The world’s biggest fish story was spun by a 300-pound, sixth grade dropout from north Georgia – a sad blow to the reputation of good-standing Texans everywhere.
In 1967, Alvin Samples, an overall-clad, stock-car racing liquor store operator, claimed to have caught a world record 22-pound, 9-ounce largemouth bass in Cumming, Georgia’s Lake Lanier, shattering the 35 year-old mark by five ounces.
Jim Morrison, the Georgia Game and Fish Department Chief of Information, drove to Cumming to investigate. He easily found his man. Not surprising – how much bigger than Samples could Cumming have been? Morrison interviewed Alvin on his front porch, which he dubbed “Squalor Holler.” Fortunately, the exchange was recorded.
Samples said he caught the fish on a submerged island. “I dropped my anchor rock there on the island and pitched my little Zebbyco 33 out and had some heavy equipment there in the boat. I put a big lizard on it and got ready for big bass. I got one hooked over there and saw my line a stretchin’ and a straightenin’ and I reached down and caught him. When I jerked him I thought I was hung up because it didn’t go no where. After he come up and stood on that tail and shook that head three or four times, he just turned over on his side and I just drug him right in.”
Samples said he ate the record fish but swore he’d weighed it several places first. But when pressed, Samples couldn’t remember where. “I don’t know. I was drunk. We weighed him somewhere. I showed him all over the county. At least I think I did. There’s plenty of people who seed the fish. I thought we weighed him down at Joe Hansard’s but Grace said Harold said we didn’t weigh him down there so I guess we didn’t weigh him down there.”
“I drove him all around the lake looking for who weighed it,” Morrison stated. “The hell of it is we found someone who said he’d seen the fish.”
Samples talked so convincingly Morrison started to believe him. Samples even produced a rotted, stinking fish head so large it astounded the official. He photographed Samples wearing the fish head as a hat.
Morrison drove the head to Atlanta and woke up a fisheries biologist who examined it by flashlight. He stated: “This is the finest bass that’s ever lived.”
Now convinced, Morrison contacted WSB, an Atlanta radio station. The story broke almost immediately, prompting a saltwater biologist to come examine the head. He stated: “Jim, that ain’t no bass. It’s a red grouper.”
Hoax indeed. But where would Samples find a saltwater fish head so far from the ocean? Some say he and his brother lifted it from someone’s car and ate all but the head. Others say his son drug it home from the town dump – remaining intact only because it stunk so bad the dogs wouldn’t touch it.
Morrison’s interview of Samples proved so hilarious it was released as a recording entitled “World’s Biggest Whopper.” Samples’ first real record soon became a comedy hit prompting CBS to offer him a part on its new show, Hee-Haw. The gig lasted fourteen years and made Alvin “Junior” Samples a star and the richest fish head-wearing hillbilly in north Georgia history.