Quoted from an article which appeared in the
June 15, 2003 edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
More than a fish
Trophy is woman's link to childhood, her fishing dad
written by Scott Bernarde
Those who doubt how genuine the emotions are that surround memories of fishing with Dad should've seen Rita Whitlock's reaction when she saw the fish. It was the mount of a 15-pound, 9-ounce largemouth she hadn't seen since her crappie-loving father Ted Stone passed away 11 years ago. Buried in the closets of other family members for most of that time, her soon-to-be-married daughter Millie presented her the trophy by surprise on Tuesday.
"I was awestruck just to see it again. My eyes were full of tears," said the Stockbridge resident, 46, fighting back some more during a phone interview. "Just thinking about it makes me cry. I can still remember the day my daddy caught that fish."
William Harold Stone, known as Ted because folks thought he looked like a teddy bear, was a crappie man through and through, an angler who'd go out even in the worst weather - he once was capsized on Lake Jodeco while fishing with a friend during a winter windstorm.
He was after crappie the day the big fish hit back in 1981. Fishing on a private lake in Clayton County, which is now part of the county-owned beach and water park called Clayton International Park, Ted Stone was fishing with tiny (No. 2) hooks and small minnows when the lunker grabbed a snack. The fish gave him so much trouble, he had to go into the water to land it.
The fish was weighed on a produce scale, and although an official weight, it never surfaced on any Georgia Big Bass list. The catch would be tied for 21st all-time on a list compiled by Georgia Outdoor News, and would have been 11th all-time as of 1981. Stone had it mounted by Lovejoy taxidermist Matt Thompson, and despite its age it still looks like a new mount.
"I don't guess he even knew [it was one of the biggest catches all-time]. It wasn't a state record so he just thought it was one big fish," said Rita's husband, Jerry Whitlock. After Stone died, the mount was passed down to a grandson, who relegated it to the closet when his wife didn't want a fish hanging on the wall. It moved to another grandson with the same result. When Millie and her fiance Chris Batson got the mount, they decided to give it to Mom.
"Is that Pappaw's fish? she asked, using another moniker by which her dad was known. That brought back memories of weekend and summer vacation fishing outings with Stone, who was a well-known character around Jonesboro long before metro Atlanta's growth turned the small town into a suburb. "I just wish you could have met my father," Rita Whitlock said. "He was Pappaw Stone to so many people around Jonesboro.
"Daddy was a very patient man. He had to be because I just hated to bait my own hook. I guess that's where I found my love for fishing, from the time being out there fishing with my daddy."
The mounted fish is now on the wall of the Whitlock's Lake Oconee condominium, which serves as a base for the couple's frequent fishing trips to the lake. It replaced a 7-pounder. "That fish could eat that 7-pounder," Jerry Whitlock said.
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