Holy Mackerel! Senoia 31-year-old breaks West Point Lake record with whopping 38-pound catfish
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN
It was one-thirty in the morning Tuesday when the fireworks started for 31-year-old Senoia resident Justin Tomlinson, well over a day early. Except this one came with a splash instead of an explosion.
Well, at least other than an emotional one.
And he has the 38-pound flathead catfish to prove it. Or at least the pictures.
Tomlinson, Castile and an expected group of eight others dined on their catch — an official record-setter for West Point — on Thursday, the end result of one of the wildest, and yet quietest, nights an angler can have in a lifetime of fishing.
“It’s dinner (Thursday),” Tomlinson said. “There’s probably going to be ten of us and we figure it could feed each of us four times.”
The official weight recorded by the Georgia Department of Agriculture the next morning came in at 37.147 pounds, breaking a previous catch of 33.12 from July 2006. It wasn’t until a proper scale could be found in LaGrange — at a local Piggly Wiggly — that the record became official.
But the two veteran fishermen already knew they had a winner that early morning when it was hauled up on their 15-foot boat, which Tomlinson purchased along with a motor for less than $700.
“We had seen on the Georgia Outdoor News website that the record was 33 pounds. I said, “That’s my goal,’” Tomlinson said. “I lifted it up and when he was able to see it, he realized I had it.”
Fishing has equally become quite the passion for the Army veteran, who served from 2005-2010 and was in his third tour in Iraq when his transport hit an IED, severely injuring his back. This fall, he’ll head to school with hopes of becoming a phlebotomist.
The pair, who frequently fish in the early mornings and late evenings, began their latest session Monday evening around 9 p.m., and already had their share of bites while finally setting up between Ringer Access and Grayson Landing around Franklin.
Fishing reports out of West Point Lake have noted the spot as being a prime area for flathead catfish, especially in summer evenings for best results. Both have seen their share of 20-pounders in the past come out of the area.
“We like it because it’s less traffic and it’s a little bit cooler,” said Tomlinson. “What made it an event for me was that I caught it on light tackle. I had caught pike and some small bass and just for the heck of it I left it on.”
As they continued past midnight, Tomlinson eventually began casting with an 8-pound test line when he got quite the tug around 1:30 a.m.
Even after the initial tug, Tomlinson wasn’t sure exactly what they had. Earlier in the night, Castile had pulled in some softshell turtles that nibbled, their mouths causing bubbles near the boat before they surfaced. It wasn’t until around 2 a.m., some 30 minutes later as he finally got the line within range that he saw it was no turtle this time around.
“I saw the line of bubbles again and that’s the first thing I thought,” he said. “When it came out of the water it’s head was so big I could put both my fists in his mouth.”
The only thing left was the celebration.
So amid the desolate early morning surrounds, Tomlinson did the only thing that came to mind, almost imitating the motions of a child anxious to get to the restroom.
“I was so excited, I had to do the ‘pee-pee’ dance,” he said, joking. “Eventually both of us started jumping up and down.”
The only thing left prior to Thursday’s big dinner was, of course, the cleaning. That job fell to Castile.
“He’s better than me doing that,” Tomlinson said, while giving his brother-in-law a majority of the credit for helping him along. “He’s been my right-hand man.”