Dale Russell Lowe, Jr has caught big catfish before, just not this big! He was fishing the Icebowl Tournament on John H. Kerr Reservoir (Buggs Island Lake). The reservoir is bounded by Virginia and North Carolina. “My cousin Stephen Faircloth fishes that tournament with me every year,” said Lowe. “I had two of the most important people in the world with me on the boat. It was a bonus to have Stephen and my son Chase with me.”
In addition to fishing with his best buddies, Lowe had good reason to expect a good tournament. “We got 3rd last year,” reported Lowe. “The IceBowl Tournament is a one fish event. Last year there were 108 boats and we placed third with a 53.4-pound fish.”
Lowe’s personal best (PB) was previously over 100 pounds. “I caught a 100-pound blue cat in December of 2015 in the James River,” declared Lowe. “He bottomed out my 100-pound spring scales and I did not have anything to keep him alive to get it certified. So, I put him back and called it 100. My PB out of Buggs had been a 75-pound blue and a 45-pound flathead.”
With the good vibes going, Team Lowe started out fishing a flat near the river channel on a cold and windy day. “I was rigged with Big Cat Fever Rods, 40-pound test Slime Line, Mad Catter HD Hooks on about 18 inches of 60-pound mono leader and a 3-ounce no roll sinker,” instructed Lowe. “I set all the rods in Fish Bite Rod Holders.”
“We were getting ready to leave that spot to get out of the wind,” recalled Lowe. “But for some reason we decided to give it ten more minutes. I turned around and saw the rod going down.”
“We were anchor fishing with bait on the bottom,” continued Lowe. “We were using small 2×2 pieces of cut shad and carp. I’m not sure which bait the fish hit. I knew it was a really big fish when reeling it in, but didn’t realize it was that big until we got it in the net. We couldn’t get it in the boat at first!”
The fish put up an awesome fight for about 10 minutes. ”My cousin Stephen got the big cat’s head in the net the first time he surfaced. I had to grab the net and push his tail in to complete the job. Stephen looked at me and said, ‘well we just won the tournament.”’
“My boy was jumping up and down and saying ‘yes, we are going to win the tournament!’ He was smiling from ear to ear with excitement. He’s seen a 100 pounder before and he knew this one was way bigger.”
After that the main goal was to keep the fish alive. “I’m strictly CPR,” acknowledged Lowe. “After a struggle, we got the fish in the boat. We could not pick it up to put it in my 100-gallon live well. I tried to call for help and no one was answering. After quite a struggle and some bear hugs we managed to get him in the tank.”
“I finally got hold of a good friend, Austin Sartin, of North Carolina Marine Fabrication. Austin has a huge tank. After convincing him that I was not telling a joke he met me half way with the tank.”
“When Dale told me he had the state record in his boat my first thought was that he’s so excited he doesn’t realize state record equals world record,” said Sartin. “Since he already had a 100 pound fish under his belt, I trimmed my boat up and hauled butt straight to him. At first glance it was bigger than I could have imagined.”
“We got the fish in my tank,” continued Sartin. “I built my tank based on the current world record length and girth. Once in the tank the fish was safe as it gets.”
“Everyone gathered around to see the fish,” explained Lowe. “But, I wouldn’t take it out untill weigh-in, to reduce the stress on the fish.”
When all was said and done the big cat weighed 141.76 pounds, just 2 pounds short of a state and world record. It measured 61×46 inches and swam away strong on release!
The day was made even better when Lowe returned home were his wife Virginia was waiting. “My wife fully supports my catfish hobby,” offered Lowe. “We’ve been married for 8 years and she is a blessing to me and our family.”
“When we got home I asked my boy, Chase, what was the best part of his day,” revealed Lowe. “He said catching that big fish and fishing with you. There is nothing like seeing the excitement in that kid’s eyes! Chase stays on the boat for days at a time waiting on the big one, and never wants to leave.”
“Chase is 7 years old now and I changed his diapers on the boat when he was younger,” joked Lowe. “Chase is one of Dale and Virginia’s 4 kids. I always say that I don’t need to find a fishing partner, because I have been blessed with 4 of them. Two girls and two boys.
It should be noted that Lowe did win the individual competition at Icebowl 2017 with his monster catch. Just as importantly, it should be noted that he did not mention it in his interview. The safety of the fish and his family were more important. If you are wondering, Lowe fished on the VA team for the state honors, but NC won that.
“What really matters in the end is the smile on Chase’s face,” concluded Lowe. “He will never forget that day. I and I’m so proud of that boy. He is my best friend and he don’t even know it!”
Epilogue: Tournament Director, Michael Lawrence, holds the Icebowl Tournament annually at Kerr Lake during the month of January. It’s a 2-part tournament. The first part is a one fish tournament where the biggest fish wins. The second part is a battle between Virginia and North Carolina. The Lake is divided between the two states, so anglers from each state catfish regularly on the same body of water. During registration. anglers declare whether they are fishing for VA or NC. At the end of the tournament the weights are added up for each state and the state with the most weight wins the battle between the 2 states. The winners awarded the Coveted Icebowl Trophy Plaque.
The battle has been going on for about 8 years now and has grown every year. This year the tournament registered 150 boats to record the best year ever. More than $8,000 in cash and prizes was distribute.
“The 141.76-pound monster blue cat caught at this year’s Icebowl 2017, was the largest catfish to ever be caught during tournament action and the second largest ever caught anywhere,” reported Icebowl Tournament Director, Michael Lawrence.