While out on Stillhouse Hollow Lake mid-morning on Aug. 6, I got a phone call from a fellow angler over on Belton Lake.
Randy Bane was phoning me because he had landed what he believed to be a Belton Lake-record blue catfish in the catch-and-release category. Fish records in this category are based solely on the length of the fish, not the fish’s weight.
Belton Lake catfish guide Brian Worley suggested Bane phone me to get the details on submitting a complete application for the potential record.
As I talked Bane through the process, I explained the three critical items: a clear photograph of him holding the fish, a clear photograph of the fish on a measuring board with its mouth closed and tail lobes pinched together and the measuring board’s units clearly displayed, and a witness to the measurement.
With that, we ended the call so Bane could work to obtain these items and get the fish out of his boat’s livewell and back into the water. We agreed to touch base later so I could assist him in completing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s application.
Bane has been fishing since he was 8 years old. Bane’s father introduced him to the sport. The two typically travelled to Somerville Lake to fish from their family’s boat. Bane recalls catching catfish at that young age, and really getting interested in specifically pursuing that species of fish.
Fast forward 52 years and Bane, now age 60, continues to pursue catfish recreationally.
On this particular Saturday morning, Bane was set up in shallow water. He had deployed seven rods, each baited with cut shad, with the shad impaled on red, Gamakatsu 7/0 hooks on the terminal end of a Santee-Cooper rig.
The Santee-Cooper rig uses a weight to get the bait to the bottom, and a small float on a short leader tied between the weight and the hook to lift that bait just slightly up off the bottom. In Bane’s setup, he leaves about a foot of line between the weight and the float, and about five inches of line between the float and the baited hook.
Bane’s gear choice included a B ‘n’ M Poles Silver Cat Elite rod mated with an Abu-Garcia 6500 series casting reel. The rods were all placed into Monster brand rod holders.
With so many rods deployed, keeping the boat immobile is a must. For that reason, Bane was not only tied off to a stump, but had both of his Raptor shallow water anchors deployed.
At 9:27 a.m., Bane heard commotion in the shallow water nearby and suspected a catfish had picked up one of his baits. As he surveyed all of the rods, he quickly identified which rod the catfish was on and latched onto it.
During the nearly 20 minute battle which ensued, Bane had to constantly pass his rod over or under the other six rods so as to avoid a tangle, which he did flawlessly. As the tussle continued, the fish got hung momentarily on a submerged stump, but the 65-pound test braid and 50-pound test leader held.
Eventually, Bane worked the fish to boatside and got it into his heavy duty R ‘n’ S brand net. Still, the game was far from over. Bane’s back is not in the best of shape, and as a result, he made several failed attempts at getting the fish in the boat. On his fourth try, Bane was finally able to get the fish over the gunwale, only to have the nearly straightened hook fall out of the fish’s mouth and onto the deck of the boat.
Bane phoned his wife, Tanya Bane, and let her know he had landed a large fish which he suspected might be a record; he let her know he was going to require some help. By the time Bane got to the meeting point with his wife, she had mustered the assistance of catfishing guide Brian Worley, fellow catfisherman Jerry Dillard, neighbor Keith Morales, nephew Todd Lisenbe and friend Jason Cummins.
Bane’s 22-foot SeaArk flat-bottomed, aluminum fishing boat was made just for this kind of fish. The boat is equipped with a 250-horsepower Suzuki SS outboard motor and a 36-volt, 112-pound thrust Minn Kota GPS-equipped trolling motor.
The boat’s quality, 100-gallon livewell did a great job of keeping the fish healthy. The fact that the fish was taken in hot, shallow water also meant it was acclimated to such conditions, unlike fish taken from deeper, cooler water, which can perish in the summer months when kept in a livewell’s hot water.
The assembled crowd worked to help Bane get the required photos. Bane’s blue catfish measured 47½ inches in length. This was just a quarter inch longer than the current Belton blue catfish record.
Later that evening Bane and I completed his application via a phone conversation. I then emailed the unsigned document to him for signature. Bane then emailed the signed application and the required photos to TPWD which later acknowledged receipt of the application.
If all goes as expected, TPWD will issue Bane a certificate making him the new catch-and-release water body record holder for blue catfish on Belton Lake.
Contrary to what many anglers believe, no weighing of fish is required for fish entered in the catch-and-release category. TPWD specifically eliminated weight as a requirement for this category so as to greatly reduce the handling and out-of-water time required to get fish to a certified scale, place them on that scale, weigh them, then return them to the water.
Local anglers requiring assistance with record applications or weighing of kept fish may contact Holding the Line Guide Service at 254-368-7411. It has certified scales up to 60 pounds capacity.