The Bassmaster Elite Series heads to Lake Lanier for the second stop of the 2019 season. After an amazing display of big largemouth bass at the St. Johns River, anglers will adjust for a deeper, clearer fishery that features spotted bass. Lake Lanier will be a dynamic fishery for Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing fans.
There are some keys to think about for this event. Georgia has experienced a cold winter so far and has had high water since Halloween. Normally the winter drawdown occurs in October or November, and the fishery drops to roughly 10 feet below full pool. That didn’t happen with all of the rain late last year and early in 2019.
The lake sits at full pool, which means there will be a lot more water in play compared to normal February events on Lanier. The fishery features largemouth and spotted bass with multiple types of forage to feed on. One predominant baitfish is the blueback herring. There are also threadfin shad, spot-tail shad and then a smaller population of gizzard shad in the lake.
My thought process feeds through anglers who will mix in a little bit of mid-depth and deep fishing. There will be moving baits utilized and some slower presentations too. Moving baits like a crankbait, jerkbait, underspin and swimbait should come in handy as well as slower lures like a drop shot, shaky head, neko rig and a jig.
BUCKET A: JAYE
My pick: Kelley Jaye
Kelley Jaye started his season strong in Florida and narrowly missed the Top 10 cut. He is known for his excellence with a jerkbait and he should be able to utilize that this week. He had a lot of pressure on him at his home lake of Lake Martin last season, and it didn’t work out well. At Lanier, he won’t be considered a local, but he does a lot of the same things at home that should work well here.
Considered: Clifford Pirch
Coming off a great start to the season, Pirch traveled late on Sunday to get to Lake Lanier. It’s hard to string together back-to-back Top 10s with immediate travel to a fishery that is a stark contrast to the prior. Lanier should set up well for Pirch though. He has a great relationship with deep, clear water, and he is excellent with his electronics. I see Pirch making it to Day 3. Whether he makes the final day or not, it will be interesting.
BUCKET B: LEHEW
My pick: Shane Lehew
Lehew lives around Lake Norman in North Carolina and is tuned-in to the spotted bass and how they act. He is especially deadly in the winter. He has experience at Lake Lanier when he fished the FLW Tour event here in 2018. That was in the early period of March and weather was somewhat similar to now. He grabbed a check there, and I expect a solid finish from Lehew. It’s doubtful that he will let you down.
I almost picked Hank Cherry for my team because of his skill with a jerkbait and his familiarity with spotted bass. Like Lehew, Cherry is from Lake Norman in North Carolina and knows what should happen. If there are shallower areas he can crank and throw a jerkbait around, then I expect him to prosper. If the bite is much deeper and it’s more of a slow bite, then I would maybe be cautious.
BUCKET C: WILLIAMSON
My pick: Jason Williamson
Lake Lanier isn’t Jason Williamson’s home lake, but he is from the general region and is comfortable on those fisheries. Whether it’s Hartwell, Murray or his home lake of Clarks Hill, Williamson should be considered. He has a two Bassmaster Elite Series titles, and one came from Clarks Hill. Lanier is just over the border in Georgia, and he should be comfortable with fishing deep or shallow for fish this week.
Considered: Chris Zaldain
Chris Zaldain is savvy with his electronics and all of the finesse tactics that will be successful, but he is also a good “deep” jerkbait fisherman. I emphasized deep jerkbaits because they are seemingly a different world compared to their shallow-design counterparts. I could see him finding a school of fish and making the same cast with a deep jerkbait to fill quick limits. His 30 percent ownership deterred me from locking him in.
BUCKET D: BLAYLOCK
My pick: Stetson Blaylock
Although he is from Arkansas, he has a lot of experience and history fishing clearer lakes for spotted bass and dock lakes, too. He lives near Lake Ouachita and Hamilton, which produce a Lake Lanier feel at times but have their own characteristics as well. I could see him picking up a jig and probing some docks or cranking some dirty water to fill his weights. The dirty water will be something to pay attention to. Since the fishery is already at full pool, the clay banks are covered up and any run-off or rain might not dirty the water up like usual.
Considered: Jake Whitaker
Jake Whitaker calls Lake Chatuge home and is used to fishing for spotted bass at lakes like Hartwell and Keowee in South Carolina. Whitaker had a tougher event in Florida, where a big bite eluded him on Day 1 at the St. Johns. Finishing 50th has him in Bucket D, but he should be considered by folks who are unsure of who to select. Jerkbait, swimbait and crankbait should factor for him along with a jig.
BUCKET E: MUELLER
My pick: Paul Mueller
Paul Mueller is an electronics wizard. If you didn’t know that, then check out his social media. Whether it’s through a hole in the ice or cold-water smallmouth fishing, he is dialed in with his electronics. He tinkers a lot in the offseason with new techniques and lures he can utilize, and I feel that will help him catch more fish in deep water this week at Lanier.
Considered: Jeff Gustafson
The three Canadians will probably get a lot of attention because of their skill level on fisheries like this. Deep or shallow these anglers can catch them, but Gustafson proved last year that he could catch them on Lanier with a Top 10 finish with the FLW Tour. I bet Gustafson has a great week as long as he doesn’t let last year’s history negatively impact him if the bite is different.