Montgomery Lake is an oxbow of the Ocmulgee River. A mile or so before you reach the Ocmulgee Water Trail sign for Montgomery Lake & Stave’s Landing, driving north on Georgia Highway 117 from Jacksonville to Lumber City, there’s a Georgia Historic Marker which gives this beautiful but nondescript place mythical status among sportsmen.
Approximately two miles from this spot, on June 2, 1932, George W. Perry, a 19-year old farm boy, caught what was to become America`s most famous fish. The twenty-two pound four ounce Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoldes) exceeded the existing record by more than two pounds and has retained the world record for more than fifty years. Perry and his friend, J.E. Page, were fishing in Montgomery Lake, a slough off the Ocmulgee River, not for trophies but to bring food to the table during those days of the Great Depression. The fish was caught on a Creek Chub Perch Scale Wigglefish, Perry`s only lure, and was 32 1/2 inches in length and 28 1/2 inches in girth. The weight and measurements were taken, recorded and notarized in Helena, Georgia and Perry’s only reward was seventy-five dollars in merchandise as first prize in Field and Stream Magazine`s fishing contest. The longstanding record is one of the reasons that the largemouth bass was made Georgia`s Official State Fish. Montgomery Lake is today part of the Department of Natural Resources Horse Creek Wildlife Management Area.
A largemouth weighing in at one more ounce (22.5 lbs.) was caught by Manabu Kurita in Japan in 2009, but since it doesn’t weigh at least two more ounces than the existing world record, it’s considered a tie. Perry’s record is in no danger of being forgotten.
Today was the first time I’d ever laid eyes upon this place and in appearance it was scarcely different from numerous similar places I’ve photographed all over South Georgia in the past seven years. But the history of George Perry and the world record Largemouth Bass gave me pause. It made this place a tangible landmark.
For a third consecutive winter there’s high water on the Ocmulgee. The fishing must be good. Stave’s Landing is publicly accessible at the end of a dirt road about three miles in length. The road is generally safe for travel, though a four-wheel drive is the best way to go.
I look forward to returning in the spring.
There are many references to George Perry online, but this is one of the best.