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Lake Lanier fishing report: Cooler weather heats up 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 1,069.65 feet, which is 1.03 feet below the normal full pool of 1,071 feet. Water levels may change slightly due to inclement weather caused by Hurricane Michael. Lake surface temperatures are in the upper 70s. 

The main lake and lower lake creeks mouths are clear. The backs of the creeks are stained from recent rains. The upper lake is clear, but the pockets and rivers are stained. The Chattahoochee below Buford Dam is stained from lake turnover.

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

Bass fishing has been good, and the bass are reacting to the shorter days and cooler night temperatures. You can pick your strengths and catch fish with a variety of techniques this week.

It’s top water time. Tie on your favorite surface lures, because you can catch fish on top all day long. A Sammy, Sara Spook or your favorite swim bait are all good choices. The bass are eating larger threadfin shad and medium-sized blue back herring, so match your lures to match this medium to larger sized forage.

My top-water set consists of a Shimano or Abu Garcia reel spooled with 65-pound test Sunline SX-2 braid or Sunline Natural Monofilament. I use an 8-foot long Kissel Krafts Custom Crank Bait Rod. This setup allows me to make very long casts. Long casts allow you to cover more water, increasing your chances to catch fish.

We have started our day casting top-water plugs like a Whopper Plopper, Sammy or even a subsurface lure like a SPRO McStick on secondary points. We have found a couple of areas that that are holding big schools of fish. If you can find this action, it may pay to stay put for an hour or so and work on them. During a couple of trips, we’ve been able to catch a good limit in the first hour without making a move.

When the sun gets up, the fish will move out into cover on brush piles located near the closest drop off. This is the time of year to run and gun your best brush piles. Fish a top-water lure or spy bait and work them directly over brush. A Big Bites Jerk Shad or Zoom Fluke are also good choices to cast around brush piles. Make several casts, then move over and employ a drop-shot, Ned Rig or other soft plastic lures directly in the brush. My Lowrance Carbon 12 allows me to actually see my lure and the fish. I can often “see” the bites on that big screen before I even feel them.

Casting crank Baits like a SPRO Fat Papa or Little John DD 70 or 90 to main and secondary points is a great back up pattern for bass that are unwilling to strike top-water plugs. Other mid-depth or bottom bumping lures like a Fish Head Spin, Suicide Shad on a SPRO Buck Tail or Spinner Bait are all worth a try.

The night fishing continues to be very good. Grab your SPRO RkCrawlers, black Colorado bladed spinner baits or Little John DDs and hit the rocky banks in the creek mouths for some great action after dark.

Stripers fishing remains good, and the fish continue to be located from the surface to the 40-foot range. We have started to see more schooling action, and that should only get better with the cooler temperatures forecast for next week. As with bass fishing, you can just about pick your strengths and catch stripers this week.

There have been some stripers striking top-water lures. Cast a Sammy or a SPRO BBZ1 6-inch trout out around points and humps on main lake from the dam up to River Forks Park. The larger schools will start to show themselves on the surface as the cooler weather moves in after Hurricane Michael departs the state. In fall, you will often see quarter-acre sized schools on the surface as they thrash herring and shad from main lake to midway back in the creeks.  

Trolling umbrella rigs or a single, large SPRO Buck Tails with a blue back herring or Big Bites Suicide Shad Trailer are great ways to cover water as you search for the larger schools. Trolling has been good enough that you may want to stick with it all day long.

When you find one of the many larger schools of stripers, it may be time to put out your live bait lines. Remember that the oxygen levels are very poor below 45 feet, so concentrate your efforts on where you mark fish above this depth. Use a combination of down and flat lines and place your lines just above where you mark fish on your Lowrance Electronics.

Flat lines with a small ¼ ounce split shot placed a few feet above your hook will cover depths from the surface down to 25 feet. If you are marking fish below that depth, then deploy flat lines to where you mark fish. Remember that stripers will often rise to strike bait, but they seldom go down deeper to strike.

Try using a Lake Forks Flutter Spoon and drop it below the schools, then power-reel it up quickly through the fish for an arm-breaking strike. Other lures like a SPRO Buck Tail and Suicide Shad Trailer or try dropping your live bait lines and power-reel these offerings through the stripers for a reaction strike. 

The Bomber McStick night bite is just starting to happen. Head out after dark and cast these lures to the banks to catch stripers that move shallower to feed after dark. Cast these lures to the banks around the dam and to banks up north of Lake Lanier Islands.

Crappie fishing will start to improve with the cooler weather forecast for next week. Use your Lowrance Structure Scan and look for smaller schools of crappie as they move shallower into the creeks and pockets. Trolling or casting small jigs will start to work better and better as the lake cools down.

Trout Fishing is very good in the North Georgia Mountains and ok below Buford Dam. Recent rains will only help the trout to bite.

Live worms (where live bait is permitted), dry and wet flies that imitate local forage and in-line spinners are all good choices for targeting both the river streams and river and also below Buford Dam.

Bank fishing:  One of the weirdest looking lures you will ever see is a buzz bait. When I was younger, I wouldn’t throw this lure, because for the life of me I couldn’t understand why a bass would strike something that looked (at least to me) so weird. I learned later that a buzz bait imitates several different types of forage and that bass would hit these lures with tremendous aggression. 

Buzz baits are great lures to cast around smaller lakes and ponds as well as on Lake Lanier all day long in the fall. They stay on the top of the water and come through weeds and other obstructions very well. My new favorite buzz bait is a Big Bites Suicide Buzz Bait. Maybe if I had one of these when I was younger, I would have cast it more because the Suicide Shad Trailer that looks so real.

Cast your buzz bait out and reel it just fast enough to keep the lure on top. Experiment with your retrieve speed until you get a strike. A lot of times, a faster retrieve will work better in the fall, as bass get more aggressive as they feed up before the colder winter months.


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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