Angler Michael John Drake has left an indelible mark on West Virginia's fishing history by securing the state’s record blue catfish with a remarkable catch in December 2023. Drake’s solo fishing expedition near Gallipollis yielded a blue catfish weighing an impressive 69.45 pounds, surpassing the previous state record by more than 2 pounds.
According to Drake, the Mustad Demon circle hook, renowned for its Opti-Angle needle point technology, played a pivotal role in this achievement. Utilizing UltraPoint 4.3 technology, Demon circle hooks from Mustad ensure prolonged sharpness for optimal penetration, complemented by Nor-Tempering technology that guarantees unparalleled strength.
Drake, a frequent visitor to the Ohio River, acknowledged the allure of chasing state records and expressed, “That’s about all I fish for. If I’m not catfishing, then I’m catching bait for catfish.” This marks the fourth time in as many years that the West Virginia state record for blue catfish has been broken, underlining Drake’s dedication to the flourishing fishery.
As the 40-pound monofilament mainline peeled off the Abu Garcia 6500, Drake knew a potential world record was on the other end. “I’ve caught a lot of fish in the 45- to 50-pound range, and when they hit, they’ll pull some drag. When this one hit, it smoked my reel. It let me know really quickly that it had some shoulders on it.”
The innovative design of Demon circle hooks ensures a higher hookup ratio and reduces the likelihood of gut-hooking, perfectly aligning with Drake’s ethical and sustainable fishing practices.
Drake employed a 10/0 Demon circle hook along with fresh gizzard shad, utilizing a Carolina rig with a 24-inch, 80-pound-test monofilament leader. The 50.51-inch blue catfish engaged in a spirited 20-minute battle from the hookset to the net, revealing the impressive strength and tenacity of both the fish and the angler. With a G3 Sportsman 200 equipped with a cavernous 65-gallon livewell, Drake kept the fat cat alive onboard while making a few quick phone calls.
Soon after speaking with Virginia Department of Natural Resources hatchery manager Ryan Bosserman, on the nearby riverbank Drake’s blue cat was weighed and measured, and then safely released back into the Ohio River. “I like to let all my fish go so I try to return them just as healthy as they were when they came in the boat. With the Demon circle hook I rarely if ever gut hook a fish. It’s always a perfect set in the corner of the mouth.”
Drake expressed his long-standing trust in the Mustad Demon circle hook, stating:
This remarkable achievement not only adds a new chapter to the angling legacy of West Virginia’s fertile catfishing waters of the Ohio River but also highlights Mustad’s commitment to providing anglers with the highest quality hooks for success, regardless of species or fishery.
“You always hear the horror stories of everything going wrong with a big fish. You spend all the time, effort, and money going out chasing them. I try to cut out all the potential issues that could happen, and it all starts with having the right hook,” said Drake.