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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Variety of methods producing majority of spotted bass
Eric Aldrich
Local bass angler Eric Aldrich poses with a fish he caught. - photo by For The Times

Water Conditions: It’s raining hard outside as the remains of Tropical Storm Harvey pass through Georgia, so expect lake levels to rise. 

Today’s level is 1,065.24, or 5.76 feet below the normal full pool of 1,071. Lake surface temperatures are close to 80 degrees. The main lake and creeks mouths are clear-to-stained. The creeks and rivers are stained-to-very stained. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam will get muddy after the rain, but it clear quickly. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river by calling 770-945-1466.

Bass fishing: We’re getting a reprieve from the hot dog days as we enter September. Usually, bass fishing is about as tough as it gets this time of year, but these late summer temperatures are much milder than normal.

Three methods seem to be producing the largest majority of spotted bass: Power fishing around brush and main lake transition areas with swimbaits and top water plugs, finesse fishing with drop shots or shaky heads and, lastly, casting subtle lures like spinner baits, crank baits and spy baits.

Power fishing is not for everybody. You don’t have to have a 70 mph bass boat with thousands of dollars’ worth of electronics, but it helps. It’s actually simple and efficient: Develop a milk run of brush piles, rocky drop offs and docks, then keep moving until you find fish. 

Use lures that you have confidence in and keep an open mind. I know anglers that power-fish using drop shot rigs as their primary method, so your lure selection is not as important as being able to stop, quickly determine if the fish are present and capitalize on the good areas while leaving the unproductive ones.  

The paradox about power fishing is that you may often need to camp out on a productive area and dissect it to truly find the secret “spot on the spot.”  This process can take hours, but many anglers have found one tree or one rock “away from everything” that can be gold mines for years to come. 

You can’t find these areas running at 70 mph. Quality electronics and your ability to read them will greatly speed up this process.

There are brush piles on just about every point, hump and cove all over Lake Lanier. This brush is a magnet for baitfish and the predators that eat them. You should mark every pile you find on your GPS to increase your milk run. 

You can also mark the best area away from the brush to give you a starting point for your casts. You can call them “deep brush,” “shallow brush” or give them names like “Mike’s point” so you can remember exactly what’s there.

Drop-shot fishing has been producing both numbers and some good-sized fish. 

Explore brush in 20-to-45 feet this week. I use light, 7-pound test Sunline Sniper Fluorocarbon on a Medium=weight Kissel Kraft Custom Rod. Attach a ⅛-to-¼-ounce drop shot weight. A quick drop is sometimes the best way to trigger bites, but you can feather your line or use a lighter weight if you notice the fish prefer a slower drop. 

Use a Big Bites Shakin’ Squirrel on a No. 1 Gamakatsu Drop Shot hook. Other subtle worms like a Lanier Baits Fruity Worm or Robo Worm are also great choices. I always dip my soft plastics on JJ’s Magic to help the bass hold on to the bait longer.

The last technique will work well on the same light equipment you would use for your drop-shot fishing. A medium-weight spinning reel with light line is a perfect choice for casting Spybaits. 

These slender, light lures will sink about a foot per second. Make a cast, count it down to the level you determine the fish are located and just reel it slowly and steadily. When you get a strike, don’t set the hook — just let the fish to eat the Spybait. 

Many anglers lose fish on the smaller lures, so make sure to play the fish out well before landing it.

Night fishing has really started to heat up, and it seems like no one is out during the week. Cast a SPRO RkCrawler to any rocky banks on secondary points in the creek mouths. These same crank baits have been catching largemouth shallow in the creek both day and night.

Striper fishing remains strong. With this week’s cooler temperatures and rain, we’ve started to see many stripers moving shallower in the water column. 

The thermocline is still around 25-to-27 feet deep, but some stripers have ventured much closer to the surface.

The down line bite remains strong, but you may want to incorporate some flat lines and even keep a top water plug or buck tail to cast. The stripers will school on the surface in fall, and it seems as if these fish are close to a month early considering all the schooling action recently.

It’s hard to be a guide on Lake Lanier. You could have a four-hour charter and end up driving around for three of those hours just looking for fish. This is one reason why trolling is a good way to start your day. Pulling a Captain Mack’s umbrella rig at 2.5-to-3 mph will allow you a good chance or hooking up while you cover water looking for big schools that you can drop live herring to.

Once you locate fish, then make sure you have plenty of lively blue backs and set out your lines to just at the level or slightly above the school. Remember stripers usually look up and not down. 

Replace your herring every five-to-10 minutes. When it is time to change a bait, drop the used herring to the bottom and power-reel it though the school to trigger a reaction bite.

If you watch your fish finder and notice fish shallower, then set out some flat lines to cover the upper column of water. If you see any fish surfacing, cast a Redfin or SPRO Buck Tail to these active fish.

Also keep a Lake Fork Flutter Spoon ready to drop and power-reel through the fish. I have been able to get almost as many bites using the same power-reeling technique, but with a SPRO Buck Tail rigged with a Big Bites Suicide Shad instead. The buck tail drops quicker and is easier to use all day long. Power-reeling those “hubcap-sized” spoons will wear an angler out.

Crappie fishing is getting slightly better. 

Target brush and timber lines in 25-to-30 feet of water. Pulling Hal Flies on a Lake Rake has been producing a few fish early in the day. Use a one-sixteenth-ounce Hal Fly on 2-to-4-pound test and troll these lures slowly around the timber lines and deeper brush in the creeks.

Trout Fishing: This week’s heavy rains will raise water levels and cause some creeks and rivers to get “blown out” with muddy water. No worries — most trout water clear quickly.

Fly anglers know the rains wash in a variety of forage. It is a good time to fish with the classic dropper rig with a Parachute Adams fly on top and a Wooley Bugger on the bottom. Since the rain washes in worms, try to switch things up and try a San Juan Worm or a Crawfish pattern fly in the deeper pools or behind rocks.

For the spin-fishing crowd, it’s hard to beat the old reliable red wiggler. Just make sure the trout waters you target allow live bait. 

You can purchase these at your local tackle shot or dig up a can’s worth in the back yard. Place a ⅛-to-¼-ounce spit shot about 2-to-3 feet above a small Gamakatsu Aberdeen-style hook.

Other lures like the reliable Rooster Tail or Count Down Rapala will work well in the mountains and also on the Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam.

Bank Fishing: There is a group of anglers out for one particular species of fish — Mr. Whisker. They say, “When there’s slime on the line, we’re having a good time.” These anglers are talking about catfish.

Lake Lanier has a large portion of channel catfish with an occasional and usually much larger flathead catfish. While some people consider catfish “bottom-feeders,” the main meal for most of Lake Lanier’s’ catfish is live shad and brim. You can catch shad with a cast net, but if you want brim you must catch them with a rod and reel, per Georgia Law.

Hook a live shad/brim or use dead cut bait. Rig up a Carolina Rig (a 1-ounce sinker with a 3-foot leader and hook), then find the channel side of the bank you’re fishing to make casts to the drop offs. Secure your rod in a heavy rod holder and wait. Give your area an hour before considering moving. Catfish are smell feeders and will follow a scent for a long distance.

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.

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