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Low lake draws fish tournament for cable show

POSTED: April 2, 2008 5:01 a.m.
The receded waters of Lake Lanier, low pool and all, will be on display for a national audience of fishing enthusiasts this summer when the Outdoor Channel airs an edition of "Ultimate Match Fishing" that wrapped up Saturday at the Lake Lanier Islands resort.

For bass fishermen, the low lake has been a boon, and attracted the cable network to Lanier for the first time for its invitational tournament.

"With the lake levels being low, it makes conditions prime for great competition fishing," said Jim Kramer, executive producer of the show, which is entering its fourth season.

Tom Mann Jr., a two-time champion of the Bassmasters Classic, said in his 20 years as a tournament fisherman, "I’ve had the opportunity to fish the best lakes in the country, and Lanier is one of the best there is."

Water clarity levels have greatly contributed to the high quality of fishing, site coordinator Larry Puckett said.

"Some of the deeper fish are moving in shallower earlier than they would be," Puckett said. The ability to find banks easier makes fishing more predictable, he said.

The single-elimination tournament had two competitors pairing up on a 21-foot Skeeter bass boat outfitted with a Yamaha 250 engine. A line is drawn down the middle of the boat, and each competitor has control of the boat for three hours, swapping off every 90 minutes. The limit was five fish. Top weights were in the 15-pound range this week.

Puckett said Lake Lanier is known nationally as a premier lake for spotted bass fishing, but largemouth bass were also being caught.

On Saturday, the competitors were three-time Bass Elite Series Tournament Champion Kelly Jordan and Dave Lefebvre, who has earned more than $500,000 in winnings in the past four years.

Anglers in Ultimate Match Fishing compete for a grand prize of $50,000.

The episode shot on Lake Lanier will air sometime in July.

Puckett said the fishing on the lake since the crew arrived Monday has "been great."

Asked if the show would return to Lake Lanier, he said: "Definitely. Absolutely."

The low lake level also helps with plans to beef up Laurel Park in hopes of luring other large-scale fishing tournaments to Lake Lanier. The plan for adding a second four-lane boat ramp, expanded parking and a spectator pavilion at Laurel Park is part of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Go Fish Georgia Initiative.

Perdue launched the Go Fish initiative late last year to jump-start the state’s boating and fishing economy. Laurel Park at Lake Lanier is one of 10 approved sites statewide that will serve as stops along a possible 15-site bass trail.

The Department of Natural Resources has designated $400,000 to the Laurel Park project through the governor’s office, while Hall County has committed $520,000 in matching funds to expand the park’s fishing facilities.

Phil Sutton, Hall County’s assistant administrator, said earlier this month the county soon will submit design plans to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for review. The corps could approve site plans in the next few months, Sutton said, which would give the county the green light to begin the approximately six-month-long construction project.



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