Ricky Harvell didn't leave his home in Lexington this past April 19 to catch a big catfish at High Rock Lake; he went to fill a cooler with crappie filets.
He got the crappie, but he got the catfish to boot.

     That morning, Harvell landed a 431/2-pound flathead on 8-pound test line that the International Game Fish Association has recently certified as a state line-class record.

     "I was fishing for crappie with 8-pound test line, but (IGFA) doesn't have an 8-pound test record, so this fish had to qualify for the 12-pound test record," said Harvell, who had caught a 40.4-pound flathead a few days earlier.

     "I'd caught three flatheads a couple of days before, so I went back the next week. I had to change my line because the fish had messed it up so much, so when I caught the next one, I wondered about a record, and somebody mentioned the IGFA and gave me the number."

      From that point on, it was just a matter of jumping through all the hoops, filling out forms and sending IGFA a sample of the line he was using.

      "I was fishing the Highway 8 bridge over Abbotts Creek," Harvell said. "I have a little boat, like a dinghy, with a trolling motor. I'd just bought a depthfinder, and I was going under the bridge, and it looked like it showed a lot of fish at 24 feet. Under the bridge, it's 40 feet deep.

      "I was just using a No. 1 gold crappie hook with a snap-on weight and live minnows with a little push-button (spin-casting) rod and reel I'd bought at Bass Pro Shops," he said.

       The big catfish gobbled up Harvell's minnow, headed back under the bridge, away from the mouth of the creek, and headed for the bank, towing Harvell along.

       "He hit and it was just a steady pull," he said. "He went toward the bank, then back out towards deep water. He pulled me probably a thousand yards back in the creek, and it took me an hour-and-15 minutes to get him in.

       "I finally got him to the top, and I threw my net down because it wasn't big enough. I tried to grab him, and he slid off my arms and went down to the bottom. The second time I got him to the top, I got my hand in his mouth and got him in the boat."

      The fish filled up Harvell's little boat, measuring 42 inches long and 30 inches in girth.