Big February Spotted Bass On Lake Lanier

The ditch-bite pattern is still prime, but for magnum spots fish shallow rocky points.

Ronnie Garrison | January 31, 2024

Paul Driskell with a fat Lake Lanier spotted bass. Anglers can catch plenty of 2- to 3-lb. spots on ditches, and there are 4-lb. and better spots on shallow, rocky points.

Anglers are learning to go to the ditches at Lake Lanier during the winter months for numbers of spotted bass, but you can also fish rocky points for kicker-size fish to feel the fight of a magnum Lanier spot. The ditch bite is in full swing this month, and you can catch a lot of bass, but most will be less than 4 pounds. For those 4-lb. plus spots, go to rocky points in February.

Lanier has been called the premier spot lake in the country, and 20-lb. plus five-fish limits in most tournaments back up that claim. The lake is amazing for producing 3-lb. spots day after day, even though fishing pressure is very high.

Located just northeast of Atlanta on the Chattahoochee River, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lake at 37,000 acres is the largest lake totally within our state. It receives tremendous pleasure boat traffic and is almost unfishable during the day in warm weather. But spotted bass love the cold winter water, and February is one of the best months to catch them.

If you have fished tournaments on Lanier, you are familiar with Paul Driskell. He has been fishing Lanier for about 35 years and competes in many local tournaments. After competing on the FLW trail and fishing the FLW Cup in 2005, he decided to stick with local tournaments due to the cost of time and money on big trails.

Paul now fishes the Skeeter Trail and many local tournaments, and he does well. He and his partner, Zoom Bait Company’s General Manager Eddie Wortham, have finished at or near the top in tournament point standings the past few years.

Paul and Greg Holley won the Lanier Ameris Bank/Hammonds tournament put on by Scott Barnes on Dec. 3 with five bass weighing 21.99 pounds. And Paul can catch bass on other lakes, too. He and Terry Bently came in sixth place in the Hadden Outdoors 2nd Annual “The 20” tournament on Clarks Hill on Dec. 30. And he said he caught bass on Clarks Hill the same way he catches them on Lanier.

“You can catch a limit of spots weighing 15 to 18 pounds by fishing ditches in most tournaments,” Paul said.

And that is a great catch for most of us. But to win tournaments, you need some of the 4-lb. plus fish that you are more likely to catch on shallow rocky points.

“This time of year I stick with two baits almost exclusively,” Paul said.

He will have a soft swimbait on a jig head on a couple rods and a Zoom Fluke Stick on a jig head on a couple other rods. They vary only in color and maybe jig-head weight. Paul says you can catch a fish with a spoon, too, but he goes to it only in desperation, since he knows bigger fish tend to hit his other two baits.

Paul showed me the following 10 places in January on a cold day and fished all of them between daylight and noon. He was disappointed to catch “only” three 4-lb. spots to go with several 2.5- to 3-pounders. His 18-lb. limit would not win most local tournaments, and he always goes for the win. Most of us would be happy catching about 10 spotted bass with the best five weighing 18 pounds in less than five hours of fishing.

Fish the following 10 holes to see the kinds of places Paul fishes in February. Try his choice of baits and learn how to catch big winter Lanier spotted bass.

No. 1: N 34º 13.507 – W 84º 00.130 — Go into the cove upstream of Two Mile Access back to where it narrows down before it splits. There will be a round point on your left and a dock on your right. Straight ahead is a secondary point between the two arms. This is a good example of the kind of ditch Paul fishes in February.

Stop with your boat in about 35 feet of water, and fish the ditches and the center point with both your baits. Paul says forward-facing sonar makes catching ditch spots much easier since you can see the fish and make each cast count.

Without FFS, make a long cast with your swimbait up toward the point, let it sink to the bottom, and then slowly reel it long just inches above the bottom. Paul emphasizes it is important to keep your bait near the bottom. He rigs a Tennessee Shad 3.3 Keitech or a 3.8 Zoom Z Swimmer on a 3/8-oz. Dirty Jigs jig unless high wind makes him use a heavier head.

He says it takes a little patience to let this lighter bait sink to the bottom, but it is worth it since you won’t get hung as easily. And Paul thinks the lighter head and slow sink draws more bites.

Cover the entire area where the point runs out to the junction of the two ditches. If you are here early, work farther back into the ditches—the bass often push the bait shallower early.

The day we fished some big spots and stripers were feeding on top here. They had pushed shad up so shallow that a heron was standing in a couple inches of water and feasting on them on the point. And Paul could see the fish deeper on forward-facing sonar. But these feeding fish just would not hit anything Paul tried. When that happens, it is time to move on to another spot.

No. 2: N 34º 13.205 – W 84º 00.223 — Go around the point with Two Mile Access ramp, staying out past the island if the water is down. Stop in the mouth of the narrow cove going back on the downstream side of the ramp. Blowdowns line the bank on the right going into the cove, and there’s a house in the very back. Stop way out in the mouth of this ditch in 35 to 40 feet of water.

Ease around until you see fish out here and drop your swimbait or Fluke Stick down to the bottom, or cast them and slowly fish the baits back. Paul says you can slow-roll your swimbait, even with an exposed hook, through the timber without hanging up if you are careful. The fish are much easier to see on forward-facing sonar, but an angler with experience using an old flasher can find them.

A green pumpkin Zoom Fluke Stick rigged on a 3/16-oz. Dirty Jigs jig head slowly fished straight under the boat or worked slowly through timber will also get bites. Paul says sometimes fish want the Fluke Stick with its two small tails, but if he is not getting bites, he will break them off, making it a straight stick bait. He often colors the tail of the Fluke Stick with chartreuse dye.

No. 3: N 34º 12.612 – W 83º 56.606 — Go across the lake to the small island off the tip of Aqualand Marina and go behind the island. A funnel ditch goes in between the island and bank, and bass use it just like any other ditch. Standing timber in it makes it better. Start fishing around the timber in 40 feet of water.

Paul says this is the place Paul Mueller won the Elite BASS tournament in February a few years ago. Look for the bass, but if you don’t see them, try your baits right on the bottom on the edges of the timber. Spots will also sit right on the bottom and you won’t see them until they move to hit your bait.

Also try slow-rolling your swimbait just over the top of the timber. The bass will often hold right in the top limbs or slowly swim through them looking for food. Offer them your swimbait.

No. 4: N 34º 13.124 – W 83º 57.352 — Go to the point with Old Federal Campground and idle toward Lanier Sailing Club on the downstream side. About halfway down the point, a danger marker sits very close to the bank. It was out of the water when we were there. It sits on a rockpile that marks a long point and roadbed running out to the channel.

Paul starts by setting up out where the top of the roadbed is about 25 feet deep with his boat on one side, and he casts his Fluke Stick across the roadbed. He wants his bait to come up one side, bump across the top, and then go down the closer side. Fish it slowly—with the light jig you need to make sure it stays in contact with the rocks on the roadbed.

There are brushpiles on the roadbed, too. Fish the area where the top goes from 20 to 40 feet deep. The spots will hold here before going up the roadbed to spawn on the rockpiles along this bank all the way to the sailing club.

No. 5: N 34º 12.981 – W 83º 56.779 — Go into the second ditch past the sailing club past the shoal marker in the mouth of it. Stop in the middle of the ditch out from the secondary point on the left. The point runs out to the channel and standing timber is on it and in the channel.

With timber like this place has, Paul stays on the edge of it. He does not try to get down to the bottom inside the stand of timber. He says the bass use the edges and tops to look for food so he concentrates there. You can fish both a swimbait and Fluke Stick along the edges or on top of the timber, slow-rolling them or dropping them straight down.

Bait balls are critical for finding bass. Spots follow the herring and shad, and finding the bait usually means bass are nearby. If you see balls of bait near the bottom, fish your swimbait under it. Paul caught a 4-lb. spot here on his swimbait on the edge of the timber in 42 feet of water.

No. 6: N 34º 12.425 – W 83º 57.133 — Go straight across Chattahoochee Bay to the last arm on that side. Go back about even with the sailboat anchored on the left side. It is across from a secondary point that narrows the ditch and there is timber along the channel.

Fish both your baits here. Paul caught a 4-lb. spot he saw on sonar swimming on top of the timber. It hit his Zoom Z-Swimmer slow-rolled just over the top of the trees 42 feet down. That will work without forward-facing sonar, but you have to blind cast your bait and count it down to keep it over the timber. With FFS you can see the fish, cast to it and watch your bait and how the fish reacts.

Paul caught a second 4-pounder here by dropping his Fluke Stick down to a group of fish he saw straight under the boat 52 feet down. When he sees fish near the bottom, he drops his bait through them to the bottom. He says he wants them to follow his bait to the bottom, indicating they are more likely to eat it. He then “trembles” the bait, not moving it much.

No. 7: N 34º 13.293 – W 83º 57.568 — For a change of pace and to see the kind of places Paul fishes to catch his kicker fish, go out to the point at Old Federal Campground with the small rock hump/island off the end of it. Stop just downstream of the main-lake point. When the lake is down, you will see a rock spur running downstream off it. If the lake is full, look for the spur running out from the rip-rap and natural rock off the last little pine tree on the bank.

In February, big bass are attracted to big rocks like the ones here. They will feed in 3 to 20 feet of water. You won’t get many bites, but you are more likely to catch a big spot.

Paul keeps his boat in 20 feet of water and casts his Fluke Stick up to 3 feet of water. He keeps it moving, trying to avoid dropping down into cracks in the rocks, and he shakes it gently.

If he sees a fish directly under the boat he will drop the Fluke Stick straight down and “tremble” it. He does not give it much action at all. His method is similar to the old “doodling” but with less shaking.

No. 8: N 34º 14.446 – W 83º 57.786 ­— Go across the lake to the long point just downstream of Port Royale Dry Stacks. An island sits way off it, and the saddle going to the island is shallow.

Stop on the downstream side of the point. With the lake down, several brushpiles were showing out off the bank, and rockpiles were on the bank. The rocks run out deeper and that is what Paul targets here.

Make long casts with your Fluke Stick, covering water from 3 to 20 feet deep. Bump every rock you can find. Slowly work from the tip of the point down to the red ball marker.

No. 9: N 34º 16.866 – W 83º 57.156 — Go up under Brown’s Bridge across the mouth of Chestatee Bay to the creek downstream of Keith Bridge Park area. This creek has two smaller arms on the right. There is timber in it, but the timber stops about even with the last rocky point on your left.

Go to the back edge of the timber and look for fish there.  Then go toward the back and watch for an old roadbed that tops out about 15 feet deep and then drops to 40 feet. The fish here usually hold between the timber edge and the roadbed.

Paul says more and more fish will move to this area early pre-spawn during February. Make long casts with swimbait and Fluke Stick, working them near the bottom from timber to roadbed.

No. 10: N 34º 16.718 – W 83º 57.816 — Go back toward Long Hollow ramp and into the cove on your right before the small island near the bank. Three ditches enter this cove and a roadbed crosses the middle point near the back. There is a lot of rock on the roadbed about 28 to 35 feet deep where it crosses the point. Sit about 20 feet deep off the side of the road, and cast your Fluke Stick to the rocks, working it slowly on top of them.

All these places were holding spotted bass in January, and bass can be caught on them now. Follow Paul’s tips, use his baits, and find spotted bass in many similar places on Lanier throughout February.

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