But there was no way he could have been prepared for the mammoth fish that swallowed his bait on Saturday, June 18.
Anderson, the head football coach at Kinston High School, was on a father-son trip with his father, Rick, and brother Jeremmie Mullis when he hooked and landed a 143-pound blue catfish, a fish that is certain to be not only the new Virginia state record, but also the all-tackle world record for that species.
The huge catfish, which was 57 inches long and 43-1/2 inches in girth, hit at around 8 p.m. close to Goat Island, an area around the middle of 50,000-acre Kerr Reservoir, aka Buggs Island Lake, that's about three miles north of the Virginia-North Carolina state line. After a 45-minute battle, the three men were able to finally have the huge fish onto the deck of their pontoon boat as the day's last light faded.
Anderson isn't saying what kind of bait he used to catch the big catfish, but he was using a Shakespeare Ugly Stik rod, a Shimano reel and 30-pound test line.
Anderson knew the fish was huge – too heavy for most scales to handle – so he took it to Mecklenburg Farm Supply in Chase City, Va., which had a set of certified scales on which the 109-pound Virginia state record fish had been weighed. They put the fish on the scales, and when they finally stabilized at 143 pounds, Anderson and everyone in attendance was stunned. Several days after catching the fish, Anderson said he was still in shock.
The current all-tackle world record blue catfish weighed 130 pounds and was caught last July in the Missouri River. The current Virginia state record is 109 pounds and was caught out of Kerr Lake
Anderson's fish was 13 pounds heavier than the current world record and 34 pounds heavier than the Virginia state record. The current world record for blue catfish is 130 pounds and was caught in July 2010, in the Missouri River by Gary Bernal of Florissant, Mo. The current Virginia. record is 109 pounds and was caught in Kerr Lake on March 17, 2011, by Tony Milam of South Boston, Va.
"My dad had caught a 95-pounder there three weeks earlier, and the current Virginia. record was caught nearby only a couple of months ago, so we knew there were some big fish in that part of the lake," Anderson said. "The fish made a first run, and I turned him towards the boat and got a lot of line back. Once he got close, he saw us and went back down. This happened several times before he tired enough I could hold him up, and every time it did, I got a little more anxious.
"Once he finally wore out enough, I could hold him near the surface, my dad grabbed our net, which is big but was too small for this fish and tried to net him," Anderson said. "At that point, we were running on adrenaline, and the three of us managed to get a hold on him and heave him up onto the boat across a bench seat. Later on, we realized it would have been much easier to work him around to the bow and not have to lift as far, but we were running on instinct fueled by adrenaline and just wanted that big fish in the boat. It's been several days now, and my arms and back are still a little sore."
Anderson said he thinks there might be an even larger fish in the lake. He said he spent summers and fished there all his life and has heard numerous stories about man-sized catfish.
"At least you think they are stories until you're staring eyeball-to-eyeball with one," said Anderson, who has begun the process of getting his enormous fish certified as a record.
A spokesman for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries said Anderson's fish appears to meet all the necessary qualifications and should be approved as the state record within a week. The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) is the certifying body for world records, and its process will take a little longer.