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Outdoors: Late spring leads to better catch
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Forsyth County News

Lake Lanier’s water is right at full pool, give or take 0.05 of an inch depending on rains showers and when the Army Corps of Engineers pulls water.

Lake temperatures are holding in the mid to low 80s. Lake Lanier is clear on 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 remains very good for anglers that can find and fish the many sunken brush piles and other cover on lake points, humps and in the pockets off of main lake. It still amazes me how much the high water level affects where the brush is located.

We had many years when the water was down, and now we are fishing and catching bass from areas that were high and dry only three years ago.

One critical piece of equipment every angler should have is a good old-fashioned paper lake map.

Even if you have a new bass boat that will run 100 miles per hour with big-screen electronics, a smaller boat with limited electronics or even if you fish the banks, you can really explore and understand the lake with an old-fashioned printed map.

You can also search the lake’s features by exploring smaller coves.

Cast a deep-diving crankbait or drag a Carolina Rig and “feel” for objects on the bottom. If you have GPS, you can mark a waypoint, but you can look for objects on the banks and triangulate, or line up the objects so you have a reference for the area.

Then you can come back to the brush or other cover and catch fish where very few people go. Once you have explored the entire cove you can start expanding your horizons.

Right now you should be able to catch bass both shallow and deep all day long.

In the mornings when it is calm I have been using a Heddon Spook, Tiny Torpedo or other smaller topwater plugs back in the cuts or out on shallow main lake humps early. Stay there until the topwater bite ceases, then check out deeper.

When it is calm, work your topwater lures with a standard walk-the-dog or stop-and-go retrieve.

Some days the bass will be aggressively chasing bait, while other days they prefer a slower retrieve.

If the wind is up, switch over to larger topwater plugs, spinner baits or even a SPRO Fat John 60 or BBZ1 4-inch shad. Other swim baits that mimic shad or herring will also work well. With the SPRO lures and other smaller swim baits you can just cast and wind them with a regular steady retrieve, which makes for an easier day of catching.

When the bass go deeper during the day, I power fish many different areas where I have marked brush on my Humminbird’s GPS with the following methods.

Begin by stopping your boat way off my GPS waypoints and cast a topwater plug to see if the bass are active. Sometimes the bass will crush top water plugs so well, that’s what we stick with.

If you don’t get a bite on top stay, about a half of a cast off the waypoint and switch over to deep-diving crankbaits.

My go-to bait for digging into deeper brush is a SPRO Little John DD. A Bill Norman Deep Diver or other deep running crankbaits allow an angler to put a lure down deeper where bass sometimes hang out.

You may also try an underspin like a Fish Head Swim or Scrounger-type lures in natural colors and equipped with a Big Bites Jerk Shad or a Wayne’s Baits Fresh Water Goby trailer. Both of the soft plastic trailers come alive when paired with the Fish Head or Scrounger Heads.

If the bass are still not biting, or you have caught a couple and the action slows, move your boat directly off the brush and pick it apart with a drop shop rig, a jig head finesse worm or a jig.

With my Humminbird 1158c I can have it set on a split screen, showing GPS along with regular 2D or Down Imaging.

With a big screen it makes it a lot easier to see. The down imaging allows me to see if the brush piles are fresh with leaves or if they are older ones. Newer brush usually holds more fish. I can also see my bait on the screen — this has become my favorite way to catch bass. Picking bass off with your Electronics is very cool.

While video fishing may be my favorite way to catch bass, most anglers dream about seeing 5- to 6-pound bass crushing their plugs on the surface.

This occurrence can happen in real life, and Lake Lanier is one America’s best spotted and striped bass lakes. Use a Super Spook or large Sammy of Dawg style lure out on main lake and use the smaller topwater lures in the calmer coves.

After dark, switch over to a large black spinner bait or a deep-diving crankbait, and dig around rocky banks in the creek mouths or out on main lake. Fishing after dark intimidates some people, but night-time fishing is all about fishing by feel with a quality rod and reel spooled with fluorocarbon.

My night-time setup is a Shimano Curado spooled with 12-pound Sunline Sniper on a Kissel Kraft Custom crankbait rod. With a quality rig like this, you can feel the rocks and the sudden strike of a bass looking for prey in under 20 feet of water.

Bass roam the shallows when the sun goes down and the water is under 85 degrees. When the water temperatures get above 90 they move out deeper.

Striper fishing is good and three methods are coming into play. Early or late, pull flatlines and cast topwater plugs if you encounter stripers on the surface.

When the stripers appear down deeper, as they have during the day this past week, your down lines should be tied on and ready for dropping live herring to the schools of deeper fish.

The topwater action has really been best early in the mornings and sometimes in the middle of the day, as the predator fish drive bait where they can trap it up against the surface.

We have caught several stripers while fishing for bass, and striper anglers are also catching some big spotted bass, some largemouth bass and an occasional tasty walleye that most anglers catch and release into hot grease!

Some anglers are saying that the herring spawn is over, while others feel it is still on.

I have personally seen both herring and shad that appear to be spawning or relating to sandy banks and sandy saddle areas between islands. There has also been shad around the shore on main lake and back into pockets.

I have seen shad up shallow along riprap and rocks very early in the day, and I am also seeing schools of shad shallow in the pockets as well as deeper on my electronics. One thing is for sure: you need to find the bait before you can get on the stripers.

Some of the guides are staying within eyesight of Buford Dam, and there are plenty of stripers around the dam.

Most of the anglers fishing around the dam are using live herring on downlines set down 30-60 feet down, depending on how deep the stripers are on the live herring.

Use a heavy 1- to 2-ounce weight on 17- to 20-pound Sunline Monofilament in a green color, and also use a long 12-pound test Sunline Sniper Fluorocarbon leader.

You almost can’t have too long of a leader, because stripers can be line shy and fluorocarbon is hard to see.

Plus, it holds up to chaffing against the striper’s mouth, body and any timber they may use to tie you up.

Most anglers use a 5- to 6-foot leader because it is easy to stow. Others will use up to a 10-foot leader, which you can also stow by running the line down through the hook guide using a Gamakatsu Octopus Hook and hooking your herring in the lips or in the back.

Herring hooked through the lips swim more naturally, whereas hooking them through the back as the herring will struggle more and can entice a striper to bite.

The heavy weight will get the herring down through the warmer surface layer of the surface. Also switch baits often to make sure your baits are lively.

Stripers get even more finicky as they relate to deeper water, where the herring also seek out during the hot summer months.

Crappie fishing is very good for anglers that can find and fish the deep docks with brush set down 15-25 feet deep.

The crappie are relating to the brush, so three methods are working.

The first is for the serious anglers that can shoot jigs way up under docks where typical anglers will never reach.

If you want to become efficient at this method, set up a coffee cup on the other side of your own car or truck, and try to shoot it up under your car and into the cup.

Practicing this method on the lake will result in many snags and lost jigs that have to possibility of sticking the dock owners, or worse, their kids or pets.

Anglers are also casting to deep brush, too. No matter which way you get a jig into brush, it does require an experienced hand to work these tiny jigs through the brush. Use very light 4-pound fluorocarbon or monofilament and work your jigs just through the top branches.

The third, and maybe easier method, is to fin this brush either under your dock or a friends dock or in your boat and downline small crappie minnows, or use a cast net and catch some of the native spot tail minnows. Drop your minnow down into the brush or just above it. If you do not get a bite, move on until you do.

These same methods are working after dark.

Set out lights around bridge pilings and drop some shad down next to the piling, or into brush that may be located around these bridges.

Also target lighted boat docks, as these crappie may be up in the transition where the light shadow meets the lighted area. Lights will attract minnows, crappie and other predator species.

Trout are biting. The trout are biting well. The trout are biting extremely well!

Ok, I know these reports sound like a broken record, but the cold mountain streams that flow into the cold rivers and parts of the Chattahoochee River, down from the mountains on down to Buford Dam, then down into Bull Sluice Lake and on through Morgan Falls Dam and on inside of the perimeter are all great places to target trout.

Kids can use a Zebco 33 and even leave the original line, then attach a Rooster Tail or other inexpensive lure and go fishing.

Adults can use the same inexpensive Zebco outfit, or more experienced anglers that use higher-end spinning tackle with ultra-light 2- to 4-pound test.

Then there are the anglers who are artists, and cast flies that they tied themselves on a custom bamboo fly rod that cost almost as much as some used cars.

Just make sure to check local regulations, as some trout waters have restrictions. This includes no live bait, and some even restrict anglers to barbless hooks. Make sure you understand the local rules — we donate enough to Uncle Sam; there is no need to add the cost of a ticket, too!

Very important: Please check the generation schedule at the dams you fish, as the water can be very treacherous when they pull it.

Bank Fishing: I have caught brim, catfish, trout, walleye, bass and crappie from the bank with one top-secret bait. This secret bait works in almost any water that holds fish. Anglers who read these reports are privileged to learn this secret, but don’t tell anyone!

This secret: live earthworms! Use a smaller Aberdeen style hook and tie them directly to your main line without a swivel or snap. Thread the worm completely up and over the hook, so all the fish will see just the worm. Attach a small split shot in shallow water and increase your weight as needed if the current is heavy or the water is deep.

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