The catch-and-release purists might want to take a seat for this one…
On May 14, a Douglas angler caught a largemouth bass from a 50-acre Jeff Davis County farm pond that pulled a set of hand-held digital scales to 18-lbs., 8-ozs. If certified scales had taken that weight, there would be a new No. 2 bass for the Georgia record books. Sadly, we’ll never know.
Just like George Perry’s 22-lb., 4-oz. world record caught back in 1932, the Jeff Davis County bass was destined to take a dip into hot oil. And this fish was slapped down on the chopping block before it could make it to the grocer’s scales or to a fisheries biologist.
Otis Goodman was the angler. On his 50th birthday, he was pounding the banks of the farm pond from a 10-foot plastic boat with a trolling motor. He was casting to a shallow patch of lily pads with a pink Wave Worm, rigged wacky-style, with a weedless hook.
“I wasn’t using a weight,” Otis said. “That Wave Worm, it’s made to sink slow.”
Otis set the hook on the take, but for several seconds he had no idea what he had tied into with his Zebco Rhino and 10-lb. test.
“When he hit, he ran toward me, and I had to take up line real quick,” he said. “I didn’t feel him until he started running the other way. I knew it was a good one, but I didn’t have any idea it was of that magnitude.
“When he came up and shook his head, I couldn’t believe what I saw.”
Otis has been fishing strictly for bass since he was about 16 years old. He said he’s caught three 10-pounders and more 6-, 7- and 8-lb. fish than he cares to count.
“All I do is fish for bass, because I like the way they taste,” he said. “I don’t mess around with bream or anything, because they’ve got all those bones in ’em. I can cut up a bass so there’s no bones in it, just meat.”
Needless to say, Otis knew he had an exceptional fish. The first thing he did was call his wife and tell her to go get a cheap camera so he could get some snapshots. Then he took the fish to Elmo’s Bait & Tackle in Douglas to have it weighed.
“When I saw what it said on those scales, my eyes about popped out of my head,” he said. “We weighed it three times, and it came up 18-pounds, 8-ounces three times, so that’s what I’m going with.”
Then Otis went straight to the Douglas Enterprise, where he had his photograph taken for the local newspaper. After that, it was a quick trip home to clean the fish for the fryer.
“I already ate a chunk of him, and he tasted just as good as a little bass,” Otis said. “I’ve still got enough of him left for a few fillets.”
The caption with the photograph that ran in the Douglas newspaper indicates the fish was caught out of the Satilla River. Otis said he told the newspaper staff it came from the Satilla because he didn’t want to spill the beans on his fishing hole. GON spoke with the owner of the pond who knew Otis had been fishing there. The owner also said the pond is not managed for large bass, but that it has produced several fish heavier than 10 pounds.
When asked why he didn’t have such a huge bass documented, Otis said he didn’t think it was worth anything more than bragging rights unless it was actually the coveted world record.
“If I had had any idea it was such a big deal, I would have gotten everything legal,” he said. “But I didn’t think it was anything if it wasn’t a world record.”
Well, without a witnessed and certified weight, the fish really can’t be documented as anything more than a huge fish for bragging rights. And there is no proof — other than a photo — to silence the skeptics. Doubtless some will have a field day downplaying Otis’ fish, but this is a fish story some might just want to believe.
And, even if his name won’t make the record books, at least Otis and his family got a few good meals out of what could have been the biggest Georgia bass caught in more than three-quarters of a century.