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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Bass patterns differ in winter months
Eric Aldrich
Local bass angler Eric Aldrich poses with a fish he caught. - photo by For The Times

Lake Lanier’s water level remains constant at 1,065.40, or 5.60 feet below our normal full pool of 1,071. Surface temperatures are dropping into the mid-50s. 

The main lake and creeks mouths are clear. The creeks, pockets and rivers are slightly stained. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is still green from lake turnover. Check generation schedules before heading to the river by calling 770-945-1466.

Bass Fishing: Look for bass fishing to change this week as more seasonably cold winter weather arrives. 

The ditch bite should really start to set up well as the weather and water cools down. It can pay dividends to establish a milk run of productive ditches, channels and drop-offs in the winter.

Always keep an open mind when fishing. Too many anglers believe that the vast majority of bass do the exact same thing when the seasons change. This belief can really limit your ability to catch fish. 

Think about it in human terms — many, but not all, people go Christmas shopping in December. But there are plenty of other humans sitting home, jogging through the park or even out fishing and hunting.

Many patterns will produce great fishing in winter. You are liable to catch a bass on the surface with a top-water plug in the morning, then later catch a bass on the bottom at 60 feet or deeper on a jigging spoon.

There have been a lot of bass in the deeper depressions close to the timberlines the past couple weeks. As the weather gets colder and water temperatures drop into the low 50s, these bass historically follow the creek and ditch depressions from shallow to deep as they follow the bait.

Bass and bait tend to start shallow around the banks early in the day. Once the sun rises, the bait fish and bass usually move back out deeper.

Start at daybreak targeting the shallow parts of the creek and ditch channels close to the banks with a moving lure that mimics shad or herring. Jerkbaits, crankbaits or under-spins rigged with a small Big Bites Cane Thumper are all worth casting out around depressions close to the banks. 

Vary your retrieves until you start getting bites. Contrary to what anglers think, bass can be especially aggressive during active feeding periods in the winter months. Anglers can often reach their limit early in the day, and some of the fish can be big ones.

As the sun rises, the bass and shad tend to move out deeper into the ditch channels, where they will congregate around timber lines, rock ledges, brush piles, docks and other key features where bait and bass can hide. Key features around ditches can be bass magnets and can hold groups of catchable fish. A jig, spoon, shaky head or deep-diving crank bait will often coax these fish into biting. Work these lures from 10 to 45 feet deep.

There have been some quality largemouth and spotted bass relating to steeper rocky crawfish and baitfish in these areas. Expect these fish to remain back here throughout the winter because these steep rocky banks offer a lot of forage. 

It’s hard to beat a Big Bite Baits Flying Squirrel on a ¼-ounce Gamakatsu Alien Head. This setup mimics a crawdad and will coax bites from both active and inactive bass. Also try reeling a SPRO Little John MD or DD-style crankbait through the rocks, around docks, brush and laydowns.

Continue to keep an arsenal of jigging spoons, jigs, drop-shot rigs and your favorite SPRO Jerkbait or crankbaits ready at all times. These lures will coax bites from bass both when the sun is up, on cloudy days and also after dark.

Striper Fishing: The birds continue to signal the most productive areas to fish, so keep an eye out for gulls and loons. When you locate birds that are actively feeding, then you have most likely also located the stripers.

Live bait is one of the easiest and most productive methods to catch predator fish. That being said, you should still use some basic guidelines to increase your odds. Lively bait is a must, so always buy good bait and maintain it well. The good news is it’s a lot easier to keep bait alive during the colder months.

For a start, try and keep things simple. Start out by pulling two flat lines behind your boat. A flat line is just a hook and line with a live herring, shad or trout hooked through the lips and drifted naturally behind the boat. 

Simply attach a No. 2 Gamakatsu Octopus hook on 12- to 15-pound Sunline Snipers Fluorocarbon and feed about 100 to 200 feet of line behind the boat. You can attach a small split shot a few feet above the hook if you want to get the bait to run a little deeper.

In addition to running two flatlines behind the boat, also place two weighted down lines directly below the boat where you can watch them on your electronics. It’s always best to err on the side of running your baits slightly above the fish you mark on your finder instead of running them to deep below the fish. Medium to large shad have been working well along with medium-sized trout and herring this past couple weeks.

Trolling a Captain Mack’s 4 arm umbrella rig on seven to eight colors of lead core at 2.5 mph has been productive this week. Not only is this a great way to cover water while searching for active fish, this method has been out-fishing live bait in many instances this week.

Crappie fishing has been a little tough for us anglers that like to fish shallow, but there have been some huge schools of slabs showing up from 15 to 45 feet in some areas. While it may seem almost impossible to catch fish this deep on ultralight tackle, some anglers do it regularly.

It takes extreme talent to catch deep crappie in the winter. You must first locate the fish, then you must have the ability to remain stationary over the area you are fishing. Then you must be adept at presenting and catching fish.

This week my Humminbirds are showing crappie ganged up in the pockets and toward the backs of the creeks relating to steeper banks near the flats in 25 feet of water. Fishing jigs or down-lined minnows under docks has been working really well. There are also some shallow fish biting under Hydro Glow lights after dark around docks.

Trout fishing remain slow below Buford Dam. Fish live worms on a bottom rig above Highway 20, or try a Countdown Rapala or a slow-rolled Rooster Tail below the rapids.

The recent rains should help fishing in the mountain streams and rivers. Dry flies have worked best on cloudy days, but look for small hatches in the afternoons on sunny days and match your dry flies to the hatch.   

Bank Fishing: Bass and crappie have been biting around the bridges on Lake Lanier early and late in the day, as well as after dark. Areas like Lake Lanier Islands, Two Mile and Six Mile Bridges, Wahoo Creek and Little River all have good areas to target during the colder months.

Anglers can cast lures or live minnows to the bridge pilings, or they can fish minnows or small jigs under a slip bobber around floating lights after dark.  

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 his readers, so please email him at esaldrich@yahoo.com Remember to take a kid fishing.

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