Water temperatures have struggled to rise over 50 degrees, but we are registering some low 50 degree water in the afternoons. The lake level is very healthy and is up again at 1,068.56 or 2.44 feet below a full pool of 1,071. The main lake water is clear down lake and stained up lake. The lower lake creeks are clear in the mouths and stained in the backs and the upper lake creeks. The rivers are stained. The Chattahoochee River below Buford dam is clear.
Bass: The inconsistent weather we are having this year has made for some interesting fishing patterns. Anglers who can keep an open mind and change their presentations and fishing methods may prosper. Others that rely on patterns that worked a few days ago may struggle to catch a limit of Lake Lanier’s healthy spotted and largemouth bass population.
The steady 50-degree lake temperatures and weather patterns that go from warm and sunny to cold and windy do impact bass catching. The bass are getting ready to stay shallow just as soon as the weather warms up. We have had some great catches by fishing the docks and steeper banks leading into the coves on sunny days. Colder days have required an adjustment to slow down and work a little deeper or by adjusting your moving lure presentations.
On warmer days, target the docks that are the first ones leading into shallow coves. If you can find docks that have 15-20 feet on the front side, then these have been the most consistent producers of bass. The fish that are moving up often congregate around these prime areas. Sometimes the first docks may be devoid of fish, while the next few docks will hold good fish. Always pay attention to cover like docks, laydowns, brush piles or rocky banks that are close to the ditches or channel swings that lead into the shallow flats. Bass follow these fish paths as they move from deep winter areas into the shallow spawning locations.
A strong pattern for bigger fish on warmer days has been to cast jerk baits like a SPRO McStick 110, Pointer or Smithwick Rouge beside the docks black floats. The bass often suspend right below these docks because the black floats warm the water around them. These bass are often suckers for a shallow running lure and jerk baits that resemble the blueback herring that are so prolific now on Lake Lanier. Some days a jerk and pause retrieve has been best and on others a slow-to-medium steady retrieve has been the ticket. A finesse worm on a light jig head has also been producing around the docks that hold fish.
On colder days, the bass can still be active and there has been a consistent early morning bite on jerk baits and crank baits. Smaller crank baits like a Bandit 300 or Little John MD baits seem to get more bites, while larger crank baits. like a Little John DD or Strike King Series 5 have been catching the bigger fish. Dig these lures into the bottom and work them slowly while banging into rocks and brush. If you have trouble getting your crank baits dig into the bottom Try reducing your line size to a lighter test or try some of the new braided lines that have a smaller diameter than standard monofilament. I throw my Little John MD on a spinning reel with 12 pound Sunline SX1 braid and a fluorocarbon leader. I use 10-12 pound Sunline Sniper Flourocarbon on my bait caster for the larger crank baits.
The nighttime crank bait and spinner bait bite for bass is starting to increase. Wear your life jackets while fishing after dark.
Stripers: Fishing remains good and anglers in the know are having some very good days with numbers and size of stripers. The patterns may change slightly, but there always seem to be some good fish biting for anglers that are willing to adjust their presentations.
In the mornings, the stripers have been up shallow and they may stay there all day long, especially on cloudy days. The first and most important thing for a successful day is to locate the active fish. I rely on my Humminbird’s Side Imaging to locate these shallower schools of stripers and the bait fish schools they concentrate on. With standard two-dimensional fish finders, you can only see things that are directly below the boat, but with Side Imaging you can see up to several hundred feet to either side of the boat when conditions are right.
Flat lines and planner boards rigged with live herring have been producing numbers of stripers that average from 7-15 pounds with an occasionally bigger fish in the mix. Many anglers would prefer to catch one big striper over numbers of average sized fish. Large baits can increase your chances of catching a trophy striped bass, but may eliminate some of the smaller bites. Gizzard shad are a whole meal for stripers and are a prolific source of food for stripers and bass. Throw a cast net in the back of the creek pockets and you will probably get as many gizzard shad as you can use for an outing.
The night bite is decent for stripers and the old reliable Bomber Long A is a go-to lure for most night anglers. Cast these long large plugs to the bank and reel them back with a slow and steady retrieve. You can find stripers after dark in the backs of some of the major creeks and also down lake around Buford Dam.
Crappie fishing continues to be very good. Two methods seem to be the strongest: Lake raking or using multiple rods and trolling little Hal Flies and Marabou jigs or shooting jigs under docks.
Lake raking or spider rigging is actually a pretty simple process. Many experienced crappie anglers fish as many as 12 rods at a time, but you can start out with two or four as a way to get into this type of fishing. Put one or two crappie jigs per pole and cast them out while moving your boat slowly with the trolling motor. As you become proficient with four rods, start adding more to increase your catches. The longest poles go in the front of the boat. Stagger them so that your shortest poles go directly behind the boat. Use light 4-to 6-pound test and vary your speeds from under one mile and hour to as fast as two miles an hour. The slower speeds have worked best for me over the years.
Shooting crappie jigs around docks takes some practice and it is best to master this technique before misfiring your casts and snagging your jigs on docks or dinging boats and upsetting dock owners. Check out YouTube and other sources on the internet and you can even practice shooting jigs into a small cup in your drive way to increase your skills.
There are some fish around the bridge pilings and docks and bank anglers can catch crappie casting small jigs or fishing live crappie minnows under bobbers.
Trout fishing is picking up and so is The Department of Natural Resources stocking efforts. Sometimes you can find out where the stocking boats are putting trout in the rivers and creeks and these areas will yield the easiest trout to catch. Just about any method will catch newly introduced trout including live bait where permitted by law, small inline spinners, small jigs, dry and wet flies and small Rapala type minnow imitators.
Bank Fishing: I met several young bass anglers at last week’s Kids Event and Bass Pro Shops including Reid Daniel and Ben Adams who read these reports. Daniel sent me some photos of some really nice bass they caught on SPRO McStick Jerk Baits while fishing from the shore. Jerk baits like the McStick and other brands are an excellent choice to use while fishing from the banks because they run shallow which will help you to avoid snags. Cast these long slender baits out around docks, clay banks and rocks and use a pause and go or a steady slow retrieve.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at aldrichfishing.com.