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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Thanksgiving bounty ready to be caught

POSTED: November 21, 2013 9:02 p.m.

Lake Lanier temperatures range from high 50’s into the low 60s. Lake Lanier’s water level is still about six inches below full pool at 1,070.59 (full pool is 1071). The lake is clear and the creeks and rivers are clear to stained.

The Chattahoochee River is stained, but starting to clear a little below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466

Being an angler makes it easy to remember to give thanks for the many blessings we have. I wish blessings to all of you Thanksgiving Day.

Bass: Thanksgiving week has historically been one of the best times of the year for catching both good sizes and good numbers of fish on Lake Lanier.

As I look over the past years and review my fishing logs for stripers and bass, I can hardly find a time when fishing was tough. It is consistently above average compared to other periods of the year.

Weather fronts and other variable don’t seem to adversely affect bass during this time because fish are so keyed in on filling their bellies for winter, much like humans as we fill our plates on Thanksgiving.

Many of us get time off to enjoy the blessings of our local waters which adds to the consistent fishing this week.

There is no replacement for time spent on the water when it comes to fishing success.

We fished earlier this week and caught 20-40 spotted bass a day with several “magnums” mixed in. The water temperatures are just about perfect for fall and the fish are feeding heavily on threadfin shad, blueback herring or gizzard shad.

Bass are opportunistic feeders and will also take advantage of bream and crawfish too.

It is important to understand what forage the bass are keyed in on so that you can match your fishing lures size and color to the forage they are targeting.

Because of the variety of food, you can catch bass on many different patterns so keep an open mind until you find one that produces best for you.

There are a lot of smaller spotted bass along with a few bigger spots and largemouth bass mixed in up in shallow pockets in the creeks. These shallow predators are targeting the huge schools of tiny threadfin shad. The stripers are schooling around these same areas and chasing threadfins on the surface.

Bass will follow the stripers and hang out below these feeding fish to take advantage of the wounded and disoriented baitfish.

Small silver lures like spinner baits, spoons, smaller crank baits or topwater plugs will work well when the fish are stirred up and busting shad on the surface.

It can be tough to match forage only an inch long, so you can also do very well fishing a soft plastic finesse worm on a jig head in these same areas. A drop shot, jig head and finesse worm combination or small jig work well around both active and inactive fish.

These bottom lures often catch the larger bass that are swimming under the bait fish and other predators to pick off an easy meal of wounded threadfins. We sometimes say the big ones are tired of sushi and are more interested in steak or lobster for a change.

While the pockets have held a lot of fish, there are many other locations to try for better bass.

Areas that have submerged rock on points, humps and steep shore lines can hold some good fish this week. Rock tends to hold warmth better than clay or sand and bass will hang around it all winter long.

Bass relating to rock can be very shallow even on the coldest days. It is important to target areas that are close to deep water and bluff walls or 45-degree drop offs are key areas to target because bass can move from shallow to deep without traveling ling distances.

Use a medium to deep diving crank bait and cast parallel to the banks to keep your crank bait in the strike zone.

I like to use a SPRO Little John Baby DD. This lure will run up to 14-feet deep on light fluorocarbon line, but you can cast it into shallow water to keep it banging into the rocky bottom for the majority of the cast. Bass will strike this lure when it deflects off rock or wood.

You can always trigger a reaction bite even if bass are full. A good way to describe what a reaction bite is to think about a yellow jacket buzzing around your ear.

We often swat at them out of pure reaction because we do not want to get stung. When a lure buzzes around bass, they swat at it too, but they use their mouths since fish don’t have hands. Other lures like worms, jigs, jerk baits and even topwater plugs are also good choices to cast around rocky banks.

The third pattern is to target the deeper fish relating to ditches, creek channels and steep drops from 30-to 50-feet of water.

This pattern will only get stronger as winter progresses. The bass will move off the banks into the ditches where they will feed on blueback herring, shad and crawfish. Lures that can get quickly to the bottom are your best bet.

A Jig and Pig or other trailer or a jigging spoon are most anglers’ first choices. Quality electronics are key tools for targeting these deep bass and my Humminbird 1158 has a huge screen so I can see the graph and my GPS LakeMaster Maps on the split screen without giving up readability.

Having a large graph on the front of my Nitro Z8 has made fishing easier and more productive because I can see my lure dropping, the fish reacting to it and my location on the map easily.

All on the same screen.

Often you may not even see these deep bass because they are lying on the bottom. When you drop a lure down, you will often see the screen come alive as the arcs or ‘spaghetti’ lines that indicate fish appear coming up off the bottom to intersect your lure.

Look for areas that are 35-50 feet deep that have schools of bait closer down to that level.

Live bait will work well for bass all year round and the striper guides are catching some huge spotted bass with bluebacks and small trout.

If you choose to use live bait for catching bass, then a Gamakatsu Circle Hook is a great idea. It works very well to hook a bass.

It seldom hooks them anywhere but in the mouth, making for an easy and harmless release. There are also some big bass biting after dark that are being caught by striper anglers with Bomber Long As. Use a deep-diving crank bait or large black spinner bait after dark to catch some trophy spotted bass.

Striper fishing is very good and there are schools of line sides surfacing out on the main lake and in the creeks.

There are also some good fish appearing more up lake near Gainesville, and to the north, and this migration will increase as the winter rolls on.

A lot of these fish can be seen swirling on the surface and you may often seagulls hovering over them searching for threadfin shad that are pushed up to the surface.

These fish can frustrate anglers when they are keyed in on the small butter-bean sized threadfins. Many anglers have encountered this situation of being around stripers schooling on the surface for hours without getting a bite because the fish were very keyed in to small threadfin shad right on the surface.

Often it is hard to match these tiny threadfin shad with a lure that remains close enough to the surface, but there are some solutions.

First and foremost, fly fishing anglers do very well in this situation because the can cast small Clowser minnows, streamers or other small shad imitating flys.

Retrieve them on the surface. Because fly fishing uses the weight of the line, this method allows an angler to cast very light small lures, which creates an ideal presentation for fish targeting tiny bait.

For other conventional fishing methods, live bait, small lures like a Fish Head Spin, Rooster Tail, double Jerk Shad or Fluke Rig cast on medium-weight spinning tackle can work too.

Back in my striper fishing days, I even used crappie minnows on light line with hooks that were larger than the minnows and the stripers still ate them.

A small 1/4-ounce SPRO Bucktail is also a great lure to cast to these fish.

Some stripers on the main lake are keyed in to blueback herring and they can be easier to target. Keep an eye on the birds.

The gulls and loons along with your Humminbird Electronics will give away the locations of these stripers that are eating the larger forage.

Blueback herring or trout on a flat line or down line are your best choices for catching these fish on main lake.

They will also strike artificial lures that are cast or trolled through the schools. A SPRO McStick or a Bomber Long A are both very close to the same size and shape of a blueback herring. You may also troll a Bucktail by itself or multiples of these same on an umbrella rig for very good success.

I have seen guides use an umbrella rig and out fish live bait anglers with this method.

Night fishing has remained strong and the stripers are coming up shallow around the islands and also back of creeks after dark. Casting a Bomber Long A in pink or black and silver pattern is a classic producer for the fish after dark around the islands.

If you are back in the creeks you may also v-wake a Redfin on the surface around lighted boat docks for some explosive strikes.

Crappie: This past week’s cooler weather has started to bring crappie shallower. Fish in the creeks from the timberlines and the banks and pay special attention to laydowns for your best success.

Trolling crappie jigs and Micro Spoons midway on back in the pockets is working well. If you get several bites in one area, or you just don’t like to troll, then try casting crappie minnows under a float or on flat lines has been working well.

Trout fishing is fair on the river, but great in the mountain streams. Anglers have been doing pretty well below the dam in the Chattahoochee with live worms and also Rooster Tails and Rapalas. Try a jerk-and-pause retrieve with your Rapalas to entice a reaction strike.

Bank fishing is good right now and Thanksgiving week is a great time to set up on the banks and enjoy some well-deserved time off.

Anglers are catching a variety of fish from the banks but stripers, bass and crappie seem to be the most popular.

Cast medium-sized minnows under a float or lures that mimic baitfish around the banks in the parks. Rooster Tails, jerkbaits, Rattle Traps or Aruku Shads and bucktails are all good choices. Try to target the points or deeper banks that have rock or lay downs close by.

Eric Aldrich is an outdoor writer, marketing specialist and bass angler. Reports are based on personal experience and permission from a close network of friends. Contact him at esaldrich@yahoo.com or visit his website at aldrichfishing.com.


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