Nestled in the heart of Georgia’s Sweet Vidalia Onion Country lives a family of American farmers with a work hard, play hard mentality and a passion for hunting and fishing. When you are around R.T. Jr. and Dianne Stanley it’s evident that Southern hospitality comes first, and family comes ALL THE TIME. Their three sons Brian, Tracy and Vince all work for the Stanley family farm and processing businesses, and they have all built their homes and started raising families around the sweetest 200 of the nearly 7000 acres that they farm, fish and hunt on together. At the center of the family compound stands a magnificent 5000 square foot lodge on an 80 acre lake that some have called the best lake in Georgia. A private haven for the Stanley Family to enjoy and share with friends and a few “very good clients”, the lake has a better than average population of quality fish including Largemouth Bass, Channel Catfish, White Perch (a.k.a. Speckled Perch or Crappie) and Bluegill. Best of all, because it is a private lake, it receives very little pressure and the fish don’t get exposed to a huge variety of lures. Vince is doing a great job managing the lake, which is evident when you fish it. All the Bass over 2-pounds are released to grow big according to Vince. The little ones either get relocated to one of the multitude of other ponds on property or invited to the lodge for lunch. If it’s fresh fish you’re after you can catch 10-pound Catfish and 2-pound White Perch “slabs” for lunch, and with 3 kitchens inside and outside the lodge, you are never far from your next great Southern meal.
There are all manner of things to keep one’s self occupied around the lodge. ATV’s and miles of trails to ride, skeet shooting, beach volleyball, an actual beach at the edge of the lake that doubles as the outside bunker for the 3-hole putting green, paddle and pontoon boats, rope swing, diving board and slide off the dock and plasma screens indoors and out because The Stanleys don’t miss a Georgia Bulldogs game, even when they are playing outside. Perhaps the only thing the family likes better than fishing is hunting, and you will be hard pressed to find some one more passionate about it than the matriarch of the family, Dianne. Di Di as her grandchildren call her, spends a lot of mornings alone in the woods calling turkeys before the boys have gotten up for work. If all goes according to plan she’ll treat them to fried turkey nuggets in the afternoon, unless of course, it’s a trophy, “then it’s going to the taxidermist,” adds Dianne, In addition to turkey, The Stanleys hunt, deer, wild boar, and dove in their own private hunting preserve. Dianne is so consumed with hunting that she has convinced R.T. to buy up the property surrounding their acreage as it becomes available to expand the hunting opportunities, and perhaps to find a few more walls to hang her trophy mounts on since the lodge is chock full. One of their recent purchases serves both motives well. An old southern plantation which has been restored to entertain and accommodate larger groups of guests. With a wrap around porch, a big fireplace and lots of space inside and out, the Plantation gives the Stanleys an additional 1650 acres of quail, dove and trophy class deer, turkey and wild boar hunting. With a skeet range and a stocked pond of it’s own The Plantation, as they call it, is a Southern gem all by itself.
On occasion, the Stanleys utilize the lake and the lodge for special events. They have hosted fishing days for the kids in their community, ATV Mud Bogs for charity on trails around the property, and last April they hosted former Bassmaster Classic Champions Mike Iaconelli and Boyd Duckett as well as fellow Elite Series Pro Scott Ashmore to film television shows and commercials at the lodge. Until now, unless you are a Bassmaster Pro or celebrity the only way to experience this place has been to become friends with the Stanleys or buy at least 400,000 pounds of onions. According to Vince, even then they still have to REALLY like you. If you want to order your 400,000 pounds of onions in hopes of an invite, call Vince Stanley. Whether you fish or hunt, or you just want to pack up your family and pretend that you live in one of the best outdoor playgrounds in America, you will have a hard time finding a better outdoor vacation destination.
Good news for Bass fisherman everywhere is that this Spring, on a limited basis the Stanleys are going to give the rest of us a chance to share their private paradise. If you would like to book a trip to Stanley Lodge without purchasing truckloads of onions, round up your group and get ready for a very special and limited opportunity to experience Southern Hospitality, homestyle cooking, first class accommodations and world class Bass fishing at it’s Southern best. This is a great trip for groups of 2 to 14, and kids and non-fishing guests will love it too. Rooms are double occupancy and groups of 6 or more can have the lodge and the lake ALL to themselves.
The Stanleys are indeed a great American success story. They have earned the opportunity to create their own outdoor paradise which they have done with hard work, solid family values, love, faith, dedication, and onions...lots of onions! Considering that the Stanley Farms processing plant handles 12 million pounds of onions a day during the season I wasn’t too worried about dinging the inventory when they sent me home with a 50 pound bag of fresh picked “jumbos”. If you’ve never had a Sweet Vidalia Onion, I can tell you that the Stanley’s grow them as sweet as peaches. After you’ve had the Ultimate Southern Hospitality Experience at the Stanley Family Lodge it wont take long for you to realize that the onions won’t make you cry...but leaving surely will.