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Bulldog BFL @ Lanier--What will it take to win--and which baits will be used

We checked in with a few Georgia Big Sticks about the upcoming Bulldog Division BFL this coming Saturday, Feb. 17th on Lake Lanier.

Will the ditch bite still dominate or will crank baits and shaky heads come into play? Will it be worthwhile sitting on the ditches as other competitors beat the bank or the creek mouths? How about topwater (too early, you think)? The great Gary Klein told me once (at a Bassmaster event on Clarks Hill) that he always had a topwater tied on beginning in late February in the Southeast because every now and then he will hook one of the big females making their way toward an early spawn.

Last year's BFL was won by Justin Nalley from Senoia, Ga. Justin went to the scales with 22-08, besting second place Alex Prince who had 21-02. A year ago, when the tournament was held on February 18th, the top five finishers all had over 20 pounds, including the young superstar Paul Marks, Jr. (who won the Super Tournament on Lanier this past August with 25-07 over two days), Peachtree City's Matt O'Connell, who nearly won last year's All American (and who had a top 10 this past weekend at Guntersville after boating 23 pounds, a tournament where the Top 16 finishers had at least 20 pounds and it took at least 15-11 to get a check) and the veteran boater Randy Dover, from Buford, who finished fifth with 20-01.

Last year, the temperature at blastoff was 46 degrees, which was as warm as it would get on that day, and we had cloudy skies, a little light rain and northwest winds gusting up to 25 mph on the lake. The boater side had to catch 15-08 to even get a check last year, while the co-angler's last check went to the fishermen weighing 10-9. There were 32 co-anglers and anglers paid last year (out of 161) and (sorry to mention this right before a tournament) there were 16 zeros on the angler side and 35 among the co-anglers (typical tough, Lanier).

This year, it's projected to be a rainy start to the day--with highs in the mid-fifties. Winds are expected to be out of the west at 5-7 mph. I'm still packing my rain gear.

Justin Nalley (photo, right, courtesy of MLF), last year's winner in the February BFL, told that this was his first tournament as a boater, having spent four years on the back deck learning the ropes. What baits did Justin use in 2023?

“On tournament day I knew from past experience that the tournament would be won on the south end of the lake where the big spotted bass live,” Nalley said. “So, I started offshore fishing chunk rock and caught two fish early.

“Then I started running new stuff,” Nalley went on to say. “I caught a big spotted bass, a 5-7, which is my personal best for a spotted bass, then ran into a creek and caught my personal best largemouth on Lanier.”

Nalley relocated, caught some short fish, then managed to catch his fifth keeper – a largemouth.

Nalley said his baits of choice during the day were a Berkley Powerbait The General Worm, a Rapala DT8 crankbait around chunk rock for spotted bass and an Advantage Bait Company Jawbreaker jig in the backs of creeks.

“The bites weren’t plentiful; they were really spread out, Nalley said. “But when I caught that last keeper I thought maybe I had a shot at winning,” Nalley said. “I was lowballing my weight and thought I had maybe 17 or 18 pounds.”

We'll see what this coming weekend brings, and here are some predictions who are all Georgia Big Sticks who have long histories on Lanier.

ROB JORDAN--"...I'd estimate 21 pounds will win it."

Rob Jordan is a guide, a touring pro and a highly regarded lure maker, having won two events with MLF and 16 top ten finishes, including two with B.A.S.S. He's also a former Angler of the Year with the FLW/MLF Bulldog Division. The 34-year-old angler really knows this lake and has great success at Lanier both guiding and in tournaments. Rob has also become a highly respected among pros and locals alike--and runs a bait modification surface called Xtreme Lure Creations. If you want the best looking (many of the Lanier-specific colors) crank baits, jerk baits, wake baits and much more, you can check out Rob's impressive work here.

Here's Rob's thinking about this coming weekend's tournament.

"I’d estimate 21 (pounds) takes it. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a little more and it wouldn’t surprise me to see it a touch below.

Of course traditional baits like crank baits , jerkbaits , jig & worm & small swimbaits will be players as well as damiki and hover style baits".

JIMMY SANDERS--"...a spoon, shaky head, a Spot Choker, small swim baitt"

You will find Jimmy on the south end any time during the week. This time of year throwing small swim baits and just waiting for the Jerk Shad bite ( to turn on. He's a master with that bait! He recently caught a five-pound spot and always has a heavy limit.

"I'm thinking between 20-21lbs to win, but with the cold front coming through late Friday, it could make it tough for several to do that, but this is Lanier, but somebody is going to catch em'.

As far as baits, something SLOW and dragging it on the bottom. Maybe a Jig, Shaky Head, a Spot Choker, soft swimmer, or Ned Rig. I would also have a spoon and drop shot on deck. There are some fish pulling up on deep, flat points and even some on deep docks, but the front might pull them back a little and give them some lock-jaw. My best fish have come on a Keitech in ditches and Shaky Head in 30+fow. The big girl (5lb) came off a deep marina dock. If we can get some stable weather, it's about to get good.

I also swung and missed a few on deep brush at around 40ft. I watched them on Active Target peck at the Damiki bait fished vertical.

Lane Wright--"....there'll probably be quite a few 20+ bags if the water isn't destroyed."

Lane Wright, from Alpharetta, is a veteran FLW/MLF boater, having fished more than fifty tournaments across at least three BFL Divisions over the past 20 years. He's also qualified for three BFL regional tournaments and has two Top 10 finishes, including a 7th place finish in the Bulldog BFL last March at West Point. Here's what Lane told Georgia Big Sticks about Saturday's tournament.

"First and foremost, whatever Alex Prince is doing is gonna be the winning technique. Thats seems to be a sure thing. This biblical rain may have Lanier fishing a little different. We’ll see. I’m interested in what the water looks like when I go out Wednesday. I expect some guys, whose main interest is gaining points, to stay up the river and catch 14-17lbs on cranks and jigs around wood. The local guys who are shotgunning this event will be down lake looking for 6 bites above the timber with the little swim baits. There had been a good shallow-ish crank bait bite. Was supposedly not as good this past weekend. Fish are on the move. I’m going out Wed and Thurs. to find a crankbait bite on rock. If that doesn’t work, I’m gonna find the youngest kid at take off with the largest screens on his deck and I’m following him and fishing for his left overs. I’m guessing 21½ to win. There’ll probably be quite a few 20+ bags if the water isn’t destroyed."

RONNIE GARRISON--"A kicker or two on rocky points"

Ronnie Garrison, who won his club tournament this past weekend on West Point Lake and is known as the dean of outdoor writers and a contributor to Georgia Outdoor News for 30 years, doesn't get to Lanier as much as other lakes, but he does have some thoughts on this weekend:

The award-winning writer told Georgia Big Sticks:

"Based on this months map of the month article I guess about 22 [pounds] to win, with a combination of ditch fish and a kicker or two on rocky points shallow.

Rain clouds and muddy water may mess up the chance of a breakthrough shallow largemouth bite".

Ronnie Garrison

(Photo, above) Two of Ronnie's fish from his winning sack this past weekend with the Flint River Bass Club. His 2.84 largemouth hit a jig with just 10 minutes left in the tournament.

JEFF NAIL--"'s a toss-up right now in terms of where the bite is strongest"

Jeff Nail is a former Army Ranger who did four tours overseas, has become one of the top spotted bass guides on Lake Lanier. Jeff, who always seem to in the Land of Four Pounders, told us it might 22 pounds or better.

"I'd say the winning weight will be in the 22lb range. As far as how it will be caught, thats a toss up as fish are now all over the place.

It could come from live scoping fish still out deep or could come from power fishing shallow fish that have already started to pull up.

Either way is likely to produce a 22lb sack of fish this weekend."

You can reach Jeff at:

JIM FARMER--"...I think it will be a good day for these big staging females and some deep timber bigs."

Jim, a long-time crankbait angler, will also be beating the rocks with a shaky head. He's the "Mayor of Bald Ridge" and actually has a home back in that same creek.

He told Georgia Big Sticks, "I believe it will take somewhere close to 24 lbs to win it. Crankbaits and swimbaits rule the day, with chatterbaits, jigs and shaky heads filling sacks also."

You can reach Jim through Facebook and at his blog (click here). I'd also recommend you check out his terrific new YouTube podcast called Castaway Cove Friday Fish Fry. If you fish Lanier, you've got

watch this show (photo, right)--you won't believe the tips Jim and his guests give away (and the trash talking). It's the next best thing to being on the lake!

Eric Aldrich--"...soft plastics"

Eric Aldrich, a veteran Georgia Big Stick who's fished more than 70 tournaments and guides on Lake Lanier, says it will probably take 22 pounds to win. Aldrich, who has one win and several top tens, also writes a column about bass fishing for the Gainesville Times. Here is his prediction for this Saturday's tournament:

"I am thinking 22-pounds and they will probably be caught on a soft plastic swim bait (like a Keitech), a jig or a crankbait, in that order."

Eric Aldrich can be found on Facebook and you can follow his fishing column at the Gainesville Times.


Good luck on the lake this weekend--and wear that life vest--even when the big engine isn't on, because falling into the lake (particularly in February ) can be fatal. Take NO chances with yourself and your fishing buddies.

Thanks for subscribing and we'll see you next week!


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