Stop No. 2 on the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series visits Lake Lanier, a famed spotted bass fishery 40 miles northeast of Atlanta, Ga. The event runs Thursday through Sunday.
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Rick Clunn, a legend in tournament bass fishing, added his 16th victory at the first Elite tournament last week on the St. Johns River, where weight records were set. B.A.S.S. could not have asked for a more eye-catching start than having Clunn survive a battle with veterans and newcomers.
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Two of the young newcomers, the Johnston Brothers from Canada, thrilled bass fans and countrymen with fantastic starts of their Elite careers. At several points during the tournament, the brothers stood 1-2 in the standings and had a nation cheering. Chris, 29, (above) ended up taking second while Cory, 33, finished eighth.
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The 75 Elites traveled the seven hours or so up from St. Johns to northern Georgia to practice Monday through Wednesday before reconvening for the Day 1 takeoff at Laurel Park, 3100 Old Cleveland Hwy in Gainesville. The first boat is scheduled to blast off at 6:45 a.m. ET.
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Laurel Park is also the site of the weigh-ins Thursday and Friday at 3:10 p.m. ET. As always, fans can watch free of charge.
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The weekend weigh-ins will move to Coolray Field, 2500 Buford Dr. in Lawrenceville. Formerly Gwinnett Stadium, Coolray is a 10,000 seat stadium of the Gwinnett Stripers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. B.A.S.S. will again host Saturday’s Angler Alley and Sunday’s LIVE Watch Party there before the weigh-ins, schedule for 4 p.m. ET. All B.A.S.S. activities are free to attend.
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Lake Lanier, officially Lake Sidney Lanier, is a 38,000-acre reservoir with about 700 miles of shoreline. It was named for the American poet who fought in the Civil War and became a professor of literature at Johns Hopkins University.
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Created by the 1956 completion of Buford Dam on the Chattahoochee River, Lanier is also fed by the Chestatee River. The lake is 26 miles long, covers about 47 miles of winding riverbed and is 200 feet at its deepest point at the dam.
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Although built for flood control and water supply, Lanier’s proximity to Atlanta’s metropolitan population of 5.8 million helps boost the number of visitors to 7.5 million per year. It’s a popular destination for recreational boating and fishing, although the chilly forecast this week should not create too much traffic alongside the Elites.
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There was plenty of traffic the last time B.A.S.S. held a pro level event there. In early September of 2006, Ryan Coleman had to work around a fleet of sailboats as he held off the field by catching 36 pounds, 10 pounces over three days in winning the Southern Open.
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While Coleman was the most recent winner of the eight pro events held on Lanier, others like Tom Mann Jr., Roland Martin and Mickey Bruce (twice) have put their name on trophies handed out there.
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Lake Lanier is considered one of the top lakes in the country for spotted bass. Bags this week might include some largemouth but the size of spots and the chilly temperatures should have most anglers targeting schools.
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Mark Menendez, who finished third to Clunn on the St. Johns, fished a lot on Lanier when he lived in Atlanta and said he’s caught many in the 5-pound range and has “seen multiple fish swimming behind those fish that would make them look like guppies.”
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The spotted bass state record listed on the Georgia DNR web site is Wayne Holland’s 8-2 (above) caught from Lake Burton in February 2005. A site heralding Lake Lanier’s record fish said its top spotted bass is an 8-5 landed by Patrick Bankston in May of 1985.
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Early reports from several anglers practicing are positive, so fans can expect to see impressive weights as Elite stop No. 2 of the 2019 season continues the theme of Big Bass, Big Stage, Big Dreams.