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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Colder water makes for improved striper fishing
Eric Aldrich
Local bass angler Eric Aldrich poses with a fish he caught. - photo by For The Times

Water Conditions: Lake Lanier’s water level is right at 1,070.98 feet, which is barely below the full mark of 1,071 feet. Water temperatures are in the upper 40s. The main lake and creeks mouths are clear to slightly stained and the creeks and rivers are stained. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is mostly clear. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.

Bass fishing has been slower this week, but the fish are biting. The key seems to be fishing deep and slow but don’t completely give up on the shallow bite! Start your day around rocky deep banks. Try to capitalize on a few fish in the first hour on moving lures.  

The bass will push baitfish shallow along steep drop off banks or up in the guts of the ditches. Cast a SPRO Little John DD to the rocks and just crank it slow and steady, keeping it in contact with the bottom. Even though this lure will run as much as 20 feet deep, you can also cast it up in very shallow water and work it through the rocks. The bass will usually strike these deeper running crank baits as they deflect and bounce off the bottom. Usually you will feel the lure just load up and the fish will hook itself on those sharp Gamakatsu Treble Hooks that all SPRO Lures come with. 

On cloudy days, this shallow water action may occur for longer periods of time, but we have found that the first hour of daylight has held the best action. You can also use other shad imitating lures like a Big Bites Suicide Shad rigged on a Fish Head Spin or try slow rolling a spinner bait in these same locations. The key word for this fishing is slow! 

On rainy or overcast days, the fish will tend to be more scattered, and you will probably catch one here and one there. On sunny days the fish have been a little more predictable, and they will tend to be concentrated under docks, in brush and also along the timber lines out around the deeper ditch channels. Pay attention to the weather reports and be prepared to change up as the weather fronts move in and out. 

As the day progresses, try working a slow, bottom bumping lure like a jig or bigger stand up jig head rigged with a Big Bites Fighting Frog or Yo Momma soft plastic trailer. Despite the funny names, these lures basically imitate a crawfish as they slowly move along and through the rocks on the bottom. I like to use green/pumpkin colored lures and then dip the appendages in an orange or red colored JJ’s Magic. This little detail may account for more bites as it makes your lure look much like Lake Lanier’s large crawfish population. Why eat worms when you can have lobster! 

Keep an eye on your Lowrance Graph, and keep a drop shot rig at the ready at all times. Doing this will allow you an opportunity to land a few extra fish throughout your day. We regularly pick up the drop shot rigged with a Big Bites Shakin’ Squirrel or a Lanier Baits Fruity Worm to score more bites. In a tournament, a single extra big fish can make a huge difference, so take advantage and use your electronics to score some extra bites.  

Other patterns like casting jerk baits, Alabama Rigs or even skipping a shaky head or small swimbait up around and under dock floats or on the marina sea walls can produce big results. We have also stayed and fished after dark to score some good fish on deep diving crank baits after dark. If you fish for bass and stripers after sundown in winter, you may have the whole lake all to yourself!

Striper fishing has improved this past week. When water temperatures take a plunge, it often takes them a day or two to acclimate. We had cold, overcast days in the past weeks that have dropped water temperatures down into the high 40s. Stripers thrive in colder water temperatures, and they can be very active while the rest of the fish population slows down in cold water conditions. 

Like the bass, stripers will feed well in the first two hours of the day, so take advantage of this and be on the water early so you can be ready to fish at sunrise. The stripers have been very active up river in the northern creeks as well as in the backs of the lower lake creeks.  

On Lake Lanier, the stripers make a false spawning run early in the season. They will move upriver or toward the backs of the creeks where moving water flows into the lake. These spawning runs do not produce successful reproduction, but these fish still go through the motions and that can be great for anglers because it positions the fish shallower in groups.

Try to determine what the stripers in your location are eating. Both shad and herring can be found up shallow in the pockets, creeks and also up in the rivers. If the stripers are keyed into eating shad, use medium shiners. If the fish are keyed into eating herring, then use medium to large herring. 

You can purchase shiners, trout or herring at your local tackle shops, but some anglers prefer to throw a cast net to catch their own bait. Just make sure you have a backup plan in case you are unable to net these native bait fish.

The stripers have been located in varying water depths, so you will really want to pay attention to your Lowrance Electronics so that you know how deep to fish. Pull flat lines (just a hook and bait with no weight) and planner boards early in the day and as the stripers move deeper switch up deploy down lines (a weighted line with a swivel, weight and leader).  Always make sure you have quality rod holders on you boat because a striper can really test your equipment so be prepared!

Trolling a Captain Mack’s Mini Umbrella Rig can work well and this method has accounted for some good action this past week. If you look at an umbrella rig it may look very “clunky” but these multi hooked rigs really come alive when you get them in the water. I know of no method that looks so real and produces fish like an umbrella rig,

Troll your rigs at around 2 MPH and position them about 5-feet above where you mark fish on your graph. Stripers usually look up to target bait and fishing above them can account for some extra bites.

There have been no reports about the Bomber Bite but this action may occur soon or may already happening. Usually the hardcore anglers that fish a lot discover this bite early. These anglers may be tight lipped and by the time the public has heard about it the best action may have already happened so get out early in the season and you may enjoy some of the best fishing of your life! 

Crappie: Not many reports are coming in but the crappie are biting fair around the docks mid-way on back and into the creeks. The crappie are extremely fat and healthy from both eating shad and producing eggs. Crappie spawn earlier in the season than bass so fishing should really pick up in the next few weeks. 

For now, your best bet is to target docks that have brush and cane piles planted around and up under them. The key to successful catching is being able to cast or “shoot” tiny crappie jigs into tight place that the average angler can’t reach. Refer to YouTube or hire a guide to show you how to employ this productive method.  

Live shad or small crappie minnows can produce great results to but casting these light live baits and getting them in front of the crappie. A small slip bobber can often help anglers get their live bait down to the level where the fish are located. You may also have a friend that owns a dock and if so, you can just add a small split shot about a foot or two above your hook and bait and just let the bait fall until it is in or just above where the fish are suspended. NEVER fish off a dock without permission! 

Bank Fishing: Stripers can be very shallow in the winter and this is good news for anglers who don’t have access to a boat. Anglers have many choices where they can fish from the shores of Lake Lanier. Look at your hard copy map or you can also download the Navionics app to locate the most productive locations. Look for areas where the creek or ditch channel is located close to the shore.

Stripers eat a variety or bait. Purchase a minnow bucket full of medium to large shiners and you should be set to fish. Make sure to spool your reels with the proper line. I like to use 12 to 17-pound Sunline Natural Monofilament but Sniper Fluorocarbon is also a great choice because it virtually disappears below the water line. Nothing can break an angler’s heart like losing a big fish due to a preventable line break.

Use a slip bobber and set the depth to 10 to 15-feet. Casting a slip bobber allow anglers to make long casts and to get their baits down to where the fish are swimming. Try to find a bank where the wind is blowing out into the lake. Doing this will allow you to keep your bait and bobber stay floating away from the bank. Secure your rods in a heavy-duty rod holder. You can purchase commercial rod holders or simply cut PVC pipes that fit your rod handles and pound these PVC pipes deep down into clay or sandy shores. Set your rods into their holders and wait to hear your drag as these big fish take the bait! 

Eric Aldrich is an outdoor writer, marketing specialist, guide and bass angler. He is currently booking teaching trips for Lake Lanier’s spotted and largemouth bass. Reports are based on personal experience and permission from a close network of friends. He would love to hear from his readers, so please email him at esaldrich@yahoo.com. Remember to take a kid fishing! 

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