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Shoal bass caught in Chattahoochee River breaks 45-year state record

Joseph Matthew McWhorter with his state record shoal bass. (Photo courtesy of Georgia Wildlife Resources Division.)

By David Pendered

Another one for the records was caught in the Chattahoochee River near Columbus, Ga., an area known for big fish.

The new record-setting fish is a shoal bass caught by an Alabama man, Joseph Matthew McWhorter, of Lanett, Ga. The bass weighed 8 pounds, 5 ounces.

McWhorter’s catch broke the state’s 45-year state record and sends bragging rights to Alabama for the fish designated in 2016 as Georgia’s State Native Riverine Sport Fish.

McWhorter’s fish was 2 ounces heavier than Georgia’s previous record-setting fish, caught in 1977, according to a statement released Monday by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

McWhorter’s fish came within 7 ounces of the world-record shoal bass, caught in the Apalachicola River in 1995.

To land the fish, McWhorter told DNR that he used swimbait. That’s an artificial lure that mimics the actions of live bait.

This species isn’t widely known or fished. Part of the reason for naming it the state riverine fish was to promote South Georgia as a destination to catch shoal bass.

The species is in the black bass family and has a reputation as being one of nature’s top fighters, according to a report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. The species usually weighs in at 4 pounds to 8 pounds and measures from 12 inches to 24 inches.

The shoal bass is found throughout the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin. The fish are experiencing declines in population, according to a 2013 study published by the American Fisheries Society. In Florida, the FWC reports the Chipola River is the best place to fish for shoal bass, though on a catch-and-release program.

DNR’s statement doesn’t tell much more than the size of the fish and McWhorter’s name and hometown. The report does take advantage of the new state record to urge anglers to go wet a line.

“What a way to end 2021, with a new state record shoal bass. Catches like these really showcase the amazing fishing opportunities found in Georgia.” Scott Robinson, chief of fisheries for DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division said in a statement. “Who will catch the next one? It might be you — but you have to get outdoors and Go Fish Georgia!”

McWhorter’s name has already been added to DNR’s list of record holders for freshwater fish.

For folks who don’t fish, the list reminds of the size of fish that swim in lakes and rivers where humans may paddle a kayak or swim. A few of the larger records and their bodies of water include:

Striped bass, two fish tied at 63 pounds, in the Oconee River and Lake Richard B. Russell; brown trout, 20 pounds, 14 ounces, Chattahoochee River; longnose gar, 30 pounds, 13 ounces, Lake Lanier; channel catfish, 44 pounds, 12 ounces, Altamaha River; and common carp, 35 pounds, 12 ounces, Lake Jackson.

McWhorter doesn’t get bragging rights in terms of sheer size of fish caught near Columbus. One record-setting fish caught in the area in 2020 was a blue catfish weighing in at 110 pounds, 6 ounces and measuring 58 inches long with a girth of 42 inches.

The fish was five times heavier than the average blue catfish pulled from the river. At the time, the fish was compared to Hogzilla, the monster hog said to weigh 1,000 pounds when he was shot south of the Ocmulgee River.

 

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David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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