Most trophy catfish are caught by anglers targeting them in relatively deep water while soaking or drifting cut bait — but not this time. Matt Murphy of Moncks Corner, S.C., was practicing for a bass tournament on Feb. 17, prospecting a shallow stump field on Lake Moultrie, when he crossed paths with an 83-pound, 10-ounce blue that opportunistically swallowed his 10-inch Zoom Ol’ Monster plastic worm.

“I hadn’t planned on catching any fish,” said Murphy, who was fishing in 7 feet of water on the main lake near Pinopolis. “I had a tournament on Saturday, so I was just practicing; looking to get bites and just shake them off, trying to find them. That one bit and I shook it, but it wouldn’t let go. It finally started swimming and I had no choice — the fight was on. After about 15 seconds, I knew it wasn’t a bass.”

     Although the 40-pound Samurai braid Murphy had spooled on his reel may have been sufficient for handling a large blue, the pressure pushed his medium/heavy worm rod and the 5/0 hook to the max. After 15 minutes, he finally laid eyes on the cause of the ruckus, but the battle was far from over.

“After I saw it, it took off again,” Murphy said. “I probably fought it another 15 minutes before I got it back to the boat. After I got it back, I thought I had it whipped, but it decided to take off, and we started all over again.”

When Murphy coaxed the fish back into range, he realized he was unprepared for such an encounter. Armed only with a rubber net intended for dipping out bass, he attempted a scoop that resulted in the net breaking under the strain. His next shot was a BogaGrip, but the jaws were unable to clamp on the fish’s oversized lip. Undeterred, Murphy managed to get a handhold in the fish’s gills and rolled it in the boat. Then, he headed to Black’s Camp for an official weight.

“I stopped a couple of times across the lake to wet him down,” said Murphy.  “I wanted him to live, as old as he was. At Black’s Camp they have a herring tank that pumps a lot of fresh oxygen in; we weighed him and put him in there. After my tournament, we took a couple more pictures and released him.”