It was one of those nights that many anglers hope, pray and believe will one day become a reality…
But let us start at the beginning: November 2012, the Rhino Black Cat guided tours on the middle reaches of the Po in Italy are in full swing. As is so often the case, the starting point is the renowned Heiner family’s Wels Camp on the Po.
The river is proving quite temperamental with plenty of fluctuations in water level over the first few days. However, with dedication and the instincts of top guides Stefan Seuss and Benjamin Gründer, five fish measuring over two metres are landed in a short space of time, including one specimen that tips the scales over the magical 100-kilo mark.
Week 2 sees a rainy start as the river swells to four metres over the banks. In these conditions, old ditches that fill up in high waters are the first port of call for the predators. Foraging fish retreat to these areas and large wels lie in wait for their prey at the entrances.
Benjamin Gründer went in search of exactly this type of swim with his guests Horst and Maik Grieb and Erik. In just the first night, Maik Grieb landed a 235-cm-long Po brute. The successful method was a “top-water” bait presentation from the overhanging trees using thin release lines.
On the evening of 12 November at around 18:00, just as the bell rang, the Black Cat Buster leaned worryingly towards the water surface as the drag of the Fin Nor Offshore 9500, which was almost fully closed, began to release line.
Horst Grieb was called over and took hold of the rod as Benjamin fetched the dinghy. Some 15 minutes later, the fish had dragged both men into the main current of the river, where the battle of man versus fish became even more ferocious. Around 20 minutes after the bite, Horst was forced to hand the rod to Benjamin because the fish had brought him to the limits of his physical strength. Countless minutes later, Benjamin had managed to overcome the fish and, together, the two anglers hauled the specimen into the Mission Craft dinghy.
It was only then that Benjamin realised just how big the fish was as the arrival of the monster wels in the boat also began to let in water. As a team, Horst and Benjamin had landed one of the largest wels ever caught and claimed the new Po record, measuring 255 cm in length and weighing in at 117.5 kilos!
photo of Benjamin Gründer and the happy anglers with the monster fish