As the owner of NC Marine Fabrication, Austin Sartin of Burlington has placed ample thought into the kind of rod holding systems that help people catch fish – including his own. While enjoying some down time at Kerr Lake on August 7th, Sartin tested his outfit while putting Brett Meager of Creedmoor on her personal best blue catfish, a beast that stretched their scales to 88 pounds.
Meager is no stranger to trophy catfish, as fiancé of Wes Jordan of Redbeard Cats Guide Service, she’s seen her fair share. But, while Jordan handled a charter at Kerr, she hopped aboard with Sartin and his wife, Kristy, for a day of fun fishing.
“We were fishing what I call feeder creeks,” said Sartin, “some of the larger coves that feed the main lake. We started fairly shallow, 15 feet deep, and made our way out towards the deeper main body of water while working the points and channels. We caught probably 10 or 12 fish before we caught the big one.”
Slow trolling a spread of 6 to 12 rods from his stern-mounted rod rack and the rod holders lining his gunwales, Sartin alternated rods between suspended baits and bottom bouncers, using planer boards to cover a swath of water up to 75 yards wide with cut gizzard shad. Each rod pulled a Santee rig with up to 2 ounces of weight, either by itself, suspended on a bobber, pulled by a planer board, or on a bobber pulled by a planer board. The 5/0 circle hook on each rig is carried by a 25-pound monofilament leader and tied to a 30-pound monofilament mainline.
“It hit one of the side planer rods,” said Sartin. “I just saw the rod bow over and wasn’t sure if it was hung up on the bottom or not. It just kept on bowing over and then the drag started peeling off.”
“I heard the rod go down and I was like, ‘whoa!’, said Meager. “Austin told me to come back there, so I ran back and started reeling. We saw it come up about 100 yards out and it was massive.”
“She hadn’t fought the fish for 60 seconds, maybe a minute and a half, when the fish comes up on the surface out of 35 feet of water,” said Sartin. “It just blew the surface of the water up. It looked like somebody was drowning out there. Then, the back half of the fish comes out of the water and I see the tail. I knew then that it was a giant.”
As Meager struggled to regain lost line, Sartin maneuvered his boat backwards with the trolling motor to help her refill the spool. In a relatively short span of 7 to 8 minutes, the fish was boat side, but only for a moment. After a near capture, the big blue made one last run for freedom before being subdued.
“I reeled him back in again and when he came up, Austin netted him,” she said. “We got him in the boat and we were both high fiving and jumping around. We lifted the hook and it was barely even in his mouth.”
As the crew motored ashore, Jordan arrived with his party and a set of scales to properly weigh the fish. There, Meager entered the water to revive her trophy before release.