An unmistakable “thump,” followed by the first adrenaline-charging head shake; Then, the slow, tick-tick-tick-tick-tick of the drag that coincides with the heart-racing heaviness on the other end of the line followed by the sound of the reel screaming for mercy and the whistle of the wind being cut by the line-so-tight you think it might just be crying under the stretch… Mind racing as you fumble to adjust the drag…eyes are scouting for logs, rocks, weed beds, the trolling motor, anything the monster might try to brush up against to free herself from the tension trying to tame her. More head shakes as you remember your religion and pray, “God, please just let me SEE this fish!”
Then a hopeful euphoria sets in on the boat and you, for the first time in the last couple of minutes, remember that you aren’t alone.
“Man, this thing is heavy,” you say cautiously, not wanting to overstate the dreams dancing around in your head. “Might be a decent fish.”
Indeed. It might be a decent fish. Or it might be the biggest trout of your life.
Meet, Donny Whitelaw from St. Louis, MO. who, on March 8th, 2016, joined the Trophy Anglers Guild while fishing with his friends Todd Murphy, also from St. Louis, and Duane Doty out of Lilley’s Landing and Marina on Lake Taneycomo in Branson, MO.
The threesome started later in the afternoon on that Thursday, around 4:30pm, by running up to Table Rock Dam and fishing from “the cable,” which shows how close you can get to the dam, down through the slot limit area. Donny started off with a jerk-bait he had custom painted but the fish didn’t seem interested so he picked up his Diawa rod, outfitted with a Pflueger President reel holding 4lb test PLine with a 3/32 oz grey and white marabou jig, tied by Duane for Lilley’s Fly Shop. The fishing was good, with each of the three friends boating 7-8 rainbow trout.
As they reached an area of the river called “the Narrows,” Duane, as all good guides can do, foreshadowed what was to come by telling Donny and Todd, “this is good brown trout water, so be ready.” No sooner had the words left his mouth when Donny hooked into a beautiful 18″ brown followed directly by Todd with a 15″ of his own.
The three anglers continued jigging away, as Duane visited with a passing boat, when Donny felt that “thump,” recounted above, on the end of his line.
Duane and Todd quickly reeled in and the chase was on. Duane used the trolling motor to try to gain some ground on the fish and at the 15 minute mark, they got their first look at the big beautiful hen.
“HOLY $&*%!” exclaimed Duane, as the fish finally broke the water next to the boat. “THAT”S A PIG!” (It was actually a trout, but roughly the same size as a pig)
Duane put the net job on her and she rested in the livewell as the three excited friends made their way back down to Lilley’s Landing Resort and Marina for some pictures and the official measurements. Phil Lilley met the boys at the dock and the now-foursome admired the handiwork. The tape registered the beautiful brown at 27″ and the scale spat out a double-digit 11.4 lb reading. “Man…that is a grrreat fish,” said Duane, still musing.
The big hen was released back into the depths of Taneycomo’s cold waters shortly after a few pictures were taken and lives to make someone else’s day, week, month, year, or lifetime. In the words of Duane Doty, “We have a real head-shaker here.”
When we asked Donny to recount the catch to us, he left us with some impressionable words. He said, “The best thing about this entire event is that I got to spend it with Duane Doty my friend since 1998 as we were co workers for TWA. And I know my dad was looking down on us as we went out to go fishing that day and he blessed us with a great fish and great memories. I’m honored to call Duane Doty and his brothers my friends.”
Thank you, Donny, for sharing this catch with us. Welcome to the Trophy Anglers Guild. We are happy to have you.