Hartwell Chain Pickerel Record Set By 4-Year-Old

Lee Coleman | April 25, 2023

Jay Franklin set the chain pickerel record on Hartwell with this 2-lb., 5-oz. fish.

It is said most people will have 15 minutes of fame at some point in their lives. For 4-year old Scott James (Jay) Franklin III, the afternoon of March 16, 2023 led directly to the fulfillment of that adage.

More importantly, history will remember Jay’s name fondly. 

Fishing with his father Jake in a cove on Lake Hartwell as they took turns casting, Jay was “dancing” a chrome Heddon Super Spook near the shoreline when the fish struck.

In that monumental moment, Jay made history by catching a 2-lb., 5-oz., 21-inch chain pickerel, setting the Lake Hartwell record and earning the distinction of becoming the first angler to have that Lake Hartwell record added to the lists of record setting lakes and rivers maintained by GON.

As a result, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), through the Wildlife Resources Division, certified and honored Jay as a youth award winner in the Georgia Angler Award Program. In the Youth Program, young people qualify for consideration if they are under the age of 16 years old and the proper DNR documentation has been completed.

Jay, the son of Jake and Courtney Franklin, knew his dad had one rule. If he behaved in school, his chances of going fishing in the afternoon were much greater. The cove had a swampy feel to it with a grassbed with fresh water feeding into it at a depth of about 2 feet. 

“It looked like the perfect place for pickerel,” said Jake. “It ended up being a perfect storm. He was throwing the Super Spook and doing a pretty good job of making it what he calls dancing. Jay is walking the Spook. He was watching it as he danced it and all of a sudden, the water just exploded. The way it scared him, he jumped back and when he did, he set the hook.”

Some folks who saw the fish suggested Jay might have something so the research cycle began. First, Jake verified the GON lake list and saw Hartwell didn’t have a record for a chain pickerel. On March 17, 2023, Jay and Jake walked into Smith Farm Supply in Hartwell and Smith staffer Justin Patterson weighed the fish on a seed scale. Following the weigh-in, the chain pickerel was certified as a Lake Hartwell record by WRD Fisheries Region Supervisor Anthony Rayburn.

“Here he is only 4 years old and what a really cool experience for him,” Jake said. “His mother and I are so proud of him. We told him we were having his fish mounted for his bedroom wall. He got really excited and started skipping around. I told his teacher if he doesn’t behave, threaten to call his taxidermist,” he laughed.

On the rare occasion when he’s not fishing, the lover of cheese pizza and Indiana Jones movies on YouTube he can usually be found outside riding his throttled down Polaris Outlaw ATV nicknamed “DJ Glimmet.”

Talking to GON with the help of Jake, Jay was poetic in his young assessment of what he had accomplished.

“I was real excited. I thought it was awesome,” Jay said. “It was really cool at school. All of my friends were giving me High 5s.”

The Afterglow

The discovery of Jay’s historic record will forever be a legacy for this dynamic young man and the Franklin family. The question could become how he handles it and on what foundation. Sand or concrete? 

“We are followers of Christ first and outdoorsmen second,” Jake said. “The greatest joy I have found especially recently is watching my son enjoy God’s creation as much as I do.

“That is my son. I think back when I was his age and there was a time when the only thing I wanted to do was fish. I want to take him fishing as much as I wanted to go fishing when I was little.”

A day of memories. A lifetime of concrete.


Lake Hartwell Record Fish

Largemouth Bass12-lbs., 6.5-ozs.Jack Breshears03/08/76
Spotted Bass5-lbs., 6.08-ozs.Raulie Bleech03/18/07
Redeye Bass3-lbs., 7-ozs.Steve Williams04/17/04
Striped Bass59-lbs., 8-ozs.Terry McConnell02/03/02
Hybrid Bass20-lbs., 1-oz.Buster Green-----
White Bass4-lbs., 5-ozs.H.T. Davis02/06/67
White Crappie4-lb., 4-ozs.Charles McCullough04/27/68
Black Crappie3-lbs., 1.76-ozs.Jimmy Burns03/02/22
Walleye9-lbs.T.O. Sherriff1974
Blue Catfish30-lbs., 8-ozs.Melvin Wall06/26/03
Flathead Catfish66-lbs.Darrin Sealey04/04/10
Shellcracker1-lb., 4.16-ozs.DJ Hill05/13/23
Chain Pickerel2-lbs., 5-ozs.Jay Franklin03/16/23

See all of GON’s official Georgia Lake & River Records here.

Requirements For Record Fish

• Fish must be caught legally by rod and reel in a manner consistent with state game and fish regulations.

• Catch must be weighed on accurate Georgia DOA certified scales with at least two witnesses present, who must be willing to provide their names and phone numbers so they can be contacted to verify the weighing of the fish.

• Witnesses to the weighing must be at least 18 years old, and they must not be members of the angler’s immediate family nor have a close personal relationship with the angler.

• Catch must be positively identified by qualified DNR personnel.

GON’s records are compiled and maintained by GON, to be awarded at GON’s discretion. Additional steps may be required for record consideration.

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