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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Aim for deep ditches for best chance at biggest bass
Eric Aldrich
Local bass angler Eric Aldrich poses with a fish he caught. - photo by For The Times

Lake Lanier is holding steady and the water level is at 1,070.32 or .68 below the normal full pool of 1,071. Lake surface temperatures have dropped significantly with the colder weather and are from the mid to low 50’s.

The main lake and lower lake creeks are clear in some areas and stained to very stained in other locations from rain and lake turnover. The upper lake and rivers remain stained to muddy from lake turn over and recent rain inflow. The Chattahoochee below Buford Dam is very stained, but it clears slightly after water generation.

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

Note: I am now offering instructional trips for bass fishing. We will cover electronics, techniques, knots and anything else an angler wishes to explore. I have added the second console to my Nitro Z8 that’s equipped with a 250 HP Mercury and those awesome Lowrance Electronics. Email me at esaldrich@yahoo.com or PM me on Facebook for very competitive pricing and available dates.

Bass fishing rates from fair to tough for the bank beaters, but is excellent for the deeper ditch bite. My Lowrance Carbon 12 and 16 units are essential tools for targeting deeper bass.

I have received some interesting looks from people when gassing up the Nitro on these colder mornings. They may think I am crazy but the bite has been very good. Charge your batteries, bundle up in layers and make sure to have an assortment of spoons, SPRO Deep Divers, jigs and drop shot rigs.

The shallow bite has waned significantly, except for early in the day. Hit the shallow guts of the ditches with moving lures at dawn and follow the bass out deeper as the sun rises. We have been concentrating on the ditches all week and have been having great results.

Start out very early around shallow rock close to the ditches. Bass go through an early feeding period as they trap baitfish against the bank. Grind a SPRO Little John DD or Fat Papa 70 around rocky areas. Stay a cast away from the shore. While these plugs will run from 12 feet to as deep as 20 feet, most of our early bites have come at 3-to-10 feet deep. Retrieve your crank baits slow and steady and keep them in contact with the bottom. Keep fishing this way until the bites stop.

After that, we have been fishing the sides of the ditches from 15-to-30 feet with a Jig and Big Bites Fighting Frog trailer. Jigs imitate the crawfish that Lake Lanier’s spotted and largemouth bass love. I don’t know about you, but I would rather eat lobster than tilapia, and I think bass feel the same way. The jig bite can occur all day long, so stick with it and you will catch bigger bass.

As the sun gets high in the sky, we have been searching for fish in the center of the ditches. My Lowrance Carbon 16 can tell us if the fish are right below the boat and Structure Scan and 3D help us to see groups of fish that 2D would miss out to the sides of the boat.

These fish group up in big schools along the bottom and when you find them you can load the boat! What you are looking for are arcs or “spaghetti’ that indicate fish directly under the boat.

Our main weapon is a jigging spoon. Use a half-ounce Flex-It or Hopkins style spoons. Some people prefer the sensitivity of fluorocarbon, but this is one of the rare instances where I use 20-pound test Sunline Monofilament. The heavier weight monofilament slows the fall of the spoon. I also replace the stock hooks with lighter Gamakatsu trebles because they penetrate better. Plus, you can straighten the hooks with this heavier line and avoid losing to many spoons. Lost lures are just part of the deal, so make sure to have plenty as a backup.

Drop your spoon to the bottom and reel it up a foot or two. Pop your spoon up and down along the bottom. Most hits will occur as the spoon falls, so watch your line and look for a “tick” on the fall. Even when you don’t feel the bite, you are popping the spoon fast enough that you will catch most fish that strike. You can also use a drop shot or jig in these same areas.

Check out my YouTube channel “Eric Aldrich Fishing” for more details on how to identify the best ditches with your mapping software!

Striper fishing remains inconsistent and the fish are roaming just about anywhere. The gulls have come inshore to weather out the winter before returning to the coast in warmer months. Watch for gulls and loons to give away the location of bait. Watch the birds along with your electronics to locate feeding stripers. Some fish will be deep while others may be feeding on the surface so keep your options open!

My Lowrance units help me to locate stripers in the same way we locate bass. Set your screen to a split view between traditional 2D and Structure Scan and cover water until you locate bait and fish. The stripers will often be located in the same ditches that the bass use.

Because the stripers are scattered, you may need to keep moving, so consider trolling an Umbrella Rig. Most local bait stores sell pre-rigged, Captain Mack’s Umbrella Rigs. I buy the bare rigs and outfit them with SPRO Bucktails with Big Bites Suicide Shads for trailers. You can use lead core to help get the rigs deeper, but I like 65-pound test Sunline SX1 braid. The braid cuts through the water and allows me to keep my rigs higher or lower in the water column. Invest in an umbrella retriever as it will pay for itself the first time you get snagged.

If you locate a school of stripers, then use both flat lines or down lines with live herring or medium shiners. The medium sized baits seem to have been more effective in the last 2 years. Small to medium-sized herring are also hard to beat. Try baiting at least one trout on a flat line with a balloon set about 15 feet ahead of your bait. I have very fond memories of seeing big stripers trap trout against the surface. They may hit it many times before finally eating it, so keep your rods in their holders until you hook up.

We have been seeing a lot of fish midway back into the creeks down lake along with some decent action on up around River Forks and the mouth of the Chestatee. I prefer to target fish that are surfacing with artificial lures. My go-to lure is a half-ounce SPRO Bucktail. Using artificial lures frees up a striper anglers’ options. You can keep moving quickly without having to pull your baits or rigs back to boat. We often just run and gun as we look for feeding gulls.

The nighttime Bomber and McStick bite is still working, but we have started to target lighted boat docks back in the creeks instead of hitting the main lake islands. Look for the green glow around docks and start fishing the outsides of the lights first before casting directly to these lights. Most strikes occur just outside the glow of the lights. Stripers hide just outside the light and dart in and out as they feed on shad and herring attracted by the glow.

Trout fishing has been up and down below Buford Dam. The water is warmer and more stained than the colder clear mountain streams. Recent rains can cause the river to muddy up but during low water levels, the river has been fishable and the trout are biting.

The North Georgia streams are mostly clear except after heavy rains. Trout spawn when water temperatures reach 50 degrees. Late fall and winter are great times to target your biggest fish of the year.

Fly anglers should try a Woolly Bugger early and later in the day. During sunny days switch to something flashier like a small streamer or salmon egg pattern.

The trout are eating a variety of baits, so pick your favorite lures or bait and visit the most productive areas you can find. It’s OK to keep a limit for dinner but consider just taking a picture of the big ones and release them so they can spawn.

Bank fishing: Crappie fishing in private ponds and on Lake Lanier is usually good in the colder months. These tasty fish will be located in tight groups. If you catch one, then there should be several more in the same area.

On Lake Lanier the fish will be located in deep brush around 25-feet-deep. Dock owners can downline minnows or fish small jigs directly under their docks. Bank anglers can visit parks with deep public docks or they can fish around bridges. Target the bridge pilings and deep brush with these same techniques.

Fish in subdivision or farm ponds can usually be found much shallower. Live minnows set about 5-to-10 feet below a slip bobber can produce a mixed bag of crappie, bream and bass. Bundle up the kids and hit the water!

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. He would love to hear from readers, so please email him at esaldrich@yahoo.com Remember to take a kid fishing!

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