Back when Eddie Watford was a magazine courier, he used to deliver South Carolina Sportsman magazine to outlets across Oconee and Pickens counties, but he never imagined he might one day wind up in the magazine. That changed on March 7 when Watford, who is from Easley, caught a 61-pound blue catfish while fishing Lake Wateree with buddies James Moore from Westminster and Trey Schmuck from Starr.

When the day started out, the group agreed that they would try to help Watford top his personal best blue catfish, a 28-pounder from Lake Hartwell. The day started off well and only got better as the group anchored in several different open-water spots on the lower end of the lake and caught several fish at each location.

After catching around 18 fish, including several fish in the upper teens and low 20s, the trio decided to spend their last two hours hunting a big fish for Watford. Fishing from Schmuck’s boat, they anchored over a “secret spot” that Moore had been wanting to check out.

“Not long after we anchored up, we caught an 18- or 19-pounder and then had four more nice catfish come to the boat,” said Watford. “Trey and I were watching the rods on the back end of the boat, and it was actually James that heard the front rod start peeling drag with a big fish on.”

The fish had nailed a piece of cut gizzard shad in water between 35 and 40 feet deep, and Moore could tell by the bend that this was the fish they were looking for. Handing the rod to Watford, Moore and Schmuck shared the duties of video-taping Watford wrestling the biggest catfish of the day to the boat and then releasing it.

“I got him to the boat, and we weighed him on a set of 100 pound digital scales, and he topped out at 61 pounds,” said Watford. “That more than doubled my biggest fish to that point. Once we got the weight and each posed for a few photos, we put the fish back in the water and let it go.”