Midnight Bite Produces Record West Point Flathead Catfish

Brad Gill | May 8, 2020

Gene Schmitt, of LaGrange, probably has the coronavirus to thank for his name being placed in the West Point Lake records chart. He caught a 41-lb. flathead at 12:05 a.m. on Tuesday, May 5, an hour when he’d normally be in bed resting for work.

“I’ve been out of work for almost two months now. I go back Monday, though,” said Gene.

It was about 6 p.m. when Gene and his half-brother Adam Wright launched their boat from the Georgia Access ramp at the Highway 219 bridge on the upper end of the lake.

Gene Schmitt, of LaGrange, with his 41-lb. lake record flathead from West Point.

“We have an old 1979 Bomber boat, and we had just gotten the boat fixed, and we were out for just the second time that night,” said Gene. “I took my two girls out there, and we fished with them.”

The party of four was fishing under the Highway 219 bridge in 40 feet of water. After a little while with no luck, they took the girls back to the ramp where Gene’s wife picked them up, while the two brothers went back out fishing.

“We went a little farther out to a rock wall I know about,” said Gene. “We anchored up in 18 feet of water and were throwing in about 28 feet of water.”

They were downlining a combination of live bream, chicken liver and cut shad. As the evening wore on, the fishing improved.

“We caught four nice-sized gar, and my brother caught his personal best 9-lb. striper,” said Gene. “I told my brother, ‘You just caught that 9-pounder, think about catching the lake record that weighs 36 pounds, think about reeling that in.’ We were using the old cinder-block-anchor technique, and that 9-pounder pulled us off both anchors.”

Adam Wright and his personal best 9-lb. striper that he caught from West Point.

It was Adam’s interest in the lake-record striper weight and Gene’s recent glance at the West Point Lake records on his phone at that had the current 37-lb. flathead record fresh on his mind.

“I think I caught one more gar right after he caught that striper, and then he said, ‘Let’s give it about 10 more minutes, and we’ll head back in,’ because it was already about midnight,” said Gene.

The rod that the big flathead bit just a few minutes later was a 7-foot Pro Cat spinning rod and reel combo with 30- or 40-lb. test. The record fish ate a big shad head hooked with a 7/0 circle hook that was sitting on the bottom 20 yards upstream.

“That pole started getting a little jingle-jingle on that bell, and I went back there and set the hook, and it was like it didn’t even move,” said Gene. “I said, ‘I think I am hung on the bottom.’ It was bent over. It took everything I had to get him off the bottom.”

Once he got the flathead up, the big cat pulled both anchors and started dragging the boat.

“He started running like that striper did, so I thought it was another striper,” said Gene. “Man we got him over to the boat, and I finally saw him roll over and saw color and saw that big belly on him, I said, ‘Oh my gosh! Look at this fish!’”

With GON‘s online records fresh on Gene’s mind, he knew the fish had to beat 37 pounds, which it easily did on hand-held scales. It recorded right at 41 pounds. However, Gene still needed an official weight to be considered for GON‘s records.

“I said we have to get this thing to the boat ramp. We had to tie it to the side of the boat and run it in because our livewell wasn’t big enough,” said Gene.

The next morning, Gene went to visit Ben Turner with Lee’s Crossing Feed and Farm, 1832 Vernon Road, LaGrange, Georgia 30240. Thankfully, Ben enjoys folks bringing potential lake and record fish by his store be weighed on their certified scales.

“I weighed it myself, it was 41 pounds, a big fish. You can bring them all my way, I’m perfectly fine with that. I love helping people out. That’s a pleasure of ours,” said Ben.

GON knows it has friends at Lee’s Crossing Feed and Farm. Drop by and see Ben if you have a fish to weigh or if you just need feed and farming supplies.

After Gene solidified his record, he donated the flathead to a family who was looking to get some fresh fish for the grease.

“My stepdad a long time ago got me into flathead fishing,” said Gene. “He taught me everything he knew, he passed five years ago. He was always chasing a lake record, so it feels good to catch one.”

Gene dedicates the new record fish to his stepdad, Ray “Big Chooch” Mercer. Gene said the rock wall where he was fishing was one of the holes he shared with Gene over their years of fishing together.

GON Official Lake Records For West Point

Largemouth Bass14-lbs., 2-ozs.Richard Little04/15/1988
Spotted Bass6-lbs., 9-ozs.Wendell Young02/07/1990
White Crappie3-lbs., 14-ozs.Willie Arnold02/15/1989
Black Crappie3-lbs., 6-ozs.Edward Cagle03/14/1996
Hybrid Bass14-lbs., 12.75-ozs.Dustin Pate03/13/2009
Shoal Bass3-lbs., 7-ozs.Danny Swafford08/02/1997
Blue Catfish61-lbs.Jerrimie Tolbert10/22/2022
Flathead Catfish48-lbs.Mike Felter08/22/2020
Yellow Perch1-lb., 2.4-ozs.Toney Booker11/18/2017
Channel Catfish16-lbs., 7.5-ozs.Owen Knabe4/22/2018
Striped Bass40-lbs.Mike Steele3/24/2024
Shellcracker12.64-ozs.Todd Garner05/06/2023
Longnose Gar23-lbs.April Waldrop07/21/2023

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.

Gene dedicates the new record fish to his stepdad, Ray “Big Chooch” Mercer. Gene said the rock wall where he was fishing was one of the holes he shared with Gene over the years of fishing together.

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