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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Bass biting well at all depths of water
Lake Lanier
Lake Lanier as seen from the air in July 2017. - photo by Nick Bowman

Lake Lanier is presently at 1,070.68 or .33 below the normal full pool of 1,071. Expect that to rise again with the rain forecast for the nest week. Lake surface temperatures are around 50 degrees. 

The main lake and lower lake creeks are clear in mouths and stained in the backs. The upper lake and rivers are slightly stained but expect them to get muddy after the incoming rains. The Chattahoochee below Buford Dam is clear but it will also get muddy after any rain.

Check generation schedules before heading out to the river below Buford Dam at 770-945-1466. 

Bass: The bass are biting well and not much has changed from last week. The best bite is coming from deep water, but we have found some bass shallow too. The past week’s mild weather has allowed bass to sun themselves around docks close to deep water.

The most frequent question I get in asked in winter is “What is a ditch?”  The answer is simple. A ditch is any well-defined depression or channel on the bottom. Small feeder creeks or rain runoffs that you can see on the bank give away the best areas to target. We also refer to ditches as “bass highways” because they use ditches to travel from shallow into deeper water.

Once you locate a defined ditch, you can use your mapping software along with quality electronics like my Lowrance Carbon units to locate variables in the ditch. If you locate a ditch that has a curve, bend, rocks, brush or any variation from 25 to 55 feet deep, you will probably find bass hanging out.

This week we have had some warmer-than-normal weather. Anytime the sun shines and the weather creeps above 50 degrees, the bass tend to react favorably by moving shallower where they are easier to catch. When you encounter bass in under 25 feet in the winter, you can almost bank that they will be active and easier to catch. 

A shaky head like a Gamakatsu Alien Head rigged with a straight tail worm like a Lanier Baits Fruity Worm or a Big Bites Finesse worm in green or shad colors will work well. Other lures like a Fish Head Spin or a deep diving crank bait like the new SPRO Super DD Little John 90 will also get the job done. Work the shaky head slowly along the bottom. Do the same with the Fish Head Spin. Crank the Little John slow and steady and try to keep your lure in contact with the bottom. You can get this crank bait to run even deeper by kneeling and reeling with the rod tip pushed under water as deep as you can.

Other techniques have come into play this week. Fishing a SPRO McStick 110 or a McRip deeper diving jerk bait around windy points and over humps have been working well. Rocky bluff walls are also good places to fish jerk baits. Use an erratic jerk, jerk and pause retrieve. This lure imitates a wounded bait fish and it can pull bass up from deeper water. Jerk baits are a great big bass lure in colder water. You may only catch five bass a day on a jerk bait but they tend to be bigger fish.

The most popular and productive lures have been the spoon and jig. Usually I start my day shallow in the ditches, but recently we have located bass at the end of ditches very early in the day. These feeding fish will eat a 1/2-ounce Hopkins or Flex-It spoon. I have also had good luck with Lanier Baits Runts on a dropshot rig. These smaller offerings mimic the small threadfin shad that the bass are eating.

My favorite fishing method is the jig. We boated three fish over 5 pounds this past week by dragging the jig down deeper rocky banks. When fishing a jig, try to count the rocks as your lure descends. This will help ensure you are staying in contact with the bottom. My John Kissel Signature series Kissel Krafts and a reel rigged with 14-pound test Sunline Sniper Fluorocarbon really helps to keep that jig on the bottom. Sometimes, you may need to disengage your reel and feed line out to make sure you are keeping your lure deep enough.

Striper fishing ranged from OK to very good for people who have found the big schools of stripers in deeper water. Quality electronics like my Lowrance Carbon 16-inch screen has really upped the game. With that huge screen and a high definition 3-D transducer, finding the fish has been much easier. Gulls and loons are also great indicators that baitfish are in the areas. 

Most of the fish I have seen this week are located in that same 40-60-foot zone as last week. That being said, stripers will move shallower during active feeding throughout the day. I have also seen stripers schooling very early in the day in the backs of coves and pockets. For the shallow, early morning stripers, locate coves that have water inflow entering the lake. These fish will hang around shallow for a while when it’s cloudy or raining.

As the sun moves higher in the sky, most of the stripers will move to deeper water. Follow the shad and herring schools and you will most likely be in the zone. Run one flat line rigged with a trout out behind your boat, then put 2-4 down lines out to the sides. Drop your baits at around 35-50 feet or just above the depth that you are marking fish. The most productive baits this week have been medium sized shiners, smaller herring and small trout.

Trout Fishing: Trout fishing has been OK below Buford Dam. Even during the rain, the water coming out of the dam is very clear. The rain water inflow from creeks and run-off will make the river stained to muddy just a few miles down around Highway 20. When Buford Dam releases water, it often contains shad and this is a prime forage for trout.

Use silver-colored lures like the old reliable white and silver Rooster Tail or other brands of inline spinners. If the water is stained from run-off, try a brighter color. Reel these inline spinners slow and steady, just fast enough to keep the spinners moving.

Fly fishing has been decent up in the North Georgia mountains. Use small nymphs, Wooly Buggers or salmon egg patterns. Many times, mountain streams are hard to fish because of bank overgrowth. Try using a shorter five-weight rod and use a roll cast to keep your lines clear of overhanging limbs and bushes on the bank. 

Hit the prime areas like big rocks or logs then keep moving on upstream.

Bank fishing: There is a healthy population of catfish in Lake Lanier and other smaller rivers, lakes and ponds close to Gainesville and Cumming. Catfish provide anglers with a fun fight and the smaller ones can be very tasty.

Cut bait, chicken livers, cheese, hot dog pieces and store-bought catfish bait are all great choices when targeting cat fish. Catfish have an incredible sense of smell and they will often be drawn towards your offerings while fishing on from the bank.

Look for catfish around steep banks and channel swings. Use a No. 2 or No. 3 Gamakatsu Shiner hook and thread your baits on the line. When using cheese and chicken livers, you can put these baits in an old piece of panty hose and tie it up into a ball to keep them from flying off the hook. 

Secure your rod well and wait. If the catfish are located in your area, it should not take long before you get a bite.

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. He would love to hear from readers, so please email him at Remember to take a kid fishing.