Water temperatures are in the low 50s. The lake level has risen considerably in the last month and is at 1,062.09 feet or 8.91 below a full pool of 1,071 so we are moving in the right direction. The main lake water is slightly stained and the creeks and rivers are stained to very stained in the backs. The Chattahoochee River below Buford dam is stained.
Bass: The colder air temperatures have affected anglers more than the fish and the bass are biting well. I have seen two reports of separate tournaments that have weighed in spotted bass over 6 pounds and one recent tournament was won with five spotted bass that weighed close to 25 pounds — that is a 5-pound average. That is an incredible day of fishing for anyone.
The big bass are biting on a variety of lures and at varying depths. Some anglers are concentrating on ditches that run into the spawning flats from 10- to 30-feet deep while others are staying out deep and catching spotted bass on the timber lines from 35- to 55-feet deep. Usually bass on Lake Lanier concentrate in deep water in winter but the past couple of years we have seen a lot of shallow fish, even during the coldest months. We have had some mild winters and I have seen a lot of bait in shallower water. Several factors influence where bass will be including oxygen levels, water temperatures and most importantly the baitfish or forage that they eat. Usually baitfish are your best indicator because if conditions are right for the forage base they are usually right for bass, too.
Your electronics are key tools for locating both bass and the batfish they feed on. I use my Humminbird 989c Side Imaging to locate the schools of bait because I know if the bait is at a certain depth then the bass will be close by. If I get to the lake and see that these bait fish schools are 35- to 50-feet deep, that is the depth where I concentrate my efforts. The deeper bass can be caught on several techniques. Jigging Spoons, Fish Head Spins, drop shot rigs and jigs are all good choices for catching these deeper fish. Often I cast my lures out and stair step them down the drop-offs, but often I will position my boat directly over the fish and fish vertically while watching my Humminbird graph. Often I can see the fish rise up to strike my lure and, as many people know, this is my favorite way to fish. It’s like playing a video game but much more fun.
If fishing deep is not your thing then there are plenty of bass in the shallow ditches right now and they will eat the same lures as the deep fish but they will also strike jerk baits and crank baits too. We have been casting a SPRO McRips, which runs a little deeper than most jerk baits, and they are working well for the shallower fish in the ditches. On warmer days the bass will get out of the ditches and roam around looking for baitfish and crayfish. Target docks that have deep water close by or rocky banks that warm up in the sun.
Striper fishing remains good and there are plenty of stripers up shallow in the backs of the creeks and in lake pockets that contain baitfish. There are also some stripers that are a little deeper midway back in the creeks.
Two methods seem to be working best — live bait and umbrella rigs. Live bait is usually the easiest and best method for catching stripers. Pulling flatlines and planner boards in shallow water has been working well this past week but look for the colder weather to pull the bait and stripers out a little deeper. Watch your electronics and vary your depths according to where you mark bait and fish on the screen. Switch over to a downline if you mark fish deeper than 20 feet but you can also add a quarter or half-ounce split shot to your flatlines to get them down deeper. Trout and herring are your best baits to use right now.
Trolling umbrella rigs in the creeks can be a very productive method when the fish pull out of the coves and move a little closer to the channel. Rig your umbrella rigs with SPRO or Captain Macs bucktails with Hyper Tails and swim bait trailers and troll these rigs at right around 2 miles per hour behind the boat.
Keep a SPRO Buck tail, Bomber long A or a McStick ready to cast to any stripers you see swirling on the surface.
Crappie fishing is good and there are some schools of these tasty fish swimming in the pockets and creeks this past week. Target brush piles and sunken trees in 5- to 15-feet deep with live crappie minnows or small crappie jigs. If you prefer to cast jigs then work them through the brush and timber. Trolling a spread of jigs behind the boat is starting to be a productive method, but watch your electronics closely and vary your depths and speed based on what you see on your screen.
Trout fishing has been good up in the mountains and is just fair on the river below Buford Dam but is better downstream. Fly fishing with wet flies in the creeks is working well and you may try some small dry flies like small nymphs in the afternoons if you see any hatches going on. The small insects will hatch on sunny days.
A Count Down Rapala or a Yo Suri Pins Minnow are both excellent choices for fishing for trout in winter. Cast these minnow imitators upstream and work them with a jerk and pause retrieve down through the rapids and in the deeper pools below the rapids.
Bank fishing: Casting large plugs from the banks is a great technique for catching shallow stripers. Concentrate on areas that have gulls and loons working the water as these locations are where the bait and stripers will be.
Use heavy line and cast Bomber Long A’s, Redfins or McStick 110s out and reel them back slow and steady. These lures are great for fishing from the banks because they run less than 5 feet deep, which will prevent snags.
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. Contact him at email@example.com or visit his website at aldrichfishing.com.