Lake Chatuge Hybrid Bass Sets Georgia State Record
A 25-lb., 8-oz. not only set a Lake Chatuge lake record, it smashed the state and world records for hybrid bass.
That Lake Chatuge could produce very large hybrid bass, a hatchery-created cross between striped bass and white bass, became apparent about five or six years ago. Local anglers began hooking some big hybrids, mostly at night during April and May while casting crankbaits for spotted bass and smallmouths.
As word spread about hybrid bass weighing up to 16 and 17 pounds, fishermen began concentrating their efforts on trying to catch these hard-fighting, oversized silver bullets. Many of the fishermen who were catching big hybrids talked of even larger fish that were hooked but got away.
Then on May 7,1994, Bryan Naulta, of McDonough, landed a 23-1b., 2-oz. hybrid from Chatuge. A DNR Fisheries biologist aged the hybrid at nine years old. The fish set a new state record and provided evidence that this north Georgia mountain lake had some special attributes that allow hybrid bass to grow well beyond their average size and age. However, even with all of the growing evidence of monster hybrids, the fish that Lake Chatuge yielded last month on the night of May 1, 2005 was still a shocker. That fish weighed 25-lbs., 8-ozs., which is more than a pound heavier than the current International Game Fish Association (IGFA) all-tackle world record hybrid bass.
The fisherman who caught the new world record hybrid is David C. Hobby, of Brasstown, N.C., which is located right at the Georgia/North Carolina border near Lake Chatuge. David owns Christian Plumbing and has been in business in the area for 20 years.
David’s story begins with a fishing trip to Chatuge on the evening of May 1. Accompanying him were the Rev. Jim Brock and Lewis Shuttles, two fishing buddies who David knows through Faith Baptist Church in Blairsville. The trio launched their boat and headed up the Hiawassee River.
In the May 1995 issue of GON, an article about Chatuge hybrid fishing detailed how some huge hybrid bass can be caught at night in April and May by throwing crankbaits up on shallow flats and points in the main lake. Well, there’s another way to catch a big hybrid at Chatuge—head up the river where some of the linesides make a false spawning run.
David and his fishing partners anchored their boat in the middle of the river channel and started putting out baits at about 6 p.m. They were using both live trout and large bass minnows, and they had seven or eight lines out.
It was not an ideal night for fishing, at least most anglers wouldn’t think so. Strong storms were pushing through north Georgia, but that unstable weather is when David likes fishing for hybrids at Chatuge. Although it got windy and some rain fell right when they started fishing, the Lake Chatuge area was spared the violent thunderstorms that hit some areas that night.
David uses a float when live bait fishing for hybrids in the river current. About 2 1/2 feet below the float he crimps a very small split shot to the line and then adds a 1/4-oz. bullet weight above the split shot.
“We were just casting out and letting the float go out with the current,” David said. “You just watch the float, and when it disappears, set the hook.”
As it approached 10 p.m., the three fishermen had caught several hybrids in the 3- to 5-lb. size range, which is the perfect size in David’s book.
“I’m a meat fisherman,” he said. “I have six children, and I help feed my family with the fish I catch.”
At about 10, one of David’s floats disappeared, and he reared back to set the hook on a fish that wasn’t destined for the dinner table, but would instead transform David from an anonymous meat fisherman to a world record holder.
“When I set the hook, he took off and charged out—it seemed like 200 yards—though it may have been more like 150. I thought I was going to run out of line, and then he stopped. He seemed to just sit there for a minute, and then he started out again. I put some pressure on him and that turned him.”
But the battle wasn’t over. At one point the fish swam up near the bank and got in some brush.
“When he got in the brush, I just held steady tension on him and he came on out,” David said.
“When I first saw him, I said, ‘Good Night!’ I told the guys to get the other lines out of the water.”
When Jim Brock dipped the net in the river, the huge hybrid swam right into it.
David said the Mitchell 300 reel that he caught the hybrid on was spooled with 17-1b. test line.
Incredibly, even though they knew they had an exceptional fish, they stayed out.
“I don’t get that much time to fish,” David said. “They were biting, and I don’t know about you but I don’t leave when they’re biting.”
That night David tried to weigh the fish on certified scales, but in the early morning hours it was impossible to find a scale. The next day he called the Burton Fish Hatchery and arranged to meet with several biologists at the Gainesville Fisheries office. The biologists verified the species of the fish, and they also witnessed the weighing of the fish.
The 25 1/2-lb. hybrid was aged at 10 years old, the same year class as the state record hybrid that was caught a year before. David’s fish was 38 1/4 inches long and had a girth of 24 1/2 inches. David’s Lake Chatuge hybrid topped the previous all-tackle world record of 24-lbs., 3-ozs., which was caught by David Lambert at Leesville Lake in Virginia. Note: As of May 24, 1997, the official IGFA world record hybrid bass is a 27-lb., 5-oz. fish caught from Greers Ferry Lake in Arkansas.
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