Oklahoma Man Throws Back 106-Pound Texas State Record Flathead Catfish Before Officially Weighing It

A man holding a large fish
Field & Stream

What might be the biggest catfish ever caught by hand was likely also the state record flathead catfish in Texas.

However, the fish was thrown back in the water before it was weighed on an officially certified scale so it won’t be showing up in the record books. The pictures of the fish certainly back up the big cat’s record breaking credentials though.

It is one of the biggest flatheads ever caught by any fisherman. It just might be the largest fish ever caught by noodling, a technique in which you literally entice a catfish to bite your hand and then wrestle it out of the water.

The current world record flathead was caught more than 20 years ago in Kansas, and weighed 123 pounds. This fish unofficially weighed 106 pounds, which would have been big enough to be the new Texas state record had it been weighed on an official scale. It also measured more than 5-feet long.

The beast of a fish was wrangled by Levi Bennett.

Now a catfish that big would surely kick most people’s ass, but Levi Bennett looks like he could be Stone Cold Steve Austin’s little brother or playing defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys.

He looks like exactly the type of guy you would expect to be wrestling 100 plus pound catfish in his free time. Plus with that “catfish mafia” hat he’s wearing, he really looks the part. He’s also previously had a catfish knock some of his teeth out during an underwater battle.

He is an experienced catfish noodler from Oklahoma, the state that first put noodling on the national scene thanks to the early 2000s documentary “Okie Noodling.‘”

Levi was fishing at an East Texas lake when he caught this mighty fish.

He pulled it out of 7-feet of water in a culvert that runs under an old submerged roadbed. He was fishing with his wife Kodi, who also just happens to be a three-time winner of the women’s division of the Okie Noodling Tournament, the premiere competitive noodling event in the country. Their friend Jimmy Millsap was also with them.

Levi shared his story with Field and Stream:

“I felt it and got my hand on it, and it was an absolute giant. But plain and simple that fish whooped my ass. Just wore me out.”

The crew initially thought the catfish escaped out of the pipe they found it in.

“Kodi and Jimmy were both looking at me like I’m an idiot. 

I said, ‘He’s gone.’ I was mad.”

Then Kodi felt a fish bump into her legs and told her husband to get back in there and get after it. Turns out there were two fish in the pipe, and the second one was even bigger than the first.

“My one thought was don’t screw it up this time. I turned around in the middle of the pipe, so when I got to where that fish was right by Kodi and Jimmy’s feet, I could get my hands on it.

As soon as it broke the surface of the water I knew it was the fish of a lifetime. I was in amazement. I’ve never seen a fish that big.”

His previous personal record for a hand caught catfish was 74 pounds. He knew this fish was way bigger than that.

“The scale went to 94, then 95, and when it hit 97 I just about dropped it, I was so stinking excited. 

At that point, Jimmy says to me, ‘You ain’t even got her off the ground yet. I looked down and probably a foot of her tail was still on the ground.”

Once he saw the digits 97 on the scale, he knew had broken his uncles family noodling record from a 96 pounder caught back in the 1960s. He had been told time and time again that record was unbreakable.

Once they caught the fish fully off the ground, the scale read 106-pounds. The fish probably weighed more than that though, as Levi had to leaseback to get the fish off the ground, so he likely absorbed some of the weight for the scale.

The decided not to put the fish under more duress by throwing it in the boat and looking for an official scale, and instead got it back into the water quickly.

“You just don’t see fish like that very often. To me, it’s not worth killing a fish that big and that old just to have some record.

“I think we get more thrill out of the experience of it than a record. I don’t know if there’s anybody else out there who’s caught a big fish like that noodling. Just being there for the experience and getting to see a fish like that is all that matters.”

Finally broke TRIPLE DIGITS!! Fish of a lifetime, couldn’t of done it with out two of my favorite people! Kodi Bennett Jimmy Millsap thanks for not letting her blow out!! She is still alive and swimming!!

Posted by Levi Bennett on Monday, July 12, 2021

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