It was too wet to work the south Georgia fields on June 2, 1932, so 19-year-old George Washington Perry went fishing instead. It was a good decision. Perry caught a 22-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass that still stands as the all-tackle world record for the most sought after sportfish in the world.
Seventy-five years later, the weather was much the same — too wet to work the fields and very nearly too wet to conduct the 75th anniversary ceremony commemorating Perry's catch. Nevertheless, 30 or so soggy bass history buffs made their way down miles of treacherous dirt roads and a slippery footpath to what's left of Montgomery Lake, the old oxbow off the Ocmulgee River, to pay tribute to Perry and his catch.
Speakers included Dan Forster, director of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division; Chuck Coomer, chief of the Fisheries Management for the DNR; Bill Baab, the premier Perry and world record historian; George "Dazy" Perry, the record holder's son; and Jim Paulk, a Perry family friend. They were there to celebrate the anniversary and to unveil a new Georgia historical marker that corrects some inaccuracies on an earlier display posted in 1983.
"The story of the world record largemouth bass catch has a wonderful 'everyman' quality to it — making it easy for people to identify with George W. Perry," said Forster.
Dazy Perry spoke of the honest and fun-loving nature of his father. He said the one word that best described him was "smile." The senior Perry had a love of flying that was passed on to his son, a retired Delta pilot. "When my dad died, a big part of me went with him," Dazy said.
George W. Perry died in 1974 when the small plane he was piloting crashed near Birmingham, Ala.
Coomer commented on the notoriety Georgia has received as the state producing the world record bass. "We'd love to see the next record come from Georgia, too," he added.
Baab, the retired outdoors editor of the Augusta Chronicle, and one of few outdoor writers to have spoken with Perry about his catch, recounted the tale of the young farmer who made fishing history three quarters of a century before. He plans to publish a book on Perry and the record in 2008.
Few fishing fanatics expected Perry's record to last so long, especially after the deluge of 20-pound-plus bass coming from California since the 1970s. When California's Lake Dixon produced a foul-hooked 25-pounder in 2006, it seemed that Perry's mark was sure to fall … and soon.
But a year later the Georgia record seems about as safe as ever. The Lake Dixon bass was not seen this year, and plans for a ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the present world record may not be outrageous.