Lake Lanier Fishing Report – February 2024

GON Staff | January 31, 2024

Lanier: Level: 1.2 feet below 1071. Temp: 48-51 degrees. Clarity: The main lake is clear and gets a slight stain as you get above Browns Bridge. Once you are above the Highway 53 bridges, or halfway back in the south creeks, then you will encounter an increasing amount of muddy water due to all of the rain the past few weeks. There is lots of debris all over the lake as the lake has risen over 6 feet in the last six weeks.

Bass: Guide Jimbo Mathley with Jimbo’s Lake Lanier Spotted Bass Guide Service reports, “The early prespawn on Lake Lanier can be a fantastic time to catch a huge spotted or largemouth bass. The fish have been lethargic due to the colder water, and biologically, they are triggered to begin feeding in preparation for the arduous spawning process that will soon follow. Typically, the female largemouth begin the process first. What triggers these fish to move into prespawn? Where will these big fish emerge? How do you catch them?  These are all excellent questions, the answers to which we will explore in detail in this month’s report. The biggest factor in the bass beginning their trek shallower is the steady lengthening of daylight we experience as the calendar progresses forward. The longer days are nature’s signal to the bass that it is time to start focusing on the reproduction cycle. This integral need will also trigger a feeding urge. Ideally, from a weather standpoint, look for a three- to four-day period of stable weather accompanied by a warming trend. The trend upward in temperature does not have to be huge. Just a degree or two in surface temperature can make the difference and trigger the fish to move shallower. Once the warming trend begins, the fish will move shallower to feed in waves. Fish travel much like we do—on ‘highways.’ Fish highways include areas like the main river channel, creek channels and ditches/drains within or near those channels. The bait and fish move methodically along these paths and look for cover to which they can relate for food, protection and often in the case of the bass, ambush opportunity. Understand that fish are not going to randomly appear. They travel these highways as we have discussed and seek likely stopping points along the way. As I pursue the ditches and channels within the creek near areas that I have been catching fish, I look for likely stopping points; a secondary point with deep water nearby, for example. Other viable locations include: deep pockets with a small flat or ledge near the point of entry, small bays, or ‘guts’ that receive all-day sun and are located right next to the creek or river channel. Boat docks located over or near a channel bend or creek-channel ditch in deeper water can be excellent choices, too, particularly if the area in which the dock is located receives all-day sun. Also, focus on pockets that are protected from a northern wind. The main body of water can also be an excellent location to target early prespawn bass. When fishing the main lake during the early prespawn period, I like to focus on points and humps that are near the main river channel and offer sharp contour breaks (drains) and therefore ease of access to feeding flats or ledges within these areas from deep water. Obviously, cover in these areas will provide an ambush spot for these prespawn monsters, so a well-placed brushpile can improve your results. Now that we have explored the timing and areas of pursuit of early prespawn bass, let’s examine some possible lure choices and techniques to catch these fish. In selecting and working a lure, remember that the water temperatures are still traditionally cold during the early, prespawn period, and therefore the fish’s metabolism is reduced. The fish will move slower, and so should your lure presentation. As far as lure colors, I tend to stick with natural colors in the spring as I do all year long. Green, brown and white are generally found somewhere in the lures I am utilizing in the spring. If you are not getting bit, switch colors or lure type. One of my favorite early spring lures is a jerkbait. These lures mimic expiring baitfish and represent an easy meal for lethargic bass. I prefer a deeper-diving model, such as the Berkley Stunna in early spring. Work these lures in the areas mentioned above with a very slow cadence. Offer small twitches or short pulls of the jerkbait followed by LONG pauses. Vary your cadence until you find the right combination; let the fish tell you the way they want it and stick with that retrieve. A Georgia Blade Shad Spin can be a very productive lure in the early prespawn period, as well as throughout the spawn and into postspawn. Work the lure by slow-rolling the bait in the likely areas we have discussed. In most cases, maintaining contact with the bottom is important. I prefer a boot-tail trailer this time of year. It imparts more vibration in the lure and allows you to work the lure more slowly. A crankbait like the Rapala Shad Rap is a great choice in the early spring. If the fish are not shallow on the flats and I am unable to get bites with the shallow-running models, I will switch to a medium-depth crankbait, such as one of the Berkley Flicker Shad medium divers. If this fails, I will probe the deeper depths on the ends of flats, points and humps with a deep runner, such as a Berkley Dredger or Berkley Money Badger. Work these baits slowly and attempt to deflect the bait off of cover or the bottom as much as possible. When all else fails and when the fish are bottom-locked, do not ignore the Georgia Blade jig head/worm combo, as well as the Georgia Jig. Drag these baits in likely areas very slowly, imparting periods of motionlessness on the bait.  Often bites will occur this time of year when you are simply allowing the bait to remain still following a slow drag or slight hop. Early prespawn is a great time of year to fish. Often, this is the time when you are most likely to catch the bass of your life. Get out there and fish. See you on the water!”

Lake Lanier Page: Archived Articles, News & Fishing Reports

Stripers: Capt. Clay Cunningham, of Catching Not Fishing Lake Lanier Fishing Guides, reports, “Looks like the striper fishing this February is going to be a month of change. Right now the water temperature is 48 degrees, but it is going to warm fast with the recent rain. The recent rains have stained a large percentage of the lake. Live bait has continued to be the best pattern over the deep bait, but it will not last much longer. The bait will progressively move shallower as spring gets closer and closer. Herring have been the best bait all winter, but trout have been working, as well. Be prepared with as many rods as possible. Keep as many Shakespeare Striper Rods rigged as possible with Penn Fathom Linecounter reels spooled with 15-lb. Trilene Big Game. Rig most of these striper rods with downlines. The downline is pretty much a Carolina rig for live bait. Tie on a 2-oz. Captain Mack’s Swivel Sinker, a 4-foot leader of Trilene 100% 12-lb. fluorocarbon and a Gamakatsu size 1/0 octopus hook for the trout and a size 1/0 Gamakatsu octopus hook for the herring. The herring have been large all winter is the reason for the larger hook size than normal. Great electronics, like the Humminbird Solix, will greatly increase your success, as well. You should be able to see your bait almost hit the fish on the head with the electronics. Also, the Down Imaging of the Solix allows you to see into the bait with more detail. Many times you will see fish with Down Imaging that is hard to see with old-school 2D. If you want to use artificials, the Berkley Fusion 3/8- and 1/4-oz. bucktails will come into play in February. In clear water, go with the white bucktail and the chartreuse in stained water. Rig up a Penn Conflict 3000 with 10-lb. Trilene Big Game on a 7-foot medium Penn rod and you are ready for battle. If you prefer a baitcaster, match up an Abu Garcia Revo with an Abu Garcia Veritas 7-foot medium casting rod. Do not use heavier than 10-lb. line. Heavier line will decrease your casting distance. This pattern will be best once the bait moves to the backs of the creeks. Also of note, February can be the big-fish month of the year as the females begin to feel the urge of the spring spawn. The metabolism of the big females will increase, and they will be looking for a meal. Be sure to check all your lines for minor frays and knots in the line. Fishing line is just like a chain and only as strong as the weakest link. With the recent rains, I expect the gizzard shad bite to be better than average this February on the freelines mentioned earlier. The stripers are rebounding from the parasite that hurt the big fish a few years ago. Look for more big fish to show up this year. Last year we saw a few. This year should be even better. Go catch a big one.”

Capt. Ron Mullins with The Striper Experience reports, “The winter schools of stripers are getting pushed in and out of the creeks with all of the storms, which have made our winter fishing a little tougher. The creeks on the north end of the lake, like Ada, Gainesville and Little River, have more fish than the southern creeks like Bald Ridge, Four Mile and Flowery Branch, but don’t count those southern creeks out because there is nowhere near the amount of pressure on them. First thing in the morning, look for huge schools of bait in 60 to 80 feet of water about one third of the way back in the creek channels. Most of this bait will be within 10 to 20 feet from the bottom. You will see fish on your Humminbird Solix or Helix either mixed in with the fish or even slightly higher. Start your day searching for feeding fish by stealth trolling a spread of Captain Mack’s Mini Macks. We will start with two rigs out 30 to 35 feet and then attach them to Perfect Planer Boards and then run them 25 to 30 feet away from the boat. Then run two more on either side of the boat, as you would a downline, 25 to 35 feet down. Pull around the areas you are seeing the biggest concentrations of bait at 0.9-1.1 mph with your Minn Kota Ulterra or Terrova. Mix up the colors in your rigs, as well. The white with white/red head from Captain Mack’s is the go to, but in the more stained water, go with a Striper Tackle Ultra Pro Spin or Ultra Pro Swimbait head in blue or chartreuse. Pair the 3/8- or 1/2-oz. sizes of these heads to your Mini Mack and you will get a bit heavier rig that will stay down closer to the strike area you are targeting without it riding up while trolling at 1 mph. This stealth trolling technique will allow you cover a lot of water and get your baits in front of a lot more scattered fish. Once you start seeing the fish group up, go ahead and pull the boards in (if they are not responding to the faster presentation) and put out your downlines with herring and small trout as your bait. Slow down your trolling speed to 0.3-0.5 mph and continue to pull in and around the bait you are marking. Keep the bait in the 35-foot range, as this will clear most of the trees. When you have a clean bottom (no trees), then Spot-Lock on these fish and get the bait down to within 5 feet of the bottom. Striper Tackle Fat Hawg and Jr. Hawg Spoons will be the other artificials to use in February when you get around big groups of fish. They can be fished vertically like their big brother Boss Hawg, but they can also be cast out away from the boat and slow-rolled back after letting them sink down 20 to 30 feet. If you are not a fan of the cold, get out in the afternoons and look for fish in shallower water as the bait moves toward the backs of the creeks as the water warms slightly. We will spend some afternoons in February pulling big baits (10- to 15-inch shad) on Perfect Planer Boards up on the bank in 5 to 10 feet of water looking for just one big fish. You will not catch a lot of fish, but you have a shot at a big one this month.  Earthly riches cannot get us into the Kingdom of Heaven; actually they can be a hindrance. Jesus says in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We can only be saved through Christ and not through possessions. Chasing riches on earth will cost us all riches in heaven, so instead of pursuing riches, pursue the one who left riches behind to pursue you.”

Crappie: Capt. Josh Thornton reports, “Crappie are suspended 5 to 15 feet deep on open-water brush and docks. Look for creeks or coves near a main channel for roaming fish. Try using minnows on a slip bobber or a small profile jig. 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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