By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Bass relating closer to food source as winter nears
Eric Aldrich
Local bass angler Eric Aldrich poses with a fish he caught. - photo by For The Times

Lake Lanier’s level is up a little at 1,065.66, or 5.34 feet below our normal full pool of 1,071. Lake surface temperatures are presently in the lower 60s, but expect them to drop as the weather cools. 

The main lake and creeks mouths are clear. The creeks and rivers are stained-to-very stained from the recent rains and the final lake turnover. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is still stained as lake turnover finishes up. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river by calling 770-945-1466.

Bass fishing has been a challenge, but hard work may pay off. 

The bass are relating more to their food base than anything else this week. Bass are feeding heavily as they pack on fat for the colder winter months. Shad, herring and crawfish are the main meals for Lake Lanier’s bass in mid-fall.

Because the bass have a choice of forage, they may be found just about anywhere on the lake. Main lake points and humps have been holding schools of spotted bass that are feasting on herring and shad. These fish tend to be more active, so moving lures like top-water plugs, swim baits or jerk baits get the thumbs up. 

A SPRO McStick 110 is a staple, but consider downsizing to a McStick 90 or a McRip 85 when the bass are concentrating more on the smaller threadfin shad.

A lot of spotted and largemouth bass have moved shallow into the fingers and coves midway into the creeks and rivers. These fish will relate to the ditches and channels that act as bass highways, offering easy access from shallow to deeper water. 

Target the shallowest parts of the ditches early in the day, then follow them deeper as the sun rises. If there are docks, brush piles or any other features located close to the ditches, these can be bass magnets.

A crankbait like a SPRO Little John DD or Fat Papa, or jerk bait like the McStick or McRip, will work early in the day when the bass are shallow in the ditches. After the sun has risen, switch over to a bottom-bumping lure like a worm or jig. Other faster-moving lures like a Big Bites Suicide Shad on an underspin are good choices to work along the bottom or around brush and docks.

Stair-stepping a Strike King Pro Model Jig with a Big Bites Fighting Frog will coax bass targeting crawfish around rocky banks. Target steeper bluff banks close to the creek and river channels. Dip your trailer in Orange or Red JJ’s Magic to mimic the color on the tips of the crawfish. 

Working a jig or deep-diving crank bait around these same rocky banks after dark will score some magnum spotted bass.

Striper fishing has been decent. Like the bass, stripers are also keying in on Lake Lanier’s threadfin shad and herring. 

Three methods have been working best. The first is live herring or trout on flat and down lines. The second is trolling Captain Mack’s umbrella rigs. And the third is top-water and subsurface baits used for schooling fish during the day and again for stripers up shallow after dark.

Of all the methods mentioned, night fishing is probably one of the most fun and most productive ways to catch stripers in the fall. The traditional lures have been a Redfin, Bomber Long A and, in recent years, the SPRO McStick 110 and 115. 

The most important issue with night fishing is safety — always wear your life jacket. Use your GPS, but keep a sharp eye out for boats, floating debris and any other objects you can’t see with GPS. 

The rest is pretty easy. Target main lake islands and lighted boat docks. Cast to the banks, reel your Bombers with a medium-steady retrieve and hold on.

During the day, use your electronics to located the large schools of fish in the creek mouths and use a combination of flat and down lines. Medium-sized herring and smaller trout have worked best this past week. Trolling your umbrella rigs at 2.5 mph is a productive way to cover water while looking for surfacing fish.

Crappie fishing has gotten better, and the fish can be found in tight school where the shad are located. 

Target deeper docks with brush located near creek and ditch channels back in the creeks. If you catch one, then there should be plenty more in the same area. Either down line small crappie minnows and shad, or work small crappie jigs through the brush.

Trout fishing has been hit-and-miss both on the river below Buford Dam and up in the mountain streams.

Up in the mountain rivers and streams, trout are biting a variety of artificial and live bait. With the recent rains, live red wigglers (where permitted by law) should work very well in the pools below the rapids. 

The recent rains have helped fishing, and the trout have responded well. Dry flies like a nymph will work all day long, or you can switch to a dry and wet fly combo and add a stonefly below your nymph to cover more water.

In the fall and winter, it pays to target the rapids and pools below them because these waters will contain the most dissolved oxygen content. Reel a small sixteenth-ounce Rooster tail on 2- to 4-pound test just fast enough to keep the blades spinning.

Bank Fishing: Bottom fishing is an often-overlooked technique, and it works especially well in fall. 

And fishing on the bottom does not just yield catfish and crappie. You can catch a variety of fish on the bottom including bass, stripers and just about any fish large enough to eat your bait.

Earthworms, corn, dough ball and chicken liver are all traditional bait for fishing on the bottom of your local waters. One of the best baits to use when targeting bottom-dwellers is cut bait, which is basically a whole fish cut into chunks and placed on a hook with a weight.

Pay attention to the topography when you’re walking the banks. Target areas where you can access the creek channels or a steeper dropoff where you can cast to deeper fish. If there is a current, target the deeper pools or current break.

The fish that bite bottom baits tend to be bigger, so you need to secure your rod well. You can use PVC as a rod holder by just cutting the length you prefer and pound it into the ground. Some people attach a bell or set their line clickers so they can hear the strikes.

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.

Regional events