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Lake Lanier fishing report: Changing weather patterns make for mixed fishing
Lake Lanier
Lake Lanier. - photo by File photo

Water Conditions: Presently, Lake Lanier’s water remains above full pool thanks to recent rains. Currently, the water level is at 1,070.69 feet or .69 feet above the normal full pool of 1,071. Lake surface temperatures have yo-yoed up and down and are reading from 75 to 80 degrees. The main lake is clear, and the rivers and creeks are slightly stained to very stained in the back water.

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

Bass fishing is up and down, but for the most part has rated very good. I have had several trips this week where we boated two to three good fish on each stop we made. The changing weather has also caused us to struggle during a trip or two. Because of the recent rains and unusual weather temperatures, we have had to make adjustments. What worked “yesterday” or even earlier in the day may not be the best way to go. Some patterns will turn on as others fade, so keep a few rods on deck.

In my opinion, the fish have not set up on the deeper brush yet. A lot of fish are boated in the “tweens” or in between the in-shore and the off-shore brush. Overall, the fish are shallower than normal in the 10 to 20 foot range. When the weather warms, up look for the fish to move to off-shore brush from 15 to 35 feet deep.

The top-water bite has seemed almost too easy on some days when the weather conditions have remained stable. My buddy George says it well: “It does not matter if we are fishing the high fronts or low fronts. As long as the weather has been stable for the last 24 hours fishing should remain consistent.” While fishing has been awesome at times, we have paid for it on other days, having to readjust and listen to what the fish are telling us.

My weapon of choice this week has been a larger, top-water plug or a medium to large swimbait all day long. I love to work a SPRO BBZ1 6-Inch trout swimbait on the surface. This is a technique that works for bigger spotted and largemouth bass. You may only get a few bites, but they can be trophies. The rest of the time, a large popper, Chug Bug, Sammy or Super Spook have been working best when the waves have been up. During calmer surface conditions, switch over to a Super Fluke or Big Bites Jerk Minnow to target these same fish on the surface over medium depth brush and rock.

As you know, the weather last week was about as stable as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. We have encountered several hot or cold fronts, and when this occurs, subsurface techniques like crank baits, spinner baits and even the reliable ole’ spy bait will outproduce top-water plugs. Cast these lures to the banks around wind blown points and humps where brush piles are located.

The after-dark bite still remains strong. Hit the rocky banks in the creek mouths and out on main lake with a SPRO Little John DD or RkCrawler. Allow the lure to slowly dig into the bottom around rock and hold on. A lot of our strikes have occurred either very shallow (under 10 feet deep) or as the lure breaks free from the bottom at around 14 to 16 feet deep.

Please email me at if you wish to book a teaching trip on how to pattern Lake Lanier’s spotted and largemouth bass.

Stripers fishing remains very good. Just remember that stripers are pelagic (which means they relate to the bait instead of objects below the surface), so areas change frequently. Pay close attention to your Lowrance Electronics to locate the best locations to fish.

The herring seem to be relating to many depths, as there has been no definitive thermocline yet. The thermocline is where the hot surface layers meet the cooler bottom layers of water in summer (vice versa in winter). With a few days of hot weather, we could see surface temperature rise enough to get the thermocline to set in. Plan to see a lot of fish in that 15 to 45 foot range this week.

Keep a top-water plug ready at all times as we have hooked several big fish on the surface while throwing top-water plugs for bass. If you prefer to cast artificial lures, then try a SPRO Bucktail with a Suicide Shad Trailer or a Captain Mack’s Chipmunk Bucktail rigged with a Krietec Swimbait. Cast the lures over humps or anywhere you encounter schooling stripers.

The fish seem to be relating off-shore ditches that are close to either humps or points as well as deep water creek and river channels. The best structures will have bait schools around them. The stripers will be close to where the bait is located. The depth of the fish will change, but we are seeing most of the schools around 25 to 50 feet deep. The bait will show up as clouds on the screen.

This is how I set up my electronics: Set your Structure Scan around 10 feet deeper than the bottom. Example: With 60 foot bottom I want to set my side scan at 70 feet. This way I can cover an area 140 feet wide and see fish from top to bottom. Once I figure out a pattern, I can set the proper depth. If the stripers are no deeper than 60 feet, I will retain those settings or I will expand or decrease Structure Scan to explore if the fish are deeper or shallower.

The best fish are being found in groups on down-lined herring close to main lake. The fish are relating to around 25 to 45 feet over a 35- to 60-foot bottom. These fish have been moving up shallower on flat lines during the fronts. We have even seen some schooling in areas. Keep an open mind, and let the fish and your electronics dictate the best places to fish that particular hour of the day, because it will change.

Trolling u-rigs, fishing live bait from the steeper banks and targeting the docks with Hydra-Glow Lights after dark are all good ways to find the fish in the next week.

Crappie fishing remains good in the early mornings and then again after dark around the lighted boat docks. It pays to have a milk run of deeper brush before starting your day. If you do not have a great plan, then target docks close to deep water halfway back in the creeks. Deeper, older rusty docks with beaver brush can pay off for years.

Start your days before sunrise and fish the deeper docks back in the creeks. Use a Hal-Fly tipped with a live crappie minnow and make long casts or skips toward the brush. Allow your jig to pendulum down to the bottom and then just swim it around the brush. Start at around 10 to 20 feet.

Lighted boat docks are crappie magnets after dark. These docks will pull the fish in shallow all night long. If you want to really get out for a relaxing night, then this may be the best way to fill the cooler this week. This same action is good around lights on the bridge pilings in the upper and lower lake creeks.

Bank fishing: So ya think you need a 22- to 26-foot long boat with a 250-300 HP outboard to catch big fish on Lake Lanier? Maybe not! When I was younger, we used to set out and fish around Buford Dam for brown trout (which were stocked back in the 70s), bass and the occasional striper. Now that the trout population have decreased on main lake, and the striper, bass and catfish populations have increased, your chances of catching a big fish from main lake are still very good.

Get out your PVC pipe and cut some cheap, effective rod holders. Cut one end straight (for the rod) and the other end diagonal (to pound into the clay or sand) and you will have as many rod holders as you need. Get some bait-like minnows, night crawlers or even chicken livers and bait your hooks. A weighted, bottom rig will probably work best this time of year, so hook up a bait and cast it out around the deeper banks both up and down lake. Set your lines and kick back. You may just get on a school of fish that messes up that whole “relaxation.”


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