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Lanier Super Tournament Looms: Pros weigh in on what it will take to win

Tournament officials hoping to dodge hurricanes and dragon boats

Tough bite at the state’s biggest lake awaits Bulldog Divsion’s top pros

Estimates to win range from 25-30 pounds over two days for boaters and 17-20 pounds for co-anglers

If you are fishing the T-H Marine BFL Bulldog Division Super Tournament on Lanier this Saturday, you’d better be flexible. And, if you’ve decided to fish up the river, you might have a tough time getting around the Dragon Boat races.  Yes, Dragon Boats. No, I hadn’t heard of them either, but they are just what you would expect. Human powered boats with colorful dragon figures will be racing at the Lake Lanier Olympic Rowing Center at Clark Bridge Park, which means some boat traffic will be limited, at least when the dragon boat heats are underway. There are 13 countries (including the United States) racing in this event, which is called the Dragon Boat World Championship (for dragon boat fans, it’s like combining The Cup and the Classic with the Super Bowl thrown in for good measure).

These colorful dragon boaters will not be looking for a kicker fish in Wahoo Creek, but they might create some issues for BFL pros who want to fish up the river (photo courtesy Denver Post).

Long-time FLW Tournament Director Mike Hale says he will have information over the next two days about the races and whether there will be any restrictions on when/whether anglers can go past the races and up the river. Mike says that it’s possible there may be some restrictions, so if you’re planning to pre-fish the river, you should factor that in. Mike said the City of Gainesville folks have told him they may have as many as 20,000 dragon boat fans around Clark Bridge Park–which is literally right upstream from Laurel Park. Details will be announced at the draw meeting Friday evening at 6:30 p.m. at Laurel Park.

Mike also says they will be monitoring Hurricane Florence, which is expected to hit the Carolina coast sometime Thursday or Friday. Local Atlanta forecasters are saying there is unlikely to be any significant impact on the Atlanta weather Saturday, where the heat index may reach the mid-nineties. However, Sunday is a different story, so you’d better keep your rain suit handy.

This photo from at 8 p.m. Wednesday shows the path and time frame that Hurricane Florence could take. As you can see, it’s possible that north Georgia could be impacted Sunday afternoon and Monday. (photo courtesy

The pros weigh in

So what will it take to win? We asked some of Georgia’s Big Sticks what sort of weights would bring home the first place trophies.

Roger Vinson: “The lake is fishing tough. They can be caught shallow or deep. I’m thinking probably 10-11 pounds should make the cut to Day Two. And the winning weight could be

Roger Vinson, an All American qualifier last year, is excited about this upcoming BFL. It’s the first BFL for his son Peyton, a state champion from Flowery Branch High School who will now fish for North Georgia College (photo courtesy

somewhere around 34 pounds.”  Roger, who made it to the All American last year is a former points champion on the Savannah River Division, is a well known big stick on Lanier and will be one of the favorites going into Saturday.

Harold Grizzle has six wins and 16 top tens in his BFL career. He is a Georgia Big Stick wherever he fishes. (photo courtesy

Harold Grizzle: “It’s tough as nails right now. Compared to February the heat will be putting pressure on the fish and the fishermen. I think it will be won on a Fish Head [Spin] or a jig.

On the boaters side it will take 10 pounds to make it to Day Two and to win it all I think about 29 pounds. Co-anglers should make the cut with 7 pounds and probably twenty pounds to win it. Good luck to everybody, it’s going to be a grind!”  Harold is one of the nation’s top co-anglers and is currently third in the T-H Marine BFL co-angler points race. He is always a favorite to win any BFL tournament, especially here on his home lake.

Ronnie Garrison: “There should be some topwater action early. I think some of the local guys will weigh in a limit of three pounders the first day, so I think the cutoff will be around 14 pounds. The leader will have a kicker or two of four plus, so I’m thinking about 33 pounds to win.

Ronnie Garrison is the sports editor of the Griffin Daily News and a long-time Georgia Big Stick with forty years of tournament club experience.

Someone may get on a good largemouth bite but that should be tougher this time of year than it was back in February. The water is still hot!” Ronnie, a Georgia Big Stick who once fished the Red Man trail, now fishes in three bass clubs and has won the points title in nearly 50 club championships over the years. Ronnie also is the South’s most prolific outdoor writer, and has written the “Map of the Month” series for more than 20 years at Georgia Outdoor News and Alabama Outdoor News.

Barry Stokes with a couple of Sinclair toads. He is ranked 8th nationally in the American Bass Fishing tour.

Barry Stokes: “It’s going to be tough, I think. Either topwater schooling fish with a Sammy or a Whopper Plopper. Fish Head Spin will also be good, along with flukes. There will be some who will throw jigs under docks and around wood. I’m guessing 11 pounds to make the cut and thirty pounds to win it [on the boater side]. Georgia Big Stick Barry Stokes, who will not fish this coming weekend, fishes the American Bass Anglers tour, where he is currently ranked 8th out of nearly 500 anglers nationwide.

John Duvall:  “It will probably take 29 pounds to win it. I expect there will be mixed bags–some spots and some

John Duvall, from Greshamville, is a two-time All American qualifier.

largemouths. I just fished a Berry’s event this past Saturday, when 16 pounds won it. We had 14+ and missed a check.” John is sixth in the AOY standings in the T-H Marine BFL Bulldog Division in 2018. He has been to two T-H Marine BFL All American tournaments.

Matt O’Connell: “I’d say 26 pounds will win the boater side and 19 wins co-angler side. It was tough last year but not this tough. I’ve heard reports from way upriver to the dam and no-one is reporting good fishing. The fish down lake are relating to blue backs and are still in their summer haunts but no one pattern seems to be much better than another. The fish would follow

Matt O’Connell has 16 Top Ten finishes in the T-H Marine BFL and earned a trip to the All American in 2018 (photo courtesy

a drop shot and not eat it. We even were given some spot tail minnows to try for some fun by a guy on his way home and we only caught a catfish with them!” Georgia Big Stick Matt O’Connell finished fourth on the co-angler side of last year’s All American. Matt has also been in the Top 5 in the last two years in the Bulldog Division.

                        Some Final Thoughts

So that’s it from the top pros on the front and back decks. For Bulldog BFL anglers, this weekend has many elements to it. Hurricanes, dragon boat races and a two-day Super Tournament. As you’ve just read, fishing is tough up and down the lake. Water temps today were still in the mid-eighties on the South end. Georgia Big Stick Todd Goade, who is fishing the Costas Central Division, says it’s likely that 20% of the field will zero on Saturday.

The Super Tournament is not the only game in town this weekend. The surprising Braves should lock-up their division and the Falcons hope to get back on track this weekend hosting Cam Newton and the Panthers.

While some of us will be having “fun” trying to figure out how to get bit at Lanier, we can’t lose sight of the millions of Americans who will be in Hurricane Florence’s devastating path. We are blessed to be able to fish but we should keep those in harm’s way in our thoughts and prayers.

Good luck to everyone fishing this weekend–and be safe on the water!


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