Tom Mayes was definitely under-equipped for a battle with a giant.

When he fished for trout at Lake Taneycomo recently, he used a 4-foot, 8-inch rod, a small reel with 4-pound test line, and a small gold hook baited with PowerBait.

That’s fine for small rainbow trout…but not for the big brown trout that came calling.

“When that brown started fighting, I thought, ‘No way am I going to get this fish to the boat,’ “ said Mayes, 60, who lives in Olathe.

But after the brown trout made an initial run, it unexpectedly turned and ran straight toward the boat. Mayes cranked quickly to pick up the slack, then watched as the fish made a dive under the boat.

A short time later, though, Mayes’ fishing partner, Larry Smith of Shawnee, netted the fish. And the celebration began.

They measured the brown trout at 31 inches, but didn’t have a scale to weigh it. Mayes posed for a few pictures, then they eased it back into the water.

“I didn’t want to kill that fish,” Mayes said. “She gave me a thrill. Maybe she’ll do that for someone else.”

That was the biggest brown trout Mayes has ever caught. But it wasn’t the first time he has landed a trophy fish.

He landed and released a 41-inch muskie at Lake Vermillion in Minnesota. And he caught a 5-pound smallmouth bass at Melvern Lake.

This fish will go down as another memorable catch. Mayes and Smith were fishing three-fourth of a mile north of Branson Landing when the fish hit.

“It was on low water and we were anchored over a hole,” Mayes said. “We caught several small rainbows before this one hit.”

For  Mayes, the late-February trip was part of tradition. He and his friends travel to Lake Taneycomo and stay at the Blue Haven Resort every year to fish for several days.

Two of his friends have followed that tradition for 26 years. Mayes was in his ninth year.

“The fishing is usually good in late February,” he said. “But we’ve never caught a trout like this.”