This time, the big one didn’t get away.
Fishing on the Missouri River, Justin Neece joined the 100-pound club when he caught a 107-pound blue catfish on Feb. 12.
In the process, he erased the nightmares of a day last summer when he fought another monster for 25 minutes, only to watch it get off the hook.
“It came up twice and I got a good look at it,” said Neece, 36, who lives in Odessa, Mo. “It was the same caliber as this one.
“When it got off, I was down. I thought, ‘I might not ever get another shot at a fish like that.’ ”
But he did. When he took his cousin, Jeremy Gore, and Jeremy’s 9-year-old son Jace, out for the day, the idea was to let the youngster reel in all the fish.
As they fished near a wing dike near Lexington, Mo., Jace started by catching a 20-pound blue cat, and he was thrilled. Moments later, an even bigger one came calling.
Jace started off fighting the monster, but when it threatened to pull the little guy out of the boat, Neece took over. He and the fish played tug-of-war for almost a half hour.
The fisherman finally won and the party teamed to wrestle it into the boat. They weighed the fish, Neece posed for photos, then the monstrous catfish was released.
It wasn’t a Missouri state record; that still belongs to Greg Bernal of Florissant, Mo., who caught a 130-pound fish in 2010 on the Missouri River near where it meets the Mississippi.
But Neece’s fish kept the legend of the Muddy Mo alive. Each year, someone lands a blue cat near or exceeding the 100-pound mark and it sends ripples of excitement across the Midwest.
“Everyone who fishes the Missouri dreams of catch a 100-pound cat,” Neece said. “We all know they’re in here.
“Everything has to go just right to catch one, though.”
Neece knew where to look. He has fished the Missouri most of his life and knows where the big ones hang out. He headed for a typical winter hole and immediately marked four big fish on his electronics. After he anchored behind the tip of a dike, he cast out his lines baited with shad and soon was rewarded.
“We were just 30 minutes into the trip when this big one hit,” Neece said. “It was an unbelievable day.”