Mad Dash To Certified Scales Yields Etowah River Striper Record Set At 33 Pounds

Brad Gill | December 3, 2018

Joe Frank Harris Jr., of Cartersville, was spending a late-summer evening on the Etowah River on Aug. 21 when he successfully boated a 33-lb. striper and became the river’s new record holder. Joe was in the boat with his father-in-law Tom Gurley and fishing guide Nathan Cooper.

“It is a memory that plays slowly over and over in my mind. It is like time stood still,” said Joe.

Right before Joe hooked up with the giant striper, Tom was doing battle with another nice fish.

“I hurried to cast right over the top of his fighting fish. I did not want to miss out on the action,” said Joe. “When she struck, the line went out really fast, but I did not know what we had. She fought for a while, and my rod was about bent double.

“When she came closer, she looked like Jaws—that huge mouth and dorsal fin!”

Joe had a Jaws-like, “We need a bigger boat” thought when he wondered how in the world he was going to get the giant fish in the boat. He began to panic as he wondered if the tackle would hold the fish.

“What if I let the fish of a lifetime get away?” Joe wondered. “Then Nathan, who was helping my father-in-law get his big fish off, realized what we had on the line. Thank God that Nathan can operate a net. She filled up the whole net.

“Nathan gets her in the boat and goes crazy. I am in shock as she flaps on the bottom of the boat. Nathan gives me a high-five and tells me that he prayed that we would catch one for my wall.”

Nathan knew immediately that the fish was record caliber.

“I knew when we landed her that she was close to the record. My girlfriend’s son was the current record holder,” said Nathan.

“We checked on my BogaGrip and saw that it was 34 pounds.”

The record at that time was a fish caught by Hunter Ramsey in 2015 that weighed 32-lbs., 8-ozs.

“At that point, I had Joe reach out to Tina Floyd, who owns Ladds Farm Supply in Cartersville. We immediately left and headed for Ladds,” said Nathan.

The mad dash was on to make sure the fish would stay as close to 34 pounds as possible, since fish are known to lose weight once they are out of the water.

“I asked Nathan if we could put her in the livewell to preserve her weight. What is a joke. There was no way she would fit,” said Joe.

“It took forever to get to the landing, and I am selfishly thinking about how much weight she is losing. I told Nathan that she would fit in my big cooler when we got back. That was even funnier since she was more that three times the size of my cooler.”

The trio of striper anglers called in Shane Waters as an additional witness, and the fish was officially weighed at 33 pounds on scales that have been certified by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Joe already has the mount back from McMicken Taxidermy in Cartersville.

“On a bad day, I can look at her on the wall of my office and think of how blessed I am, and that all things are possible with God,” said Joe. “Sometimes, He just blesses us more than we deserve. And He is with us on the other days. Keep looking up!”

 Click here to see more Etowah River records. 

(From left) Tom Gurley, Nathan Cooper and Joe Frank Harris Jr. with the new Etowah River Striper record.

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