Lake Lanier’s water level is right around 1,067.79 or 3.21 feet below the normal full pool of 1071. The main lake is clear to slightly stained, and the creeks and rivers are stained. The lake temperatures are in the low 70s.
The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is slightly stained. Please check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.
Bass fishing rates from good to excellent. Cooler weather and shorter daylight hours are distinct signals to the fish that winter is approaching. They seem to sense that it is time to feed, and to put on as much weight as possible before the colder winter months arrive. Like us humans, bass thrive in temperatures around 70 degrees.
This week, we have caught bass up along the banks in water that are just a foot deep on out to fish schooling over water 100 feet deep. This sets up for the perfect “junk” fishing conditions, which basically means that bass can be caught on a variety of different lures or baits, and in a wide range of depths and locations. While it is true you might catch bass on almost any lure, that does not mean you should randomly go through your entire tackle collection and tie on a different lure for every single cast. As with any pursuit, it pays to develop a plan.
It can be helpful to understand that there are four general types of forage that the bass target in fall.
1) Larger forage like gizzard shad, brim, crappie and perch, 2) Crawfish, 3) Smaller, slower moving threadfin shad. 4) Medium to large fast moving blue back herring. Once we break down the forage, lets look at some specific details about them. This week, we will specifically address the larger forage (1) and the blue back herring (4) because these patterns are hot this week.
While not always the case, the majority of bass targeting the larger gizzard shad and panfish in fall tend to be found shallower in the water column. Locations include up north in the Chestatee and Chattahoochee Rivers, midway on into the backs of the creeks, and also shallower pockets located just off the main lake. Specific cover to target will include docks, lay downs, rocks, flooded brush and shallow channels that lead back into the shallow flats.
Both largemouth and spotted bass will eat these larger baitfish and the ones that do tend to be larger, more mature bass. Lures like swim baits, larger crank baits, top water plugs or even buzz baits are all good options for this pattern.
The best lures this week have included a SPRO 6-inch BBZ1 or Bull Shad Swim Bait, Little John DD 70 or Fat John 60, and lastly a Lunker Lure white and silver Buzz Bait.
Use a medium heavy bait casting rod and reel or heavier spinning tackle spooled with your favorite 10 to 20-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon. Use a quality line like 12 to 14 pound Sunline Sniper Fluorocarbon for every lure except top water plugs, where 17 to 20 pound monofilament will work better. An excellent all-around rod and reel combination would be a medium-heavy parabolic bend 8-foot Kissel Kraft Kustom Rod with either a Shimano Curado or Johnny Morris bait casting reel.
Now, let’s talk about the bass that are on a blue back herring pattern. The day before you read this report, we caught over 20 bass in six hours with the five biggest going around 19 pounds. These fish were relating to humps and points in the creek mouths out on main lake from Buford Dam all the way to just below Browns Bridge. This same action is happening all over Lake Lanier.
During the past week, the lake and weather have been so calm that we could ride around and visually locate schooling fish. Before you worry about the weekend boat traffic, note that some boat traffic actually helps this pattern. When the water was glassy, you may only see a few fish breaking the surface. Boats running over the right areas stirred up the herring, which triggered the spotted bass along with some stripers to thrash herring up on the surface. We refer to these open water fish as being pelagic, meaning that they relate only to the baitfish they chase out over open water.
Most of the blue back herring are 4 to 7 inches, and are long and skinny. These herring move quickly and will appear on the surface in one area one minute, only to reappear 50 yards away the next. Anglers can often get frustrated chasing these bass with their trolling motors on high, or by starting and stopping the big motor. Over the years, I have found it often pays to watch and see where the fish appear and either lead the school or wait until the fish come back around.
There will often be a brush pile or even a depth break where the fish reappear every half an hour. Either stay and play or run and gun similar areas in other parts of the lake.
The most common lures are top water plugs like a Red Fin, Super Spook or Sammy. Sub-surface lures work as well or better at times, and some good ones that match herring include SPRO McSticks, Sebile Magic Swimmers, Big Bites Jerk Shads and many more. I use the same bait casters that work for the gizzard shad pattern and alternate between fluorocarbon for the sub-surface lures and monofilament for the top waters. I will also keep a medium weight Kissel Kraft Custom Drop Shot with a spinning reel at the ready to drop into brush or to suspended fish that show up on my Humminbird 1158 SI DI unit on the bow.
Live blue back herring and even native spot tails are great options for catching bass in the fall. If you choose to use live baits, then invest in some Gamakatsu Circle Hooks to prevent the fish you catch from getting hooked too deep. The night bite also continues to be awesome, as it has been from almost the last two months.
Striper fishing is good, and we are starting to see a shift from the deep-water patterns to some shallower action and even some top water activity. The stripers are still schooling in the creek mouths and over the river channels, but the large schools that have been grouped so tight have started to break up a little as they have started to chase the blue backs and even some threadfin shad closer to the surface.
Trolling an umbrella rig is a very good option that accomplishes two things. First, because the stripers are targeting schools of herring and shad the umbrella rig an excellent option. These rigs “match the hatch” very well. If you have ever seen an umbrella rig or even its smaller relative, the Alabama rig, in the water, you can understand why stripers and bass are drawn to them. These multi-lure rigs look very real to humans and fish alike. Second, you can cover water and catch fish as you search for larger schools to either drop live bait or to cast with artificials, too.
There are some smaller pods of stripers attacking blue back herring on the surface. If you are lucky and get to land a lure close enough, you may get bit, but the surfacing stripers are appearing out of nowhere and sounding very quickly. This means these fish are chasing the herring, and that they can be hard to catch. There are also some big schools of threadfin shad showing up that will keep the stripers on the surface longer, so look for this action to pick up and get more prevalent soon.
Keep a surface plug like a Redfin ready at all times. It is also worth keeping a sub surface lure like a SPRO Buck Tail or even a Lure Jensen Crippled Herring or 6-inch Ben Parker Spoon to cast or drop to any fish you see on the surface or down deeper on your electronics. Many anglers have been using some of the very large spoons to drop to and vertically jig for stripers this summer. Many are now learning there is a place for some of these same spoons for casting out to fish. The smaller Crippled Herring or 6-inch Ben Parker Spoon will also work very well as casting or vertical jigging spoons.
Because they cast so far, these are sometimes better options than plugs for reaching stripers that surface far away from your boat. Cast them out and let them fall either on semi-slack line, or engage your reel and let them fall pendulum style, and if you feel a thump, set the hook.
We always used to say that it was time to fish Bomber Long A or SPRO McSticks at night around the time the World Series happened. We would listen to the game on the radio and catch fish at the same time. Some anglers in the know realize that the stripers have already started to show up around the islands and back in some of the creeks around lighted boat docks. Most of these are smaller fish but this action will get better and better. Start getting your baits ready with new hooks and split rings.
Crappie fishing has been picking up with the cooling water temperatures. There have been a couple of different patterns depending on where you fish.
Up in the rivers where the water has a little color to it, the crappie are on medium depth brush in 10 to 20 foot deep.
Cast small crappie jigs to brush piles near deeper docks and current breaks and work your jigs over and through the brush on 2-4 pound test line. If you are not losing a jig every now and then, you are probably missing the best parts of the brush. You can also work live minnows on a down line directly over the brush. Target the lighted boat docks near these same brush piles after dark. If the docks have Hydro Glo lights, then they can be a honey hole yielding more than enough for a good fish fry in a couple of hours.
Down lake, where the water is clearer, seek out brush that is deeper in 15 to 30 foot deep. Use your electronics and work small jigs up and down in the brush. After dark set out floating or Hydro Glo lights or find lighted boats docks and target shallower brush from 10 to 20 feet deep in the creeks.
Trout fishing is good up in the mountains and just fair on the Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam.
Fall is an awesome time to fish up in the mountain wild life management areas. Down size your offerings and target some of the hold over trout or better yet some of the native brook trout and enjoy the fall from inside of the forest away from the fall car traffic. You can cast a light 5-weight fly rod with a variety or dry or wet flies or try an ultra light spinning reel with a 1/16th ounce Rooster Tail.
The water quality below Buford Dam is still pretty good and the old reliable like corn and worms (where permitted by law) or light spinning tackle with inline spinners, Yo Suri Pins Minnows or Count Downs. Get out and fish before the lake starts to turn over. When the river is clear fishing will remain OK but when you see the water turn to pea soup things get tough.
Bank Fishing: Live bait fishing as well as a variety for lures are all working well fished from the banks right now. Bass, crappie and brim are all stating to move shallower as the days grow shorter. The fish like us humans love the fall weather and they are active all over the lake but try to find areas like some of the lower lake parks around Buford Dam that have brush planted close to the banks. Also try areas around the bridges in the backs of the creeks.
One of the easiest ways to catch fish on Lake Lanier is with live, store bought small, medium or large minnows/shiners.
If you have a battery-powered aerator and bucket use that or go buy one of those “Float and troll” minnow buckets and tie it off to the bank. Buy a couple dozen minnows, hook them through the lips and cast them with either a weighted bobber or better yet a slip bobber and experiment with the depths. Add a small split shot weight about a foot or two above the hook and bait.
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. I would love to hear from our readers so please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website at aldrichfishing.com or lakelanierfishing.info. Remember to take a kid fishing!