George Perry's world record bass

Eighty-one years and counting atop the bass fishing mountain

George W. Perry
Ken Duke collection
George W. Perry and a fish much smaller than his world record.

In football, "the catch" was Dwight Clark's snag of Joe Montana's pass to win the 1982 NFC Championship Game. In baseball, "the catch" was Willie Mays' grab of Vic Wertz's long drive to centerfield in the 1954 World Series.

And in fishing, "the catch" is George Perry's world record largemouth bass taken on June 2, 1932 from Lake Montgomery, an oxbow of the Ocmulgee River in South Georgia. The fish weighed 22 pounds, 4 ounces and is the most sought after sportfishing record in history.

In 1932, George Washington Perry was a 20-year-old farmer living in rural Georgia. This was in the depths of the Great Depression and fishing was more than recreation. It was a way to get food.

Spring was wet that year, and on June 2 the fields were too soggy to work. So Perry and his friend Jack Page set out for Montgomery Lake to do some fishing. They kept a small homemade boat there and carried a single rod, reel and lure. Each would take a turn casting while the other sculled the boat.

At some point, Perry noticed a disturbance near a shallow stump and made a cast to it.

Years later, Perry told the tale to Vic Dunaway for a 1969 Sports Afield article: 

I don't remember many of the details but all at once the water splashed everywhere. I do remember striking, then raring back and trying to reel. But nothing budged. I thought for sure I had lost the fish — that he'd dived and hung me up. I had no idea how big the fish was, but that didn't matter. What had me worried was losing the lure.

The lure was the only one they had, a Creek Chub Fintail Shiner, and their day would be over without it.

George Washington Perry as he looked shortly before his death in 1974.Terry Drace/B.A.S.S.George Washington Perry as he looked shortly before his death in 1974.

Fortunately for Perry, the lure wasn't hung up at all, and in a moment the fish moved. The battle was brief and soon he was lifting the bass into the boat with both hands.

Neither Perry nor Page had any idea that the bass might be a record of any kind. In fact, there really weren't any records in those days. Although Field & Stream sponsored an annual big fish contest and maintained the most authoritative records of the day, they did not list world records at that time.

All Perry and Page knew was that the bass was bigger than any they had ever seen. "The first thing I thought of was how nice a chunk of meat to take home," Perry told Sports Afield almost four decades later.

But before they took the bass home, they stopped at the nearest town, Helena, and pulled into J.J. Hall's General Store (or Fowler Grocery, depending on the version you choose to believe) to show the fish off to anyone who might care. Once inside, Hall pulled out a tape and measured the bass at 32 1/2 inches long and 28 1/2 inches around.

Then they took the bass to the post office and got it weighed on a set of certified scales where it registered 22-4. Someone told Perry about the Field & Stream big fish contest, they found an issue with the submission rules and he entered his catch.