Georgia angler Lester Roberts caught a new state-record redbreast while fishing at a bass tournament on the Satilla River on May 7. His slab sunfish topped the previous record, which had stood for 24 years. Roberts boated the 1-pound, 12.32-ounce fish while pitching a crankbait in swift current. He and his tournament partner, Whitey Hendrix, initially thought he’d hooked another largemouth bass to add to the nice bag they already had in the livewell.
“I swung him in the boat, and we couldn’t believe just how big he was,” Roberts told Georgia Outdoor News. “We’d never seen anything like it.”
After catching the big panfish, the two anglers continued targeting bass—and ultimately placed second in the tournament. At the end of the day, Roberts weighed the redbreast on a friend’s scale at the boat ramp, which was when he realized he might have a state record. Later that afternoon, the DNR confirmed the catch as Georgia’s new number one redbreast. The previous record was caught in Coweta County pond in 1998.
The redbreast—also known as yellowbelly, yellowbreast, red throat, and rooster sunfish—is native to the Satilla. The river, which originates in Georgia’s Ben Hill County and flows eastward for 235 miles before emptying into the Atlantic in Camden County, has been a panfish goldmine this spring. Roberts’ catch marked the third time in two weeks that the river record for the species has been broken. On April 26, Will Steed caught a 1-pound 7.2-ounce fish, and just two days later Will’s 15-year-old son, Carter, broke his record with a 1-pound 9.44-ounce redbreast.
In early March, Barbara Jean Shirley was fishing the Satilla with Zach Johns when she caught a 1-pound 5.8-ounce bluegill that set a new river record. The next day, Johns headed back out on the Satilla and beat her mark with a 1-pound 6.35-ounce bluegill. He also caught a 1-pound 1.41-ounce redbreast on the same outing.
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Roberts may have more than just a state record on his hands. He told Georgia Outdoor News that the redbreast weighs slightly more than the current IGFA world record redbreast—a 1-pound 12-ounce fish caught by Alvin Buchanan on Florida’s Suwannee River in 1984. Roberts plans to apply for that record, as well. Roberts’s fish does not fulfill the IGFA’s requirement of beating the previous world record by more than two ounces to set a new record but it may still qualify for a world record as a tie.