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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Fish are schooling as weather turns cooler
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Lake temperatures are in the mid to upper 60s. Lake Lanier’s water level is about even with the official full pool at 1,071.03 feet (full pool is 1,071). The lake is clear and the creeks and rivers are clear to slightly stained. The Chattahoochee River is clear. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river by calling 770-945-1466.

BASS: The tactics have changed for the better this week. The bass have been schooling during the day towards sunset. The mornings have started a little slow, but bass can be coaxed to hit a jerk bait — like a McStick or Vision 110 — or crank baits like SPRO Fat Papa 50s, Bill Norman Little Ns and Bandit 300s.

Work these lures around points and humps and also back in the creeks where the water is clearer. Use lighter line to make them dive deeper. Some bites will occur while you are digging up bottom, but other bites may happen as you reel them back through deeper water.

The key to crank bait fishing is to reel them just fast enough to feel them wobble through your rod tip. I like to use a light fluorocarbon line like SunLine Sniper in 6- or 8-pound test on a medium weight spinning outfit.

As the sun gets up over the hills it is time to go power fishing. The bass are schooling midway back in the creeks and also in main lake pockets. You can get by with basically three types of lures this week: A topwater plug, a jerk bait or medium depth swim bait and a drop shot or jig. These lures will cover all of the water column, from top to bottom.

My Nitro Bass Boat has been getting a workout again as we run and gun main lake and into the creeks looking for bush piles around points and humps in water less than 20 feet in depth.

The bass may or may not be directly in the brush but they should be around these general areas, chasing blueback herring. If you don’t mark any bait or see fish schooling, you can bet they are somewhere else, so be prepared to sample several areas. Once you find the schools of bass you may be able to hang around an area for a while, picking up a fish here and there as they appear on the surface chasing the herring.

Another thing to take note of is that the boat traffic does not seem to affect the fish right now. In fact, it is quite the opposite, because the boats seem to spook and scatter the bait fish which often get the bass fired up.

When approaching productive areas, set the boat down a cast or two away from the brush, and make long casts with a top water plug. Super Spooks, Gunfish or Chug Bugs are all great lures to use that will draw the bass up to the surface. Some fish may aggressively eat your topwater plugs while other times they will just slap at the bait and not connect. If they do not eat your topwater offerings, then fan cast the area with a SPRO McStick and use an aggressive jerk and pause retrieve.

This lure mimics the size and shape of the herring that the bass are eating. Other subsurface lures will work well in these same areas. Try fan casting the area with a Fish Head Spin or a larger Rooster tail or burn a spinner bait just below the surface to trigger these fish into biting. I have picked up a few fish with my 1158 Humminbird with a drop shot, but the moving lures have been getting used a lot more than the drop shot.

The blueback herring travel quickly and it is not rare to see bass thrashing on the surface only to sound and reappear 100 yards away in just a short amount of time. Make sure that you have a lure that you can make very long casts with, because if you can land your cast in the middle of the fish schooling on the surface, you can get a bite almost 100 percent of the time. The night bite is also good. Cast deep diving crank baits around rocky banks after the sun goes down.

Stripers: Striper fishing has been good and there is some pretty good surface action that is a little more consistent, because the schools will stay up for a while. There are schooling fish in several of the creeks, so one boat will often have a group of schooling fish all to themselves.

A little bit of combat fishing has been going on, but most of the anglers I have seen are being pretty polite. Combat fishing is a term we use on Lake Lanier when the schooling stripers start boiling on the surface and many boats run up to or all the way into the school. What happens is the schooling stripers will appear and then sound, or go back down. This often happens with all the boats running around.

Then the stripers will reappear a few hundred yards away and the armada follows them again. It can be crazy, and that is why we prefer to go find schooling fish somewhere less crowded.

The topwater action for stripers this week has been awesome. Afternoons seem to be the best time, although you may encounter schooling fish at any time of the day. At times they will strike any well-placed lure that you can throw into the school, and other days it seems like they won’t bite anything even though you can see them. Keep a Super Spook, Sammy or a Top Dawg lure that mimic the blueback shapes on the deck at all times.

I have had better luck by throwing a SPRO McStick or a Long A bomber and retrieving them with an aggressive jerk and pause retrieve through the schools. These subsurface plugs will provoke incredible strikes.

Live trout or herring on a couple of flat lines behind your bout are very good choices, as you fan cast with topwater plugs for schooling stripers. When the school sounds or goes down, you can use high tech Side Imaging capabilities to follow the fish when they are under the surface. If they go deep, then set out a couple of flat lines. The fish can’t hide from my Humminbird Electronics, so I am a huge believer that your electronics are key tools for finding and staying on top of active fish.

Some people may be trolling and I suspect that shallow running umbrella rigs should work well but when the topwater action is going on that is the key pattern for most anglers. Also, the Bomber bite is getting good after dark around the main lake islands and back in some of the creeks. The stripers have been biting well from sun down, all the way to 10 p.m., which is when the action slows.

Crappie: Crappie fishing is still good and several methods are working. Target areas in the creek and up in the rivers where the water quality is good. The river is less affected by lake turnover, but it does affect fish down lake.

If the water in the area you fish has a dark brown, almost tannic look to it, then the fishing will tend to be less productive. This is because the oxygen levels during the turnover are low and fish have a low metabolism, or they may even move to cleaner water. If the water is just stained from rain runoff, then it can be good for crappie fishing.

Crappie minnows under a float, trolling or lake racking or shooting jigs around the docks are all worth a try this week. Please remember to be courteous when fishing docks. Owners have put a lot of money and time into maintaining them and anglers need to set a positive example.

Trout: The River below Buford Dam remains very stained because of turnover, but the trout fishing will be slower and the fish will still bite the old reliables, like Rooster Tails, Mepps Spinners and Rapalas.

Live earthworms (where permitted by law) should work well both on the river and up in the mountain streams, especially when it rains. Fishing is superb in Wildlife Management Areas. The trees are just about to peak, so while there may be a lot of sightseeing, many of the streams are in remote areas where you can find solitude. Fly fishing or spin fishing is a great way to experience the fall.

Bank Fishing: Fall is a great time to fish from the bank. Depending on where you fish, you have opportunities to target many different species of fish. Bass or stripers can be caught on a variety of artificial lures and live bait around long points, steep rocky banks and down around the dam.

Bream will bite smaller worms, spinners and even flies in the shallows. Trout can be caught from the bank, both below Buford Dam and up in the mountains. There are also catfish, which will eat just about anything but large earthworms, catfish blood bait and even chicken livers. Plus, you don’t have to be rich to fish from the bank. Buy a license on the internet then go buy a Zebco 33 and a can of worms.

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

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