7:30a.m and we were sat in the traffic on-route to Bungsamran Lake in Bangkok. As we zig zag through the congested city, missing motorcycles and other cars by a whisker - one would be forgiven for not believing that the world's most prolific catfish water is only 15Km away.
WORLDS BIGGEST CATFISH
It is a fact known to all who fish Bungsamran that lurking within are some enormous catfish to well over 200lb. It is a regular occurrence to catch fish over 100lb without much difficulty but for fish around the 200lb mark this is somewhat of a rarity.
WMAB - WEIGHTS & MEASURES ACT OF BUNGSAMRAN
The above is only for fun - there really is no such act - so no emails please! In all honesty the fish that instigated this catch report was most likely heavier than the guesstimated weight of 90kg. But then again it could have been lighter by upto 5kg too. Either way it is safe to say between 80Kg - 100Kg, but to avoid sounding like the uneducated labeling every big fish at '100Kg', and for the sake of the catch report entry fields - we call it 90Kg\200lb.
THE MOST MEMORABLE FIGHT OF ALL TIME
Luckily Robert Grey is a physically strong guy - if not there would be no way he could play this size fish in like he did. From the strike it was not easy to tell much, maybe a foul hooked fish? Maybe a relatively strong small Mekong? No and No - it was a beast that was so monstrous, large & heavy that it simply didn't realise that he was hooked, or at least didn't seem too concerned about it! Then with a release of energy that you could expect from a race horse, the fish turned his head, kited left and headed across the lake; but not at a fast pace but instead a worryingly slow, methodical and controlled pace.
30 minutes into the fight and it was as if the fight had not even begun for the fish, but for Robert it was getting painful. His sweat had caused his hands to loose grip on the rod, his lower back was in pain and his temperature rising. To add to the discomfort level the fish for the past 15 minutes had only been kiting left causing Robert to have to play the fish with severe right hand side strain for virtually the entire fight. To read this is doesn't sound like it would be so difficult or tiring, but have trust in us that it is most likely to be the biggest test of physical and metal strength and endurance you are likely to encounter. Remember its not like lifting weights at a gym, as in a gym you can put the weights down at any time or slow the pace of the treadmill at any point. When 200lb of Mekong giant catfish is in a bad mood and heading strategically for snags 150 yards away, you can't 'put the weight down' you have to keep battling. This is what Robert did gallantly, the next and final 15 minutes was spent fighting the fish in close quarters to the bungalow we were fishing from.
It is very deceiving when a big fish like this comes in close, it would usually mean the end of the fight; but with fish of this calibre they use their massive body weight to hug the bottom deep down below your feet. You can pull and pull but not gain anything more than a back ache, using the rod to apply correct and precise strain on the fish is the only way. Robert did this until the fish broke surface dangerously close to the bungalow supports, such a critical point of the fight. Alley was ready with the net as Eddy was watching every action of Roberts like a hawk to ensure the final moments result in a landed fish. The relief to see this incredible creature which fought Robert for a full 1 hour was immense - even more so for Robert; he beat this fish but don't forget that to do so he took one hell of a beating himself.
MAN HANDLING BEAST
There are just so many advantages to keeping the fish in the water as opposed to lifting in onto the bank. Fish care is the priority, after such a fight it is better to keep the fish in water as we swim it to the shallows. We unhook it in the water and then lift the fish up for pictures - the actual lift is only a few seconds at a time and so the fish is literally only ever out of water for a few seconds of the entire procedure. Admitably with a 200lb fish it is not an easy task for most, but every member of the Fish Thailand Team is able to execute this in minimal time and never with any trouble at all.
We took some magnificent pictures of this fish, and how Robert managed to lift it with the guides after a 1 hour fight we will never know! Maybe adrenaline?