Pro angler Alessandro Biancardi of Mantova, Italy has shocked the whole catfish world
with a 9-foot, 4-inch monster wels cat caught in the River Po on May 25.
Is This the Biggest Catfish Ever Caught on Rod and Reel?
By Keith Sutton
A 9-foot, 4-inch-long wels catfish caught in Italy this May should establish a new IGFA catch-and-release record.
For 43-year-old professional angler Alessandro Biancardi of Mantova, Italy, May 25, 2023, started just like many other days of fishing. Biancardi launched his johnboat into the middle reaches of the River Po in northern Italy and meticulously checked his knots, hooks and tackle. He was hoping to catch one of the river’s massive wels catfish, a species that sometimes weighs hundreds of pounds, and he wanted to be 100-percent sure everything was ready if a trophy specimen took his lure.
On this day, Biancardi was using a Madcat X-TAAZ rod paired with a Savage Gear SGS8 8000 spinning reel that was spooled with Madcat prototype braid. His bait of choice was a soft-plastic swimbait, the Savage Gear Cannibal Shad, on a Madcat 12/0, 1-1/2-ounce golfball jighead.
“I was alone on my boat, and the water level was starting to drop after a big flood,” he said while recounting the story for his sponsor, Madcat Italy. “I decided to fish with a spinning technique, so I started casting my lure in the muddy water.
“In silence, I approached the first spot, and, after few casts, a powerful bite arrived,” he continued. “The fish stood still some seconds before starting a very complicated fight, between strong currents and a lot of submerged obstacles. I calmly managed to fight what I felt to be a prehistoric fish. I followed it for 40 endless minutes, and when it surfaced for the first time, I really realized that I hooked a monster. Adrenaline started pumping hard, and the fear of losing it almost sent me into a panic, I was alone facing the biggest catfish I had ever seen in 23 years.”
Biancardi grabbed the fish’s mouth with gloved hands two or three times, but it was still too strong for the angler to handle.
“I decided to go in shallow water, trying to land it from shore,” he said. “And after few tries, I managed to land it! I tied the fish to let him recover from the long fight, then I suddenly realized that the boat was not anchored, and it was going away in the current. I was forced to have a swim to recover it with all my stuff!”
Alessandro knew his fish was special and quickly enlisted a group of friends from a nearby fishing camp to help him measure the monster. Ten of them stood by as witnesses while he recorded the fish’s official length at 285 cm, or 9 feet, 4 inches long, about the same length as the bed on a medium U-Haul truck.
“I was very curious about the weight,” Biancardi said. “But I feared to stress too much that rare specimen, so I decided to safely release it, hoping it could give another angler the same joy he gave to me.”
Documentation was sent to the International Game Fish Association so they can record this large fish. The official measurement is expected to beat IGFA’s current wels catfish length record by 4 centimeters (1.57 inches) if confirmed by the association.
The current all-tackle world record for a wels catfish was set in March 2010 when Hungarian angler Attila Zsedely caught another River Po wels cat weighing 297 pounds, 9 ounces.
Since Biancardi opted to release his fish, it won’t beat Zsedely’s record. Instead, it qualifies for IGFA’s newly-introduced catch-and-release length record.
The fact that Biancardi caught this huge fish came as no surprise to anyone who knows him. He’s been targeting wels cats for nearly a quarter of a century and has caught three other giants that exceeded 8 feet long and 220 pounds. The largest of those was 8-1/2 feet and tipped the scales at an amazing 264 pounds.
“My passion for fishing was born from my father at the age of eight,” Biancardi said. “He took me to my first fishing competition, and thanks to him, I got the first prize. It was the beginning of a big adventure that is still involving me more and more every year. I did several competitions. Then, as I got older, I specialized in carp fishing, doing a lot of long sessions on lake and rivers.
“But one day, as I was carp fishing, I had the opportunity to take a big catfish, and I immediately felt its power and strength. Since that day, I have never stopped hunting wels catfish, and it is more than 20 years that I have been looking for them. I have caught thousands of catfish of all sizes and with different techniques … I’m pretty sure that I will never stop searching for the dream catfish, especially in my beloved River Po, which is surely one of the best European fishing spots but also one of the most challenging.”
Please congratulate Alessandro and follow him on his Facebook and Instagram pages: