Unicoi Lake Producing Monster Bass

Cleveland buddies catch two jaw-dropping bucketmouths on live bait.

Nick Carter | January 5, 2009

Josh Payne of Cleveland caught this 15-lb., 7.68-oz. bass at Unicoi Lake Nov. 20.

The north Georgia mountains are more likely to be equated with trout fishing than gigantic largemouths, but the cold, clear waters have created some California-style bass fishing on the 53-acre Unicoi Lake at Unicoi State Park, and a pair of Cleveland buddies has figured out how to catch them.

On Oct. 22, Levi Garrett landed a 14-lb., 6-oz. bass at Unicoi Lake. That fish won’t make the Georgia record bass list because he didn’t go through the required steps by having it weighed on scales certified by the Department of Agriculture. Then, on Thursday, Nov. 20, Levi’s buddy, Josh Payne, landed a 15-lb., 7.68-oz. giant out of the same lake, and Levi was in the boat with him. This time they took the fish directly to Betty’s Country Store in Helen to have it weighed on certified scales in front of numerous witnesses. With a certified weight, Josh’s fish is the No. 24 biggest largemouth ever caught in Georgia.

To further verify the legitimacy of his fish, Josh had two rangers witness his catch. Smith McCullough, an interpretive ranger with Georgia State Parks, and Law Enforcement Ranger Chris Kernahan saw Josh weigh the fish on digital scales.

“The scales were bouncing, but it came in between 15.5 and 15.7 pounds,” said Smith. “It was big. I could have put both fists in its mouth and still had room.”

Josh even got a souvenir. Kernahan issued warning citations for being on the lake after dark when Josh and Levi’s trolling motor ran out of juice.

“I told him I was going to frame it and hang it it on the wall,” Josh said. “It’ll go under the replica mount Bass Pro is having made for me.”

Both Levi’s and Josh’s fish were donated to Bass Pro Shops. Even though Levi’s fish was not weighed on certified scales, Bill Carson, promotions manager for the Lawrenceville store, verified the weights of both fish. Bill said Levi’s fish was shipped off to a Bass Pro store in the Midwest, but Josh’s bass is on display in the big tank in Lawrenceville.

Josh’s buddy Levi Garrett of Cleveland caught this 14-lb., 6-oz. bass a month earlier.

When Josh went to visit his fish, he said the bass was a little leery at first, hiding on the bottom of the tank under the boat with the catfish. However, when it came out, there was no question it was his fish, Josh said.

“It’s the biggest one in there,” he said. “It also doesn’t have the dark color and big belly like the other ones in there. It’s still got that wild look to it. They said it will weigh more than 20 pounds by the time it’s full grown.”

The question remains. What are Levi and Josh doing to catch these monster fish when nobody else can? Well, Josh said they won’t bite artificials, and that’s as far as he would go.

“I don’t want to give up the secret,” he said.

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