Lake Lanier Fishing Report – March 2024

Bass and crappie reports.

GON Staff | February 22, 2024

Guide Jimbo Mathis said that fishing during late February and March can provide some interesting opportunities. The largemouth will be soon to spawn and the spots will begin to stage in preparation for the spawn.

Lanier: Level: 0.6 feet above 1071. Temp: 50-52 degrees. Clarity: The main lake is clear. The backs of the creeks are slightly stained to stained, depending how far north you go. 

Bass: Guide Jimbo Mathley with Jimbo’s Lake Lanier Spotted Bass Guide Service reports, “The bite on Lanier is beginning to change as the days are warming. While the deep winter bite, which includes Livescoping fish over deep timber with a Damiki rig, has produced some giant bags, there are shallower patterns emerging, as well, that will definitely impact this weekend’s tournament scene on Lake Lanier. We have found a crankbait bite that is producing good fish on rocky points. We have also caught some big fish on a ChatterBait. The available stained water is definitely the best option for those shallower fish.

“Fishing during late February and March can provide some interesting opportunities. The largemouth will be soon to spawn and the spots will begin to stage in preparation for the spawn.  The lake level has been above full pool as we head out of February and the temperatures have been about normal so far this winter. With a strong warming trend hitting at the end of February 2024, this could add up to an early spawn if this trend continues.  This could provide some different opportunities for this March as we should find different trends and patterns this spring as a result of the warmer-than-normal weather trends. Let’s explore how to address this important month on Lanier in these unusual weather and water conditions.

“There are a few things to consider when fishing during this time of year.  You will be fishing the prespawn and maybe an advanced prespawn based on the weather, so let’s start with the end in mind and review the spawning habits of both the largemouth and spots. The largemouth in the lake will physically go on the bed at water temperatures of 56 to 58 degrees. The spotted bass will spawn a bit later when the water temperatures reach 62 degrees or above.  Typically, the fish spawn in waves, rather than all at once.  After the first wave of fish completes their spawning routine, there will be fish in all stages of the spawn (pre, spawn,and post) for the next 30 to 45 days, depending on the weather conditions and water temperatures. Further, it is important to understand that many fish that spawn in waves as mentioned above, do so during a favorable moon phase, given the noted water temperature requirements are met. The full and new moon phases often prompt fish to move into their spawning routine. Until those conditions are met, fish will be staging and feeding up in preparation for this process. So, where do we need to look?

“The largemouth in Lake Lanier tend to spawn shallower than do the spotted bass. The largemouth can be found bedding in creek pockets, often in the backs of these pockets, in a protected area.  They will position themselves next to a piece of cover such as a blowdown tree or stump for security and are often in 3 feet of water or less.  Look around docks in shallow water for these fish, as well as stumps and adjacent blowdowns.  The spotted bass can frequently be found in similar areas but often prefer a hard-bottom type area, such as that a clay flat can provide.  And again, the spots will typically spawn deeper than do the largemouth and can be found in 6 to 15 feet of water and even deeper.  Unlike most largemouth, there are a contingency of the spotted bass that will spawn on the main lake.  These fish can be found on or around humps, points and sandy saddles between islands on the main lake.  These females are often some of the biggest fish in the lake.  Until the time when the fish spawn in these areas, fish key features adjacent to these spawning areas. Secondary points and docks often provide great staging areas for these fish and become a prime target this time of year. The spots will be in the same types of places to spawn and will stage in similar areas, as well.

“Now that we have explored the location that fish can be found during the spawn, let’s examine some of the techniques and lures that can be used to catch these fish.

“Jerkbaits are a great choice as the water warms up though the 50s. Work these baits around docks, points, in the backs of pockets and over humps. A Berkley Stunna is a good option. Experiment with cadence to find the right retrieve speed and pause cycle. The colder the water, the longer the pause.

“A Georgia Blade Shad Spin in the 1/4-oz. size is an excellent choice to work in shallow creek ditches, as well as in and around secondary points and docks. Experiment with trailer size and type. A Berkley Jerk Shad is a good option for a trailer.

“A crankbait is an excellent choice to cover water in the backs of creeks and pockets, as well as around secondary points, docks and flats this time of year.  The Berkley Frittside crankbait or the Berkley Dredger are good options to cover the varying depth ranges until you find the best one for the day’s conditions. They offer many good shad and crayfish patterns from which to choose.  And as always, make sure to visit our local treasure, Hammonds Fishing, to pick up what you need!

“The worm and jig are always an option in the springtime. A Georgia Jig on rocky/clay secondary points and around docks is always a good choice for spots or largemouth.  If the fish are ultra-finicky, don’t forget the old reliable Carolina rig to present your soft plastics. Drag or drift this rig slowly over secondary points or spawning flats for some potentially awesome results.  Also, when fishing a Georgia Blade Jig and worm combo, consider using a lighter jig head.  I often choose a 1/8-oz. head or lighter to target spawning fish. I will often tip this with a 4-inch Berkley Hit Worm, as opposed to a traditional offering of 6 inches or more.  I often work the baits slowly in this situation to trigger strikes.

“While the winter to spring/early spawn transition can be a tricky time of year to catch fish, it can be awesome if you remain versatile and open-minded in your approach.  Use the tips and techniques noted above to guide your fishing during the spawn, and you will enjoy some great success.  See you on the water!”

If you would like all the detailed information on these emerging pre-spawn patterns, you may purchase Jimbo’s Weekly Video Fishing Report here:

Linesides: Capt. Ron Mullins with The Striper Experience reports, “It’s that time of the year to put away the downlines for a couple of months and time to break out your Captain Mack’s Perfect Planer Boards and get ready to fish your herring and small to medium gizzard shad much higher in the water column. As the water warms, the bait will begin to relate more to the upper water column in 10 to 15 feet of water versus 10 to 15 feet off the bottom. Planer board setups are Okuma Coldwater 153 or 203 line-counter reels, 15- to 20-lb. mono or braid for the main line attached to medium-action rods like Captain Mack’s Okuma Live Bait Rod. The main line is tied to a quality Hi Seas Mighty Mini crane swivel with a bead above the swivel to prevent the board from sliding down the line to the hook and knocking off the fish. Attach 5 to 6 feet of 12- to 14-lb.  Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon to a No. 2 to 3/0 Gamakatsu Octopus Circle hook, depending on the size of the bait you are using. Late winter and early spring put your bait 30 to 60 feet back, attach the board to your line with the rear pigtail clip, attach line to the pinch clip and let out another 60 to 70 feet of line. The board will pull out to the side of the boat and allow you to repeat this process with 30 to 35 feet of line out after attaching the second board. Repeat this process on the other side of the boat and then put two flatlines back 50 to 75 feet straight behind the boat. Pull these six rods at 1-1.2 mph wherever you are seeing concentrations of bait on your Humminbird Helix or Solix graph in the backs of the creeks, over secondary creek points or in open-water creek and river channels. If the herring shortage continues this month, the Captain Mack’s Mini Mack bite will continue to catch lots of fish during March. The Mini Macks can be trolled behind the bigger Perfect Planer Boards while using your Minn Kota Instinct or Ulterra at 0.8-1.2 mph anywhere you would be pulling bait behind boards or on freelines. The u-rigs being trolled while using the big motor at 2.5-3 mph will also be effective in the same areas. All of these techniques will allow you to cover a lot of water, which will be the ticket in March as the fish will be moving around the lake a lot looking for food. Continue to look for the birds that are diving on bait that has been forced to the surface. If you are only looking for big fish, try pulling a large herring or medium shad very close to sandy or rocky banks on sunny afternoons. This water will warm quicker than other areas, which will attract the bait, and the big fish will be looking for a big meal as they begin getting ready for the spawn that will begin in late March through late April. Also, keep a 3/8-oz. Captain Mack’s Chipmunk Jig, a small Chug Bug, a Gunfish or Top Dog walking plug tied on for surfacing schooling fish that will become more active throughout the month. This Lent season many will have made a commitment to fast from food, drink, social media or some other indulgence. If you have, make it about God and not yourself. Use that time to focus on His love and grace for sending His Son to die for our sins. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time,” 1 Peter 5:6

Capt. Clay Cunningham, of Catching Not Fishing Lake Lanier Fishing Guides, reports, “Freelines are the primary tactic in March. Rig up a Penn Fathom Linecounter reel with 15-lb. Trilene Big Game line, a 12-lb. Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon leader, a Spro 80-lb. Power Swivel and  a Gamakatsu 1/0 Octopus hook tipped with the herring on a size 4 hook with a medium shiner if herring are unavailable. This setup is the Lanier staple. The Penn Fathom Linecounter really helps your success rate as you are able to know exactly how far back your baits are behind the boat. Start at 120 feet and make changes as necessary. Some days a small split-shot or an additional 30 feet of line can make a huge difference from day to day. Pull the freelines at 1 mph across humps and points and in some cases over open water. So far, open water has been best on the south end and the banks have been better on the north end and in the backs of the creeks. If the fish move more to the banks, keep a Penn Battalion 7-foot medium-light spinning rod paired with a Penn Conflict with light line on the deck. Tie on a Captain Mack 1/4-oz. bucktail in white or chartreuse or a Berkley Fusion 1/4-oz. jig head tipped with a white paddle tail and beat the bank. Some days the plastics outperform live bait. Another great bait on the banks is the Berkley Stunna jerkbait. Most people think of the jerkbait being for bass, but big stripers love the Stunna jerkbait in the spring. The use of forward-facing sonar has increased the jerkbaits popularity as you can see the stripers eat the jerkbait in real time on your sonar. Also start thinking about a Berkley Surge Shad in bone later in the month. The topwater bite will be around the corner and continue into April.”

Lake Lanier Page: Archived Articles, News & Fishing Reports

Crappie: Capt. Josh Thornton reports, “Crappie are suspended  5 to 15 feet deep on open-water brush and docks. Crappie are staging for the spawn. Over the next two months, they will be laying eggs in waves. Please consider only keeping what you plan on eating.  That way we will have plenty of fish to catch next year. Look for creeks or coves near a main channel for roaming fish in 2 to 4 feet of water . Try colors yellow and brown, green and black and clear with sparkles. The gear I recommend for crappie fishing is an ACC Crappie Stix one-piece rod and reel with 6-lb. test  K9 line, along with Garmin Livescope and Power-Pole. For more information and tips, please visit my websites and If you’re interested in trying local crappie tournaments, check out National Crappie League Georgia trail on Facebook for more information.”


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