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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Bass biting extremely well after dark
Eric Aldrich
Local bass angler Eric Aldrich poses with a fish he caught. - photo by For The Times

Lake Lanier’s water level is right at full pool or 1,071 feet above sea level.

With three weeks to go until the start of spring, the lake will continue to experience spring- like rainy conditions over the next week.

The CORP is staying busy managing water levels.

We saw water levels rise and drop over a 1/2 inch in less than 48 hours several times this past week.

Don’t be surprised if the level written above changes slightly by press time.

Water temperatures are in the mid 50’s on the main lake with some temperatures reaching the high 50’s in some of the sun-exposed pockets.

The main lake is clear and stained to very stained into the backs of the creeks.

The lake is slightly to very stained in the rivers.

The Chattahoochee River is flowing clear below Buford Dam and trout fishing should be very good.

Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.

Bass fishing rates very good.

The bass are really reacting to the warm conditions, even though we still have three weeks until spring officially begins March 20.

The only thing we have needed to wear while fishing was a rain jacket or maybe a hoody in the mornings.

The bass have also taken notice the warmer weather and the shallow bite is really heating up.

Bass go through reliable movements as they move from their late-winter hangouts into their early-spring locations.

There are some things anglers can research before getting to the lake that will narrow down your search for fish.

Get out your phones Navionics App or try an old fashion paper map.

Use your maps to locate the smaller creek and shallow pockets and make note of creek or ditch channels that fish use as ‘bass highways.’

Fish follow these depressions and move from deep water into the shallower spawning coves in spring.

These fish need a lot of energy to carry them through the spawn and they will be found somewhere along these migration routes.

Once you locate them, they are pretty easy to catch.

A variety of techniques will work right now, so get your rods ready and go fishing.

While they migrate, these fish remain in feeding mode as they enter into a pre-spawn period in preparation for the strenuous spawning season.

The bass are mostly feeding on shad and herring, but a portion of the lake’s bass stay shallow and concentrate on crawfish and even brim.

Once you locate the fish, you can catch them on just about anything.

It’s a great time to fish your strengths, as well as a very good time to practice new methods of fishing.

We have been on a good crank-bait bite the past week.

Cranking in both shallow and deep water is a very good way to catch bass that are moving up with the warming water conditions.

Look for secondary points or banks with rock near a channel that leads into the shallower spawning coves.

If these areas have a point or hump with rock located around them, that is all the better.

My crank bait set up is as follows; I start with a medium-to-high speed reel spooled with 10 to 12-pound Sunline Sniper FC.

I like a faster-speed reel, even though I am just slowly crawling the lure along the bottom.

You can slow down a fast reel, but you can’t speed up a slow one.

Use that reel on a long 7-foot 7-inch to 8-foot, medium to medium heavy weight Kissel Krafts Custom Crankbait Rod.

These longer rods in a medium-to medium-heavy action allows the lure to load up so an anglers can bomb casts well over a 100 feet.

Longer casts, lighter line and a longer rod also allow your lure to stay in contact with the bottom so that they stay in the strike zone longer.

If you are cranking rock in under 15-feet of water, try casting a SPRO RkCrawler in a crawfish pattern.

If you are cranking deeper points or humps, then a SPRO Little John DD Outsider 80 (runs up to 21-feet deep) or the Little John 90 (runs as deep as 24 feet) in a variety of shad patterns may work best.

Use the deepest diver, which allows you to crawl your lure along the bottom from shallow to deep.

Cast your lures into shallower water and reel them quickly until you hit bottom, then just crank them fast enough to feel them crawl or wobble.

When the lure stops, just pause it on tight line.

If it’s a fish, it will pull back and hook itself.

If it’s just a rock, give it some slack and it will float free 90% of the time.

Invest in a good lure retriever.

It will pay for itself many times over.

The old reliable shaky head and straight finesse worm have probably been the easiest and maybe even the best way to catch them this past week.

Grab a medium to medium-heavy Kissel Krafts spinning rod with 7-pound Sunllne Fluorocarbon and a 1/8 to 3/16-ounce Gamakatsu Alien Head rigged with a five-inch Lanier Baits Fruity Worm and hit the docks.

Any color will work, as long as it’s green.

I have heard reports of people catching bass on almost every technique, except topwater (and I bet someone is even catching fish on those right now too).

Spring can be easy for some, but still tricky for others especially if they haven’t been on the lake for a while.

If you are not getting bites in your area, then don’t be afraid to move.

Once you get a few bites, pay close attention to where and how those fish bite.

You should be able to duplicate the same action in similar areas all over the lake.

The after-dark bass bite is red hot and no one seems to be out fishing for these fish during the week.

Cast either a SPRO RkCrawler or Georgia Blade Premium Nighttime Spinner Bait in either crawfish colors or black and blue.

Fish the rocky banks halfway back into the creeks.

There are usually a few bass hanging around with the stripers on any green fishing lights on the docks.

Stripers: The striper fishing is good.

The fish are biting from the Dam all the way into the backs of the creeks and into the rivers.

Yes, there are some fish in the mouths of the creeks down lake, but the majority of mature stripers are following the bait into the creeks and rivers.

These fish are feeding heavily on herring and shad and some are possibly even attempting to spawn (unsuccessfully) in the backs of the creeks and into the rivers.

The stripers you catch will focus on eating, so make sure you have plenty of bait.

If you net your own bait, then it may be a good idea to hang around and fish those same areas where you found your bait.  

Most people with a cast net catch their bait in shallower water way backs of the creeks.

You can also use a cast net to catch shad and herring in the rivers, around bridges or even on the sandy shoals especially in springtime.

If you are like most of us, our best bet is to purchase bait.

Our precious time on the water is best spent fishing for stripers not bait.

If that’s the case, make sure you have at least a few dozen herring and a few dozen medium (or large) shiners, depending on where you buy them.

The shad I have seen fish eating are 2-3-inches and the herring seem to be 4-5 inches long.

You can’t go wrong with small herring right now!

Anglers should keep an eye on the birds feeding as well as their electronics.

If the bait schools are present, the fish will be somewhere close by.

I have seen baitfish schools from on the surface and out as deep as 55 feet this past week.

Most of the thicker large schools of bait are concentrated in under 35 feet and shallower in certain creeks and pockets.

If you don’t mark fish or bait, keep moving until you do.

The shallower stripers seem to be keyed in on both herring and shad.

If you see lots of gulls diving on bait, then stop and fish the area.

Pay close attention to loons, especially if the gulls are lying down on the surface.

If you see a single loon, then there are usually 5-15 more feeding underneath.

Loons will congregate near schools of bait and they are natures true ‘power fishers.’

Loons keep moving to sneak up on new, unknowing, and easy-to-catch bait, while frequently leaving the rest for the stripers that remain and roam that area.

Once you have located bait and fish with your electronics, then it’s time to set out some live bait.

Flat lines have worked best this past week with free lines on planner boards adding some bonus shallow fish throughout the day.

If you find a group of stripers in the ditches and the fish are down in 35 feet of water, then a down line is worth a try.

Start out with a spread of herring on one side and shad on the other to see which the stripers prefer.

The smaller herring have gotten the nod this week.

It seems like the shallow feed has been best early or late on clearer days, but it will stay active longer on overcast conditions.

Pull herring or shad on a spread of flat lines and planers with free lines.

You can add a splitshot a few feet above your bait to get your free lines deeper.

Once the sun gets higher, anglers should check out deeper for groups of fish in the ditches on out as deep as 50 feet.

Drop a down line to these fish if they are deeper than 35 feet deep.

Here is a seldom mentioned fact most anglers are unaware of because the areas mentioned require either serious wading, arranging a float trip in a raft, tubes or canoe or using a very shallow drafting watercraft.

The herring make a run well into the Chattahoochee and Chestatee Rivers (as well as a couple of flowing creeks) in late winter/early spring.

These herring will congregate in shallow, flowing water that is seldom deeper than 10-feet deep and usually less than five feet.

Predator fish like stripers, white bass and even walleye will follow these herring and gorge themselves.

A 15-pound river striper fights like a 20-pound lake fish.

Crappie fishing is very good and the fish have moved shallow where they are easy to catch.

This is a great time to grab a bucket of crappie minnows and go fish around the smaller bridges in the backs of the creeks or up in the rivers.

Anglers who are just getting out for a day on the water should bring lighter-action rod and reels with a bobber, small split-shot weight and a small Aberdeen style minnow hook.

Hook crappie minnows through the snout or behind the back fin and set your bobbers two feet above your bait.

Cast it around brush, laydowns or docks.  

Don’t stay longer than a half an hour in one area if you don’t get a bite.

Crappie will be in large schools right now so keep moving until you get bit, then stay and catch them all.

Most of the serious crappie anglers I know are shooting small crappie jigs around docks with brush from 5-15-feet deep in the pockets in the creeks and rivers.

These guys are super serious and use specific gear for loading the cooler quickly.

Casting and reeling besides docks and brush will also work.

Look for smaller ditches and creeks that have running water feeding into the backs.

If they are muddy, check out where the muddy water meets less muddy water.

Check for the warmest water temperatures and pay attention to areas where you get bites.

You should be able to catch fish in other similar locations all over the lake.

You can email Eric Aldrich at with comments or questions.

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