Two Etowah River Records In One Night

Two new fish for the GON Lake & River Records, but only one new name.

John N. Felsher | May 25, 2023

Seth Shoults, of Cartersville, is a great example of how to use your fishing time wisely. He broke two Etowah River catfish records in the same trip. Both were certified and then released the next day. The big blue weighed 50 pounds and the channel cat (below) came in at 7 pounds.

One evening, Seth Shoults headed out to the Etowah River specifically to set a new waterbody catfish record. He didn’t just break a record. In fact, he established two new records in less than an hour of each other with two different species.

The angler from Cartersville regularly fishes the Etowah River in northwestern Georgia. The Etowah River rises northwest of Dahlonega and runs about 164 miles generally southwest to Rome. At Rome, it merges with the Oostanaula River to form the Coosa River, which flows down through Alabama. A dam on the river creates Lake Allatoona.

“A lot of the better catfishing on the Etowah River is toward Rome and down to where it merges with the Oostanaula,” Seth said. “When the water temperature rises, I have good luck in the fast-moving water toward Cartersville. In 2020, I landed about a 70-lb. blue cat in Lake Allatoona but didn’t get it certified.”

On the evening of April 21, 2023, Seth ventured forth on a solo trip in his 1972 16-foot aluminum boat to break the Etowah River catfish record. The blue cat record stood at 36.5 pounds and the channel catfish river record at about 6 pounds.

Not far from Cartersville, Seth found a hole in the river channel that drops to about 8 to 10 feet deep. The rest of the river around that spot runs roughly 4 to 5 feet deep. Where the channel drops, the current slacks a bit. In addition, a rockpile breaks the current, creating a little pool.

“The river is pretty shallow along the stretch, but I found a hole that creates a little depression behind it,” Seth said. “I’ve always caught big fish with my dad when I was young. I always fished for the fun of it, never to have a record certified. This year, I’ve been trying to break a river catfish record. I’ve caught more than 20 fish that bested 25 pounds since March 2023. I caught one 49 inches long and 30 inches around earlier in the year and let it go to catch it again. It might have been a record.”

On that April evening, Seth fashioned a Santee-Cooper rig. Using 30-lb. test Trilene Big Game monofilament, he attached a three-way swivel. On a drop line, he added a 9-inch dragging weight. For his bait line, he used 50-lb. test Whisker Seeker monofilament line.

“I like a 2-foot monofilament leader because monofilament has good stretch,” Seth said. “In little to no current, I’ll use a 3-oz. lead dragging weight. People can easily bend it however they wish. I’ll put a clip on the swivel and attach the weight to that. I’ll put a 3-inch peg float on the leader about 6 to 8 inches above the hook. The float keeps the bait off the bottom.”

When fishing for big fish, Seth normally uses an 8/0 to 10/0 hook on the leader. The larger, wider hooks catch big catfish behind their rough teeth patches. For smaller catfish, he downsizes to a 6/0 hook.

“For bait, I usually use cut gizzard shad,” Seth said. “For flatheads, I use live bluegill, but any fresh bait can work. I’ll put several different bait types out. I might put out a live bluegill and a shad head, another live bait and then a shad body section to see what catfish want that day. Sometimes, I catch my own bait when I have time.”

In a good spot, he usually puts out five to six medium-heavy action B’n’M catfish rods, each with a 6500C3 Abu Garcia reel. He sweetens each hook with a different catfish enticement to see what the whiskerfish want best.

On this evening, he only had fresh gizzard shad. At first, catfish didn’t want to cooperate, so he changed spots a few times. Then, he downsized his presentation just to put something in the boat. 

“I downsized my baits a little to catch channel cats,” Seth said. “I just wanted to get on some action. I lost a pretty good fish. I didn’t see it, but I think it was a big channel cat. It came on the ledge side of the hole. It was right down the seem of the current, not actually in the current.”

At about 7 p.m. another catfish took the bait. This time, it stayed hooked. He pulled up a 7-lb. channel catfish, a pound over the existing river record. The cat measured about 27 inches long. He put it in the livewell.

Summertime Tailrace Stripers

“I was positive this catfish was going to be a river channel record,” Seth said. “After I caught that channel cat, I moved my baits a little to put them more inside that current break. About 45 minutes later, the big one slammed the bait. I knew it was a big one, but at first, I thought it might be a flathead. Then, he started rolling on the line and I could tell it was a big blue.”

Seth fought the whiskered behemoth for about 20 minutes before subduing it. He finally netted the beast to bring it aboard. At 43 inches long with a 31-inch girth, the big blue couldn’t fit in the livewell. The 50-lb. catfish beat the old river record by 13.5 pounds. 

“I knew when I saw that fish it was going to break a record,” Seth said. “I thought it was going to weigh in the mid-40s. With two potential river records in the boat, I was feeling good. That old boat doesn’t have a good livewell. I have a dry storage in the boat. I keep two bubblers in the boat in case I catch a bluegill or something and want to keep it alive.”

Seth removed all his stuff from dry storage and flooded it. Then, he hooked up those two bubblers to keep both fish alive until they could be weighed on certified scales. Both fish remained alive, and he had them certified as new river records the next day. With two confirmed records in one day to his credit, he released the fish alive and healthy so someone could possibly catch them again.

“In early May, I caught another 40-lb. blue,” Seth said. “It’s been a heck of an experience trying to break a record this year, and I broke two in one night. I attribute it all to God. I went back to the basics trying to figure out why these fish were there. I’ve been going back through everything I know and relearning it and getting it down to a science. It’s made me a better fisherman. It’s been an amazing year already.”


Largemouth Bass7-lbs., 7.68-ozs.Eric Black01/27/2016
Flathead Catfish38-lbs., 0.8-ozs.John Morgado05/17/2022
Blue Catfish50-lbs.Seth Shoults04/21/23
Striped Bass38-lbs.Keith Cole05/1994
Yellow Perch1-lb., 10.2-ozs.Eric Black01/14/2015
Longnose Gar19-lbs., 4.64-ozs.Kyle Williams08/08/2018
Spotted Bass4-lbs., 0.5-ozs.Jackson Sibley03/21/2022
Rainbow Trout2-lbs.Todd West10/01/2020
Channel Catfish7-lbs.Seth Shoults04/21/23

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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