the giant for about 10 minutes.
“Not much was going through my mind but getting it in the boat,” he said. “I was amazed how that little line kept it up for so long.”
Danley said the big cat came to the surface about 50 yards from his 15-foot DuraCraft, which was tied to some willow trees along the river bank. He untied the boat and they headed over to bring the monster aboard.
“That old fish, he got tired and came to the top and just kind of rolled over a little bit. He was wore out,” Danley said. “It was overwhelming, that’s for sure. It was something to see. Everybody just got quiet there for a second.”
They weighed the fish at 115 pounds at Danley’s father’s house, and after a quick Google search revealed the state record was a distinct possibility, the mad dash was on for certified scales, he said.
“We went all the way to Monroe and got over there and the man weighed the fish and it turned out his scales weren’t certified,” Danley said. “So we came all the way back to Oak Grove and of all places, we weighed him at the scrap iron place right down the road.
“Nobody had even thought about that.”
The big cat, which is 60 ½ inches long with a 40-inch girth and a 12-inch tail, tipped the certified scales at 114 pounds on the nose, and Boyte’s dad, Larry, said he hopes to send off the official application for LOWA certification within days.
He noted that Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist Ryan Daniel had already signed the paperwork, and estimated the catfish to be about 25 to 30 years old.
“It’s kind of wild,” said Larry, 46, an agricultural science teacher at nearby Forest High School. “The biggest kick everybody has is getting on search engines and typing his name in to see how many things pop up.”
The huge fish is currently stored in the concession stand chest freezer at Oak Grove High School’s football field, but Larry said Lawson's mom, Dodie Atwood, is working on getting a replica mount made of the big cat.
“We would like to try to eat it, but honestly it’s probably going to be too tough,” he said.
Jim Danley said he and Bo were happy to witness the spectacle firsthand, and he was pleased Lawson landed a huge cat that would have made old timers on the river proud.
He’s just glad everything worked out and they were actually able to get the fish aboard his 15-foot boat.
“I said if he’d have gotten away, I’d have told everybody we had a 100-pound catfish on the line, and I’d have been right,” Danley said with a smile. “But everybody would have been like, ‘Yeah, it probably only weighed 20 pounds!’”