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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Bass settling into early spring patterns
Eric Aldrich
Local bass angler Eric Aldrich poses with a fish he caught. - photo by For The Times

Lake Lanier’s water level remains steady and full at 1,070.60, or .40 feet below the normal full pool of 1,071. Lake surface temperatures remain in the low- to mid-50s. 

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

Bass fishing rates from good to very good, and the bass are feeding heavily as they bulk up for the spring’s spawning season. 

For now, you can bet these bass have one thing on their minds — food.

When considering where to fish, we must first think about what happens during the spawn. Basically, bass feed and bulk up in late winter and early spring in preparation for mating. Once the water temperatures approach between 60 and 70 degrees, the bass will fan out nests, lay their eggs, protect their fry and disappear back into deeper water once the process is complete. 

Bass spawn around clay and rock in water less than 10 feet close to docks, stumps and even main lake humps and points.

What anglers should look for are areas that lead into these prime spawning areas. Ditches, channels and shelves that lead into shallower water are prime areas to target in early spring. If you can find rock piles, docks or brush along these “bass highways,” then these are high-percentage areas that can hold schools of hungry pre-spawn bass.

Bass located in less than 20 feet of water should readily strike a well-placed lure. Use a deep-diving crank bait like a SPRO Little John DD or Castaways 1.5 and allow these lures to contact bottom and deflect off objects like rocks, stumps and brush. Other lures like spinner baits, jerk baits or chatter baits will also deflect off objects to trigger strikes.

When bass are less active, a jig or worm may be your best producers. A straight tail finesse worm on a ⅛-ounce jig head is a staple for catching Lake Lanier’s spotted and largemouth bass. Skip or cast these “shaky heads” around docks or shallow drop-offs midway into the coves. These same worms will also work well on main lake humps and points.

The choices of good lures to use in spring are almost endless, so pick your favorites and go fishing.

Striper fishing is starting to improve, and as the water clears in the rivers and creeks, it will only get better. Pulling umbrella rigs and live baits, or casting lures, are all working in the right areas and conditions this week.

Pulling an umbrella rig around water color transition zones in the creeks has been producing a few fish this week. Plus, pulling a rig helps anglers to cover water to find where the larger congregations of stripers are located. Areas where stained water meets clearer water can be magnets for shad and herring schools. 

Bait fish will congregate around these areas because this stained water holds plankton that feed the bait fish schools. Any time you can find the bait fish in spring, the predators will not be far behind. 

Once a school of stripers is located, then set out a combination of herring and medium to large shiners on flat lines and planner boards. Pull your baits as slowly as possible while still keeping them behind and beside your boat. Add a split-shot to your flat lines to get the baits deeper if needed.

The Bomber and McStick bite continues to produce fish after dark. Target points and pockets both around the dam, out by the islands and in the backs of the creeks. Try to switch things up and throw a SPRO Bucktail or swim bait after dark for a big bite.

Crappie fishing remains, good and the same two patterns are working — trolling or shooting docks. Use your Side Imaging to scan docks located in the pockets and the creeks until you locate the large congregations of stripers.

At times it can seem tough to coax bites from even the bigger schools, but stick with it and you should have some luck. Jig color can be a huge factor in triggering strikes from these tasty pan fish. Experiment with color and even weights of your jig heads until you dial in the best producers. If you are shooting one-sixteenth-ounce white crappie jigs to no avail, try switching to a lighter jig head with a darker jig to see if this works better.

With the warm spell we had earlier this month, some fish were being caught under bobbers on crappie minnows from the banks. Look for this pattern to get stronger if we have warmer weather.

Trout fishing: The Department of Natural Resources will be making sure the rivers and streams are stocked for spring fishing. 

Over the years, we have often arrived at a spot where the DNR had recently released fish. These newly stocked trout are dumb and hungry, and you will often catch one trout after another. Pick your favorite style and go catching.

Fishing below Buford Dam can be very good right now. Anything that resembles a small minnow or threadfin shad should work well below Buford Dam and other tail race fisheries. Shad get sucked into the turbines and wash through the river below. Cast a silver and black Rapala Count Down minnow or a silver and grey Rooster Tail on light-spinning gear. Fish these with a slow-and-steady retrieve and try to provide the trout with a slow-moving, easy-to-catch meal.

These same methods, along with fly fishing, will also work well up in the mountain streams and rivers in North Georgia.

Bank fishing: Fly fishing is one technique that almost requires anglers to fish from shore or at least while wading. While trout are probably the most pursued fish by fly flingers, other species including bass, brim, and stripers can be coaxed to bite a fly.

Fishing with a fly rod is a little more difficult than standard spinning- or casting-reels, so it pays to go with an experienced angler. YouTube is also an awesome place to see and learn more techniques. As your experience grows, so will the amount of bites you get.

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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