March 24, 2016
Lake Lanier, just a short drive north of Atlanta, offers great fishing for largemouth and GIANT spotted bass. Most lakes with spotted bass produce spots that rarely top 14 inches. Lanier, along with several other lakes like those on the Coosa River, has produced livewells full of 5-pound plua spotted bass. Biologists now know that the big spotted bass in Lanier are a different species—officially, the Alabama bass. Whatever you call them, they're big, mean, and Lanier is full of them.
Your guide to catching big Alabama bass and quality largemouth on Lanier is FLW Tour pro Jason Johnson from Gainesville, Georgia, and late March is the time to be there. This hard-charging angler is in his sophomore year on the Tour, and he's living proof that working hard and working smart pays off. Here's how he makes them bite at Lanier.
First, Johnson usually confines his fishing to the lower end of the lake where blueback herring are the primary important forage. "The herring affect where bass stage, and the lower lake also has the biggest, fattest bass," says Johnson.
"The spots will be pre-spawn and looking to eat." Johnson looks for areas 15 to 25 feet deep on points that run to deeper water. The ideal spot is a point with brush piles in deeper water that leads to a spawning cove. At this time of the year (water temperature about 50 °F), Johnson confines his search to the tip of the point and tempts bites with jerkbaits and wakebaits. If bass won't rise to the jerkbait or wakebait, Johnson probes the depths with a shakey head or football jig. If that doesn't work, move. You win the game by checking a lot of points until you find a pack of fish.
As the day warms and the nearshore waters warm, Johnson switches into largemouth gear. His search image is steep, red clay banks that lead to flat, shallow spawning pockets. These "pockets" (coves) might be 100 to 1,000 yards long. Steep banks with boat docks are often the best. Johnson likes to fish crankbaits that run 10- to 12-feet deep and jointed, hard-body swimbaits like a Bucca's Bull Shad. He begins his search at the tip of secondary points and works toward the spawning flats until he contacts fish, then uses that info to narrow his search in other coves.
"Wear good polarized glasses. When working the shoreline back to the spawning pockets, always be scanning the clear water for cruisers. These fish are catchable if you see them before they see you. If they spook, mark the spot and return later in stealth mode," advises Johnson.
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