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Outdoors: Topwater bass action starting to hit stride
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Forsyth County News

Lake Lanier’s water is rock steady and at 1,071.03 or 0.03 foot above a full pool of 1,071. The weather has been mild and nice.

Lake temperatures are holding in the mid 70’s. Lake Lanier is clear on the main lake and clear to stained in the rivers and creeks. The Chattahoochee River is clear below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.

Bass fishing is heating up. The topwater action we usually see in early May is really just starting. In reviewing my fishing logs, it seems to be about one month behind schedule. In late spring and early summer, the herring that were introduced to Lake Lanier over a decade ago started spawning out on the main lake.

In addition to the herring, other bait fish like spot tails, threadfin and gizzard shad are also in the process of spawning. The massive amount of shallow forage helps bass to fatten up to recover from the tedious task of their own reproductive cycles.

Note that if you catch bass right now with sores on their bodies, don’t be too concerned as this is a natural thing to encounter after the spawn.

They will recover quickly.

The herring spawn marks a special time for local bass anglers. It’s officially topwater time.

Throwing a topwater plug and seeing a 4-5 pound spotted bass explode on it is one of the most exciting things that can happen during a day of bass fishing. Multiply these topwater strikes several times. It can equate to one of the greatest outings in an angler’s life.

Herring that are old enough to spawn are usually 5-7 inches or longer, so you will want to match the forage with your lures.

A Sammy, Gunfish, Super Spook or a Pencil Popper are all great choices to use right now.

There are also subsurface lures like a SPRO McStick 110 or 115, a BBZ1 six-inch slow sink or Sebile Magic Swimmer that will also match the herring in size and shape. Stick with natural colors like chrome or sexy shad during this season.

If your lures look like real bait fish, then they are probably a good choice.

In addition to topwater lures for schooling fish, other types of lures are worth a try when the bass are not in the upper portion of the water column.

Fishing a drop shot or shaky head with a Big Bites Kreit Tail or Finesse worm in brush is a great method when bass are less active.

Use your electronics and get right on top of the brush pile and sink a dropshot rig down to this cover.

My Humminbird 1158c graph shows me incredible details and I can see fish, brush and even see my small lure on the screen. Deep diving crank baits, jigs, spinner baits and Fish Head Spins will all work great when the bass are deeper.

Bass fishing after the sun goes down has also been very good. Use a large, dark, deep-diving crank bait or a large black spinner bait and fish these lures around rocks on the main lake and on the creeks to catch some big spotted and largemouth bass.

Stripers: Black bass are not the only fish that explode on the surface.

Stripers also love herring and they will attack the same topwater plugs mentioned above.

Most local bait stores also sell real live herring too, so it is a great idea to keep a mix of topwater plugs and live bait in the boat at all times.

Stripers and the herring they target tend to be nomadic and both species will move around a good bit so if you caught them in one area you may return the next day or even the next hour only to find that area devoid of fish.

Your electronics and your eyes are both essential tools. Keep a watch out on your screen and the water around you and adjust as conditions dictate. Side Imaging is an incredible tool for seeing fish, but it can only effectively scan just so far.

This is where your own eyesight and maybe a pair of binoculars excel. A school of stripers can be seen up to a Ú-mile or further away when they are really active.

That being said, you will never be able to see much deeper than 10 feet on Lanier, so this is where your electronics come in to play.

Early in the morning and during active feeding periods, stripers will annihilate surface lures with reckless abandon. Stripers will often take several swipes and even strike at a lure with its mouth close before actually eating.

Stripers are used to having to wound a fast-moving prey fish first before eating it. It can take nerves of steel to not react and set the hook, but wait until the fish actually loads up and pulls drag.

When a striper has your lure you will know it. Stripers can appear on the surface at any time throughout the day so keep a plug ready at all times.

Live blueback herring are the main forage this time of year for striped bass.

The fish this week have been eating both flat and down lines.

As mentioned, your electronics are keys to unlock the fishing puzzle. If you see fish on the screen and they are shallower than 15 feet, a flat line is probably your best bet. If the fish are between the 15-25 foot range, use that same flat line with a quarter-ounce split shot to help your bait run slightly deeper. If your see them deeper than 25 feet on your Humminbird’s screen then that is where down lines are a lot more effective.

Just remember that fish will often rise up to strike at lures, but they seldom look down so it is better to err on the shallow side.

Concentrate on points and humps in the mouths of lower lake keeps and the deeper channel bends up in the rivers.

Crappie fishing is still OK and the fishing has been better earlier and later in the day and past sundown into the night. Fish deeper docks just outside the coves and shoot jigs under or cast close beside docks for the best action. Allow your jigs to pendulum down and watch your lines for the small "tick" that indicate strikes.

During the mornings, sundown and into the night use live crappie minnows, spot tails or threadfin shad on a down line. After dark, fish use your preferred baitfish under floating or HydroGlow lights.

Also target lit boat docks. You will usually see baitfish under the lights and also the larger predator fish on the edge of where your lights meet the darkness.

Trout: 2014 has been one of the best years in recent history for trout fishing.

The consistent rains have helped the stream to run clear and fast which boosts the oxygen levels. Because the fish have more oxygen, they are more active and feed more often.

A variety of lures, flies and lave bait — where permitted — will work well in the mountain streams and on the Chattahoochee. Pick your favorites and adjust accordingly if you do not get bites.

Light spinning and casting rods and reels will work well. Just use the lightest lines and minimum or no hardware, other than a small swivel if you throw inline spinners like a Rooster Tail.

SPRO Corp. sells micro swivels that are some of the smallest in the industry. They will prevent line twists, but try to forgo any extraneous hardware to increase the numbers of bites you get. Trout have very sensitive eyesight and an innate ability to sense when something is just not right with the bait they eat.

Bank Fishing: While bass and striper anglers are targeting fish busting on the surface, another community of anglers target bottom feeders.

The North Georgia redfish, or carp, as most people call them actively feed during the hotter months on Lake Lanier and other lakes, ponds and rivers.

While many anglers consider them trash fish, anglers in Europe actually relish fishing for this bugle mouth monster.

You can try the easy method of chumming and hooking corn, or you can take the challenge of fly fishing with a variety of small flies to catch these fish.

Whichever method you prefer, carp fight extremely hard and they are a great fish to catch. While most Americans turn up their noses at the thought of carp for dinner, there are many nationalities that cook and eat them and consider them quite good.

Check the internet for fishing methods and recipes for carp. Frankly, I think I will continue to catch and release these bottom bound brutes.

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 or visit his website at