Athens Angler Snares Record Channel Catfish Using Wooly Bugger

An angler from Athens won't have to exaggerate when he tells his story about his greatest catch -- he has a state record to prove it.

Brian Smith set a Texas record for catch-and-release when he snared a 20.8-pound channel catfish using a fly rod.

The fish was nearly three feet in length and, after taking a few pictures, was released back into the casting pond at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.  The fish is now also a record for the casting pond.

Smith, who is a volunteer at the TFFC, is no stranger to fishing.

“Fly-fishing is my passion, and nothing could have been greater than what happened that day,” Smith is quoted as saying in a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department news release. “I was very excited to have caught this fish. I'm an avid fly-fisherman and am trying to achieve my Elite Angler Award using only my fly rods. This fish marked a stepping stone in reaching my goal. I hope this experience can show other anglers that fly-fishing can be used to take fish that most people wouldn't believe you could ever catch on a fly rod.”

With the record-setting catch, Smith has four of the five Big Fish Awards needed to earn Elite Angler status.

According to the TPWD, Smith was using an 8-weight G. Loomis Experience rod with an Okuma SLV 7/8 reel spooled with Scientific Angler GPX 8-weight, weight-forward Mastery Series line with a furled leader and 10-pound-test tippet. He was using a fly he tied himself, a size 8 gold bead head white/purple Wooly Bugger.

“While learning to fly-fish I have developed a special way to detect and catch catfish on a fly-rod which is very unusual,” Smith told the TPWD. “I use a method known to some fly-fishers as a dead drift. It involves a strike indicator or a shorter leader/tippet using the fly line as the indicator, which I was doing the day I caught the record fish. The way I catch my catfish on the fly is, I allow the fly to sink to the strike zone. Catfish feed a lot on falling prey, particularly minnows and shad from schooling fish such as white bass and largemouth bass. Sometimes these schooling fish will eat so much they will begin to regurgitate their prey, and it falls. As it falls catfish and other fish will pick it up, and that is what I re-create.”

Smith caught the record fish at about 9 a.m. on his first or second cast.  He battled the fish for about 20 minutes before it tired.

“I would have never believed when I first started fly-fishing that I would land the state record channel catfish,” Smith said. “Honestly, I would have never believed I would have caught a channel catfish on a fly rod at all. I hope all this will help others become interested in learning to fly-fish and catch record-size fish.”

See more Texas fish records and awards here.

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