The muskie measured 51 inches, less than 2 inches off the state record for length. It was the first 50-incher Looney had caught from Mountain State waters.
"I got the measurement, took two pictures, turned the fish back and hollered, 'Hallelujah, Lord!'" he said. "People probably thought I was crazy."
One remarkable aspect of Looney's 100-muskie year is that he caught every last one of them on the same lure - or at least on variations of it.
"All of them were Amma Bama lures," he said. "I made every one of them myself."
Since 1973, Looney has manufactured muskie lures in the basement of his Amma home. The lures, which range in length from 4 to 10 inches, have become almost legendary among serious muskie anglers.
"Around 40 of the fish I caught this year were taken on a new deep-diving Amma Bama, a prototype I've been working on," he said. "It took a lot of fish for me, for Donnie and for one of our friends, Jason Staats. I think I'll start selling them next year."
If, that is, Looney ever stops catching muskies long enough to go back into production; he admitted that his 100-fish odyssey has taken countless hours he might otherwise have put into producing lures.
"I'm way behind right now," he said, grinning and shaking his head.
As unusual as his accomplishment was, Looney readily acknowledges that others helped make it possible.
"A lot of the credit goes to the muskie fishermen of this state, who release almost all the fish they catch," he said. "Years ago, that wasn't the case, and there weren't nearly as many big muskies as there are today.
"Credit also should go to the [Division of Natural Resources], which is doing a great job of managing the muskie resource. On a personal level, I'm thankful for my wife, who supports my obsession; and for Donnie, who puts up with my craziness when we're out fishing. And every day, when I watch the sun rise, I thank God for another beautiful day."
With the end of his epic year in sight, Looney said he wants to dedicate the 100-muskie feat to Eric Workman, the state trooper who was killed in the line of duty on Aug. 28.
"We fished together," Looney said. "Eric was a dedicated angler. He practiced catch-and-release with the best of them. All of us in the muskie-fishing community miss him. He was a mighty fine feller, he was."
Like most avid muskie fishermen, Looney doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about water that has passed under the keel of his boat. He's already looking around the next bend in the river to see where his next muskie might be coming from.
"I don't plan on slowing down anytime soon," he said. "Lord willing, I'll be out there fishing."
Reach John McCoy at 304-348-1231 or e-mail johnmc...@wvgazette.com.