Last Saturday began like many others for 15-year-old Landon Evans of Benson, but it became special that evening when he caught a 117.5-pound blue catfish that is the biggest ever taken from Lake Gaston, the biggest ever caught in North Carolina waters, and possibly a line-class world record and junior angler world record.

Evans’ fish, 55 inches long and 40.5 inches in girth, is the third state-record blue catfish caught from Lake Gaston in the past six months, breaking the 105-pound record set in January by Zakk Royce of Murfreesboro.

Evans began fishing from a boat dock just after dark, targeting a stump field in 25 feet of water out from the dock with a belly piece of gizzard shad on a Carolina rig.

“This is a dock I often fish from at night, as it has deep water and cover within casting distance,” he said. “That weekend, I caught some fresh bait, and one of the baits was a gizzard shad, which are usually really good baits.”

Evans was using a bass-class baitcasting rod and Shimano Catala 300 reel and another, slightly heavier outfit, from the other side of the dock. He had been fishing about 45 minutes when he heard a noise and spun around to see the lighter rod bent over and 30-pound Sufix line peeling off the reel.

“As soon as I picked up the rod and reel, I knew this was a larger fish than I’d ever caught before. i fish for catfish at Lake Gaston and have caught a fair number of 30- and 40-pounders, but nothing like this.

“It was pulling hard and took line anytime it wanted. I was thinking it might go 50 or 60 pounds.” 

About 20 minutes into the fight, the fish surfaced, and even in the dark, Evans knew it was bigger than he first thought. He called to his mother, Heather, to help him net the fish, and his father, Brandon, heard the call and decided to take a look.

When Evans pulled the fish to the surface beside the dock, it was obvious that it was a huge fish, but thankfully, it was tired. Evans’ rod broke as his mother slipped her net over the fish’s tail, then his father covered its head with a second net, dropped to his knees and grabbed the hoops of the net to hold them together and not let the fish get away or too rambunctious. Landon Evans put down the rod and reel and grabbed the net handles to help lift the fish. A few minutes later, they rolled the big fish up out of the water and onto the dock.

The big catfish bottomed out a set of 100-pound digital scales, even though the three family members couldn’t get the fish totally off the ground. Still, they got one reading of 103 pounds and another of 106.

Planning to weigh the fish on certified scales the next morning, they rigged an aerator and put it in a kiddie pool. Unfortunately the fish expired overnight. When morning came, they wrapped it in wet towels to keep it from dehydrating and losing weight, putting it in a cooler that wasn’t nearly big enough to hold it while looking for a set of certified scales.

They knew of a scale at Holly Grove Marina on the Virginia side of the lake, and they drove there and got a 120-pound reading. Realizing he had a good chance of breaking North Carolna’s state record, Landon Evans called Royce.

"Zakk was very helpful," Evans said. "He told me where to download the state-record application form, to call a biologist, and that his record fish had been weighed at the Ace Hardware in Littleton.”

The Evans family couldn’t find an N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission biologist on Sunday, but Brandon Evans talked with Evans Cartabiano, an assistant fisheries biologist for the area, on Monday morning.

"He agreed to meet us at the Littleton Ace Hardware, so we drove back to the lake. Landon's fish weighed 117.5 pounds on their scales and (he) signed the state-record application recommending it be accepted as the new state record.”

At some point, someone suggested checking the International Game Fish Association’s book of world records. It showed that Evans’ fish surpassed the Junior world record by 8.5 pounds and the 30-pound line class record by 6.5 pounds. The application and certification process for IGFA may take up to 90 days.  

"I'm really proud of Landon," said Brandon Evans. "This was quite the catch and he did everything but the netting on his own. These records are something he'll remember all his life. Before everything is over, I think this catfish will be in line for a world record too. I can't believe any other catfish has traveled this many miles in a truck."