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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Catfishing livens by the bank
Lake Lanier
Lake Lanier. - photo by File photo

Lake Lanier’s water level is very healthy and just above full pool at 1071.34 or .34 feet — above the normal full pool of 1071. Lake surface temperatures remain in the mid to upper 80s. The main lake is clear, and the creeks are slightly stained. The water in the rivers is slightly stained.

The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is clear, but it will muddy up quickly in the event of heavy thunderstorms. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.

Bass fishing has been up and down, but most of my trips lately have been good. The fish seem to be locked into an early summertime pattern, and they are biting good during active feeding times. That being said, anglers may need to cycle through several areas before catching fish.

The majority of what bass and their prey eat seem to be located around the thermocline layer at 27 feet deep. This is where the warmer surface layer meets the colder bottom layer. It is important to keep your lures right around that thermocline level to catch your bigger spotted bass.

Several methods are working: Counting down a Spy Bait to around 20-25 feet deep, fishing a worm on a drop shot rig or casting other moving lures out past your target then working them back over the brush to the boat.

For numbers, it is hard to beat the drop shot rig. That being said, we are still casting topwater plugs or crank baits over or through the target before moving over the brush to see if we can activate a school of fish. Four lures have worked the best in my Nitro: Spybait, SPRO Little John DD 90, Storm Saltwater Chug Bug and a drop shot rigged with a Lake Lanier Fruity Worm.

When casting a Spy Bait, it is important to count the lure down to just above the level of the top of the brush pile. This lure has a shimmy on the fall, so watch your line as you are counting this lure down because fish often hit it on the fall. Once you have hit the proper level, engage your reel and start slowly reeling the lure over brush. I use a 16-pound Sunline SX1 braid with a 7-pound fluorocarbon leader on a medium weight 7-foot Kissel Kraft Custom spinning Rod.

The SPRO Little John DD90 crank bait is a lure that will reach a true 25 feet. This lure seems to get the attention of the biggest fish in the brush pile. Cast this deep diver over and past the brush so that it hits the brush on the retrieve. For the Crank Bait, I use 10- or 12-pound Sunline FC Fluorocarbon on an 8-foot Kissel Kraft Custom Crankbait Rod.

You should also try casting a top water lure. Then move over the brush and utilize your Lowrance Electronics to “video game” fish that you see on your screen. The fish will show up as arcs or wavery lines.

With large units like my Lowrance Carbon 12 and 16-inch screens, I can set up a map to confirm my location over the brush and have standard 2D plus Down Scan to see the fish inside the brush. All three views can be set up on a single screen.

There has also been a full moon, so there are a lot of brim spawning up in the shallows. The shallow bass that are targeting brim can be fooled by casting a buzz bait, brim style swim bait, a swim jig or even a SPRO BBZ1 4-inch Shad. These lures mimic brim, and you can catch big largemouth and spotted bass with them.

Striper fishing remains very good for anglers that can find the deeper schools of fish. With today’s high-end electronics, finding fish is a whole lot easier.

Targeting and scanning the ditches and creek channels is a great way to start. Look for the ditches that are located from the bank all the way into a creek or river channel. I often review an old fashion paper map of the lake the night before fishing. Then I use my Navionics mapping software on a split screen with traditional 2D on my Carbon-16 to follow these ditches from shallow to deep. The same goes with the creek channels. Review these locations the night before, and you will have a good idea on where to start.

Start out in 25 feet of water and use your Lowrance Electronics to scan these channels. I set a split screen on my Lowrance Carbon 16 to Navionics Mapping on the right side and traditional 2D sonar on the left side. I can easily see my trails and the fish that are grouped from 30 feet to 100-feet deep.

Once you locate a school, then drop some lively herring on down lines to above or in the level where the fish are schooled up. Change out your baits frequently to make sure the stripers are seeing lively baits. When you get ready to change your lures, drop your old herring through the school and power reel your bait back up through the school to trigger a reaction bite.

You can also use the Ben Parker or Lake Fork spoons or a SPRO Buck Tail to power reel through the schools of stripers. If you have good electronics, you should be able to track your lure as it descends through the school. Once you are below the fish or you hit the bottom, engage your reel and retrieve your lure as fast as possible. The stripers are very aggressive, and if you catch a lot of fish, you will feel it in your arms at the end of the day.

Crappie fishing has been either OK or slow depending on who you talk to. Anglers that can shoot tiny crappie jigs like a Big Bite Baits Hal Fly (they have these lures on clearance on the Big Bite Baits website) into tight spaces inside deeper docks with planted brush can score enough fish to make fish tacos. This action is best in the first two hours of daylight.

Your best bet is still fishing under lights around bridges and docks. Catch some native spot tail minnows, store-bought crappie minnows or medium shad. Set out down lines to the level where you mark fish. Predator fish like crappie, bass and stripers will often suspend around the edges where the light meets dark water.

Bank fishing: Lake Lanier has a good population of catfish. Local farm and subdivision ponds also may have these hard-fighting fish stocked. Use a medium heavy fishing pole and reel and make sure they can be secured with store bought or homemade rod holders. We have several species of catfish, some of which can get bigger than 50 pounds.

You can catch these whiskered critters by casting out nightcrawlers, chicken livers, cut shad or store-bought catfish bait. Cast these baits around banks that have a channel or deep water close to the shore. Catfish are able to smell their food from long distances, so you may want to try chumming an area with some extra bait before fishing it. Catfish will smell your baits so stay put a while.


Eric Aldrich is an outdoor writer, marketing specialist, guide and bass angler. Reports are based on personal experience and permission from a close network of friends. He is currently booking teaching trips for Lake Lanier’s spotted and largemouth bass. He would love to hear from our readers so please email him at Remember to take a kid fishing.