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'It was my lucky day'

Dawsonville resident Jody Pressley, 36, knew exactly what he was doing when he hooked the third largest fish in Lake Lanier's history despite a fierce wind.

His record-setting striper, caught after the first new moon this month, weighed in at 45-pounds, 4-ounces.

"It happened right around midnight," he said. "The wind was blowing so hard it felt like around 20 to 25 miles an hour and I was so excited that my boat got blown right into the dock. My buddies had to hold onto it to keep us steady."

His buddies were Dawsonville residents Tyler Burt, Dwyane Roberts, and a "Yankee guy" named Steve Wadsworth, Pressley said.

"I couldn't have done it without their help," Pressley said.

Pressley explained he likes to watch the moon phases, and it was the weekend after a new moon when he and three friends hauled in 12 stripers and his record-setter.

"I've been fishing Lake Lanier all my life," he said, "and this one is the biggest one I've ever caught. I never dreamed I'd have something that big on my line."

His previous personal record, which hangs on the wall of his home, was a 29-pound, 12-ounce striper, also caught in Lake Lanier.

Pressey used live blueback herring as bait, a Penn 460 Slammer spinning reel, Okuma rod, a 30-pound Power Pro line and a 40-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon leader.

The former Lake Lanier fishing guide said the boat he used that lucky night was a

a 21-foot, center-console Carolina skiff with a 115-horsepower Suzuki motor. It was his first boat, which he bought in 2003.

"I've pretty much spent everything I have on fishing 'cause I love it so much," Pressley said. "If somebody called me and wanted to go fishin' as long as they paid for my gas I'd just up and go."

The 45-pounder put up a good fight, Pressley said.

"I knew it was big. I could tell by the way it was pullin'. I let it feed off awhile, then I thought, 'I'll set the hook when I know it's in his mouth.' But then, it got tangled up in some green underwater lights. I thought I was going to lose it. I could feel it sawing. My heart was just pounding so hard.

"I'd say it took about 15-20 minutes to reel it in."

Pressley's father, Jackie Pressley, taught him how to fish.

"The first thing I did was call my daddy," he said. "I had this unexplainable feeling. He could tell by the tone in my voice that I wasn't makin' it up. Then I called my wife. "

The big fish was weighed on certified scales at Hammond's Bait and Tackle in Cumming.

Pressley does have one regret.

"My only regret is that I should have weighed the fish sooner," he said. "I waited all night, 'cause we were having so much fun. Fish lose weight after being in the boat a while.

"That was really my lucky day. All my neighbors came over to congratulate me."

Pressley said he's going to keep trying for a 50-pounder.

"Atlanta Angler Magazine (The Angler Magazine Metro Atlanta & North Georgia) is having a contest for $10,000 for a 50-pound Lake Lanier striper," he said. "I want to win it so I can keep on fishin' without going broke."

Pressley, by the way, never made it home with his catch.

"Nope, I took it straight to the taxidermist."