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Fishing Report: Top water action from Dusk to Dawn
Lake Lanier
Lake Lanier as seen from the air in July 2017. - photo by Nick Bowman

Water Conditions: Lake Lanier’s water level is healthy and continues to hold steady at 1,071.70 or .70 feet above the normal full pool at 1071. The main lake is clear, to slightly stained. The water up in the rivers and creeks ranges from clear to very stained when rain inflow or boat traffic stirs the waters. Lake surface temperatures have risen into the lower 70’s. 

The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is clear. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at  (770) 945-1466.

Bass: Bass fishing has rated from fair to off the charts during active feeding periods. Many anglers who were beating the banks and docks have seen a drop in their catch rates but fishing is still OK in the shallows. It’s time to back away from the banks and enjoy the best time of the year to catch bass on top waters.

If you ask anglers what is their number one way, they prefer to catch fish, 95% will answer “Topwater!”. Anglers that know where the shallow to medium depth humps and points with brush piles have been reaping the rewards of some awesome topwater fishing. Bass have vacated their nests and moved towards deeper water where they can feed and recover from the spawn. 

Start your day in the main lake creek mouths and have a surface lure tied on and ready. Make long cast over brush piles in 15 to 25 feet deep on humps and points with a Sammy, Gunfish, Spook or a more subtle presentation like a Big Bites Jerk Minnow or Fluke style soft plastic. 

At times the topwater action has been furious with schooling fish showing themselves as they ambush herring and shad on the surface. More often you will encounter fairly calm water where you cast your lures. As you work your surface plugs above brush fish will rush to the surface to crush your lures.

Often bass will attack your lure without hooking up right away. On herring lakes, you need to keep your lures moving and try not to change your retrieve when a bass misses your lure. Just keep it coming at the same or even a little faster retrieve. This will mimic a shad or herring speeding up to get away from danger.

Productive areas will change every few days but arrive at your best areas early to enjoy the early morning action. If the action slows or has changed from previous trips have a game plan and a mental picture of secondary areas to fish. This is when we will run and gun some of our best areas with the hope of encountering an area that holds fish so we can hunker down and work on them. Having a backup plan is important as the conditions have been changing from day to day.

Other lures and techniques are also working so don’t hesitate to work jig head, Texas or Carolina Rigged worms from the 5 to 25-foot zone. Or try casting a SPRO McStick, Big Bites lures swim baits, Lanier Baits Fruity Worm on a drop-shot rig in brush, crank bait or underspin are all viable methods for catching fish right now.

After hours the night fishing has been fair to good. Target those rocky banks in the creek mouths and fish a mid-running crankbait like a SPRO RkCrawler. Color is not as important as reeling slow to medium speed. Cast almost to the shore and run your crankbait so that it makes contact with the bottom. Many strikes will occur as a bass traps your lure against the bottom. Other times the strikes will occur as your lure breaks free or even as you reel it back to the boat. 

Stripers: Striper fishing is good. Pick your favorite method and go catching this week. Use your Lowrance Electronics to locate the fish. You should also watch for any surface activity to give away the best locations. The fish have been both in the creeks, up the rivers up lake as well as in the creek mouths down lake.

Very few fish in freshwater attack a surface plug as ferociously as a striped bass. Bass anglers are not alone in their love of seeing a topwater strike. In fact, most of my bass fishing clients as just as happy to catch stripers on the surface as they are with bass.

Be on the water at sunrise with a Redfin, Zara Spook, Jerk minnow or Fluke and make long casts across humps and points or out over open water where you witness stripers feeding. The stripers will hit surface lures early and late in the day but they also often surface during active feeding periods throughout the day. Keep a topwater plug tied on 100 percent of the time!

Pulling live herring has been a great presentation for catching stripers. Employ a combination of flat and down lines and switch to the method which gets the most bites. Flat lines fished both behind the boat and on planner boards to the sides have been working best early in the morning. Make sure you locate the fish before deploying your live bait lines. As the sun gets up add a couple of down lines and drop your baits about 5-feet above where you mark the fish you see on the screen of your electronics. The down lines may be your best option in the middle of the day.

Troll umbrella rigs on 7 colors of lead core or around 15-feet deep and cover some water. Run your engine between 2 and 2.5 MPH. Change depth and speeds as the fish dictate and keep a close eye on your Lowrance Fish Finder and make adjustments as needed.

If you have a downrigger you can try other lures like a SPRO BBZ1 Swimbait or a jerk bait or other lures that mimic herring. You can use trolling as a search technique or as your primary method all day long.

Crappie: Crappie fishing has slowed down a little but you can still catch a good mess if you are in the right locations. The fish are on a couple of patterns. During the mornings and as sundown approaches target the mid-lake pockets or areas mid-way back in the creeks. The crappie have been up early and late in the day as the feed on shad and newly hatched fry. Hook a crappie minnow under a bobber set at 3-feet and cast it to the ends of flats.

During the day the crappie will move off into brush from 10 to 25-feet deep under docks. Use your Structure Scan to look up under docks to find the best ones to fish. Shoot small crappie minnows up under the docks or try down lining a crappie minnow and drop it to the depth where you mark fish.

Bank fishing: The same top-water action that boaters are enjoying is also available to bank anglers. Grab your best casting and spinning gear and hot the shores of Lake Lanier or even your local farm or subdivision ponds and be prepared to walk long distances. Tie on the same lures as mentioned above or even add in a buzz bait to the equation. 

Make sure that your reels are spooled up with a quality monofilament or braided line. Making long casts is a must. Start fishing close to the most productive areas you can find. Rocky banks, long points, steep drop offs and even bank cover like laydowns can all hold fish that will attack a surface plug.

Make several casts to productive areas but be prepared to move to more productive water as needed. If you catch or get a hit from a fish work that area, making several more casts before you move. These fish are schooled up so where there is one there may be more.