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Lake Lanier fishing report: Make sure to dress in layers to enjoy winter fishing
Eric Aldrich
Local bass angler Eric Aldrich poses with a fish he caught. - photo by For The Times

Water Conditions: Lake Lanier continues to hover less than a foot below full pool at 1,070.57 or .43 below the normal full pool of 1,071. Lake surface temperatures have registered from as low as 49 degrees to a high of 55 degrees this past week. The main lake and lower lake creeks are clear in some areas and stained in other locations. The upper lake and rivers remain stained to very stained. The Chattahoochee below Buford Dam is stained, but is starting to clear as lake turnover finishes up.

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

I am now offering instructional trips for bass fishing. Email me at esaldrich@yahoo.com or PM me on Facebook. Costs are $200 for a half day and $300 for a full day. These costs are for two anglers and I offer certificates that can be used for Christmas gifts.

Bass fishing is good for anglers that are tough enough to fish in these cold and sometimes rainy conditions. Bundle up in layers and finish with a waterproof outer skin to stay warm enough to enjoy the day!

For the most part we are still concentrating on the ditch bite. Get out in time so that you can be fishing productive areas at safelight. Bass feed at different times of the day, but you can usually catch a few up shallow before the sunrise.

Start out close to shallow, rocky banks where these ditchers enter the lake. Cast crank baits, under spins and jerk baits directly to the shore. I love to slow crank a SPRO Little John or McStick 110 when targeting these early morning shallow bass. Cast these lures so that you dig bottom on the beginning of your cast. Most strikes occur as your lures deflect off of rocks or right after they break free from the bottom. 

This week it seems as though Lake Lanier’s spotted bass are relating more to the sides and dropoffs of the ditches than the deeper centers of the ditch. Quality electronics outfitted with detailed mapping, like a Platinum Navionics or the new C-Maps Lake Insight chips, will greatly benefit anglers to find the “sweet spots.” Look for curves and bends in the ditches that have the steepest drop as fish will use these as resting points as they move from shallow to deep waters along these bass highways. The best ditch dropoffs can be found anywhere along the way as the ditches bend and wind out deeper and intersect with the timberlines.

One of my favorite tools to use when targeting the sides of the ditches is the old reliable jig ‘n pig combo. I like to use a heavy enough jig so that I can feel the bottom rigged with a Big Bites Fighting Frog trailer with the craws dipped in Red JJs Magic. A sensitive rod like my Kissel Krafts Medium Heavy Rod and a bait-casting reel equipped with 14 to 17-pound test Sunline Sniper Fluorocarbon.

I just love the feel of that “chomp” as the bass sucks in a jig into its crusher plates. My dad always told me that fish don’t have hands, so when you feel a bite, give the fish a little slack, then set the hook hard!

We have had our best luck stair stepping jigs down the dropoffs out far from the bank. The most consistent locations have been where the top of the ditches start in 10-to-20 feet deep and drop off into 25-to-50 feet at the bottom. Although I prefer to use a jig, you may also want to try fishing a drop shot rig, casting it and stair steeping it down the drops instead of fishing them with the more popular vertical presentation that most anglers incorporate. 

A strong secondary pattern has been to work a jerk bait out along windblown bluff walls, points and deeper banks out in the wind. Cast a SPRO McStick 110 to the bank and use a random jerk, jerk, pause retrieve. The bass will come up from deeper water to strike these lures that imitate wounded shad or herring. When water temperatures are in the mid 50’s, you can usually use shorter pauses. But when we drop into the 40’s a longer pause may be needed to temp colder fish. I use fluorocarbon for jerk bait fishing because it has more feel and it gets the lure to dive a little deeper. That being said, the designer of the SPRO McStick, Mike McClelland prefers to use 10 to 12-pound monofilament.

Always keep an eye on your electronics for when you see arcs or “spaghetti’ that indicate fish directly under the boat. My Lowrance Carbon HDS units have the best 2D mode available and this is the mode that I leave on at all times on the bow of my boat. When you see fish on your electronics, drop down a drop shot or spoon to pick up a few extra bonus fish throughout the day.

Spoon fishing in the middle of the ditches can still be very good and when you find one fish then there will probably be many more in the area. These deep fish will also strike a jig, drop shot, Texas and Carolina rigged worms or your own favorite bottom bouncer.

Striper fishing has been up and down and the fish can be hard to target sometimes. There have been some decent congregations of stripers from Flat Creek on up to Holly Park, but don’t discount the lower lake creeks or the upper lake creeks and rivers.

Striper fishing is very similar to bass fishing right now. Start your days out early in the backs of the creeks, ditches and pockets. Put out flat lines and planner boards baited with medium shiners, herring, trout or even a gizzard shad. Set your offerings so that you can be fished close to the banks. The stripers feed shallow early in the day and they may stay shallow for a while, especially if it is cloudy or raining.

If you are fishing on a sunny day, stay shallow until the fish leave then follow them out into deeper water. Stripers will relate to these fish highways but they will more often be found following bait. Use your Lowrance Electronics to find both bait and stripers. 

The gulls and loons are also dead giveaways for where baitfish and often stripers are feeding. Many anglers discount an area when they see that the gulls are diving on loons. Don’t make this same mistake. Loons are very people shy so if they are staying put in an area then you can bank that the bait and stripers will be close by.

Trolling an Umbrella Rig is still a viable technique for both locating and catching fish all day long. Follow the same examples as above. Start out shallow early and move out towards the creek and river channels. As long as the fish are biting your rig keep on trolling until that bite slows or until you find a deeper concentration of bait and stripers where down lines are more effective.

The down line bite has been working well but you need to locate the fish before dropping your lines. This is the time that quality electronics can make your day and it doesn’t get any better than the Lowrance Carbon 16-inch unit located on the helm of my Nitro Z8. Look for not only arcs that indicate fish but also the larger concentrations of bait. I am seeing some good concentrations of fish in the 25-to-50 foot zone but note that these fish are relating to bait so they are often on the move so don’t get tied up fishing the same areas. Be willing to move.

Trout fishing has been good during slack water periods below Buford Dam. The fish are feeding well early in the day, but the bite may occur all day long. The old reliable Rooster Tail on light line has been producing some good catches. Keep things simple and use either bright colors, white or silver. These inline spinners mimic the shad that get was through Buford Dam.

Fishing up in the North Georgia streams has also been decent. Inline spinners or live earth worms are great choices.

Bank fishing: Bank anglers can catch a variety of species of fish with a bottom rig. A bottom rig is basically a Carolina Rig (a 1 to 2-once egg sinker tied above a swivel with a 2 to 3-foot leader) that an angler can cast out from the shore.

Cut bait is hard to beat, but anglers can also use live shad, herring or shiners too. In fact, both stripers and catfish can be caught on chicken livers. Make sure you use heavy equipment that can handle a big bite and secure your rods well with either commercial rod holders or homemade PVC pipe that you can pound into the clay or sand.

Locate banks that have deep water close by. Channels swings in the creeks or rivers will often hold concentrations of stripers, bass, catfish and even the occasional tasty walleye. Dress warm, bring a thermos of coffee, hot chocolate or soup and enjoy fishing!


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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