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Big Lanier Spots Move Shallow Early

You can catch big numbers of spotted bass on deep structure, but for quality fish, try for the shallow bite in February.

Ronnie Garrison | February 8, 2018

Some of the biggest spots in Lake Lanier are already moving to staging areas on rocky points near spawning areas in early February. You can catch a personal best spot right now by fishing crankbaits on these points.

Lanier has developed a well-deserved reputation for producing magnum spots over the past few years. Five-pounders are weighed in during most tournaments. Bigger spotted bass are caught all year long, but rght now is one of the best times to catch a magnum spot over 5 pounds.

With deep, clear water, standing timber and rocky shorelines, Lanier is perfect habitat for spots. The introduction of blueback herring gave the spots an excellent food source, and this big baitfish has made them grow big and fat. All of these factors have combined to produce a trophy spotted bass fishery here in north Georgia.

Jim Farmer lives a few miles from Bald Ridge Creek, and he also has a lake house on that end of the lake and fishes Lanier a lot. Jim is well known for his painted crankbaits and other hard baits painted with custom colors, specifically designed to entice the spotted bass on Lanier. Jim guides on the lake, showing fishermen where and how to use his baits to catch big fish.

Jim Farmer shows off the quality of spotted bass Lake Lanier can produce. This magnum spot was caught by former Braves pitcher Mark Wohlers, a friend of Jim’s who was fishing the same day Jim was showing us 10 locations for February bass.

After retiring from the Navy, Jim moved to Lanier and started making planer boards that were very popular with striper and cat fishermen. He fished for stripers a lot at first, but then Jim got into bass fishing and got hooked on Lanier’s big, aggressive spotted bass. He joined the Greater Atlanta Bass Club, and Jim also fishes the Bulldog BFL trail statewide and Hammond’s and charity tournaments on Lanier. This past December he and his partner won the North Georgia Fall Classic, a UGA fishing team fundraiser, on Lanier with 19.6 pounds. They had big fish, a 5-lb., 12-oz. spot.

“The biggest spots in the lake move up to spawn earlier than most fishermen realize,” Jim said.

There are still a lot of fish deep, and you can catch good numbers of bass this month out on deep structure, but Jim likes to catch big fish shallow. He uses a variety of baits but relies on his crankbaits most of the time.

For February fishing, Jim will have tied on a couple of crankbaits that run different depths, a jerkbait, a jig ’n pig, a shaky head and a spoon. The spoon is for catching the deeper fish, but the other baits are all fished on rocky points near spawning areas.

Jim took me out in early January—the week after the first extremely cold week we had—to show me the following 10 locations for February bass on Lainer.

 

No. 1: N 34º 12.147 – W 84º 05.019 — Going into the small creek off Bald Ridge Creek that has the Bald Ridge Public Use area boat ramp, stop on the rocky point on your right. It is the first one upstream of the point with 6BR marker on it. This is a good example of one of the first places big spots stage on this time of year. As soon as the water starts to warm a little in early February, especially after two or three warm sunny days in a row, spots go to points like this one. This point provides a smorgasbord of food for them, but they really like crayfish, a high-protein food bass love when feeding prespawn.

Start on the upstream side of the point, and fish around it to the smaller rocky point on the downstream side going into the cove. Jim says crawfish are active when the water is 50 to 58 degrees, and his “sand key” color is designed to match crayfish color this time of year. His crankbait has rattles to mimic the sound of crawfish moving on the rocks.

The rocks here provide ledges for the fish to hide under and ambush food. Fish around the points slowly, casting your crankbait into a couple of feet of water, and then bump the rocks out as deep as you can. Jim caught a small keeper spot here the day we fished.

No. 2: N 34º 11.874 – W 84º 04.743 — Going down Bald Ridge Creek, there is a small creek on the left on the downstream side of channel marker 6BR. The downstream point of this creek—across from the marked point—is another good staging area for big spots. It has smaller rocks, but they are clean, without the “snot weed” that grows in some places. Jim said Lanier bass don’t like the snot weed.

There are two points here to fish. Keep your boat out in 16 to 18 feet of water, and use your crankbait. Jim uses his 1.5 square-bill or the deeper-running Castaway Tackle Goto crankbait that runs 8 to 10 feet deep. Bump the rocks all around these two points.

Jim fishes his crankbaits on light line to get them down deeper. He says you have to have good line. He uses Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon in 6- or 8-lb. test. A smooth drag is important for fighting big spots, and Jim checks his line on almost every cast for nicks from bumping rocks.

Crank the plug down, and then work it slowly with rod pulls and twitches to make it rattle and dart along the bottom. Try to imitate the movement of crayfish. When a fish hits, sweep the rod a little to hook them, but don’t set the hook hard with the light line.

No 3: N 34º 12.703 – W 84º 03.794 — Go up Young Deer Creek past the small island on your right with 4YD marker on it. Across the creek, a point runs way out to a shoal marker, and there is construction work on the bank. Stop on the upstream point of the pocket just downstream of the construction area.

This pocket is a good spawning area, and spots stage on this first rocky point. The point is not big but has rock and clay that crayfish thrive in, and shad and herring move across this point, too. Fish a crankbait here, but also try a jerkbait and jig. The jerkbait imitates shad or herring, while the jig look like bream or crawfish. All are preferred food sources for spotted bass.

No. 4: N 34º 13.250 – W 84º 03.750 — Going up Young Deer, there a big island is on the left with 5YD marker on it. On the right is a creek with Young Deer Access ramp in it. As you go into that small creek, a shoal marker is on your right, and there’s a house with an American flag on the bank. This is a hump connected to a long rocky point, and it holds fish in February.

Stop on the end of this rock-and-clay point, and fish the upstream side and the end of it. The channel swings in on the upstream side and gives the bass quick access to deep water. Jim says here and t other places, a few warm days will pull spotted bass up shallow, but they drop back to deeper water after a cold front for a few days.

Bump the rocks with crankbaits, and work a jerkbait over them. Also crawl a jig ’n pig down the drop. Work it slowly and out deeper, especially after a cold front. Even after a cold front, bass will still hold here and feed, just a little deeper.

No. 5: N 34º 12.074 – W 84º 02.319 — Back out on the main lake, run up to the long point with Shadburn Ferry ramp on it. The ramp is in a ditch that holds bass all winter. Jim caught four of his five bass in the December UGA tournament here.

Fish the rocky point with the shoal marker on it using all your baits. Also check the ditch. A good winter pattern that started early this year is catching fish out of ditches like this one. Bass will hold in the ditches out to 50 feet deep, and you can see them on your electronics.

Early in the morning, work the back of the ditch around the ramp with a jerkbait. Bass move to the back to feed shallower, and then they go back out deep as the sun gets bright. Later in the day, find the fish down deep on your electronics, and drop a spoon to them. Jim likes the chrome 3/4-oz. War Eagle jigging spoon.

Drop your spoon down to the bottom, pop it up a couple of feet, and then let it fall back on tight line. Be ready to set the hook as it falls—that is when most of the bites happen. You can often watch your spoon on your electronics and see the fish follow it.

No. 6: N 34º 12.251 – W 84º 02.434 — An island forms the side of the ditch opposite of the ramp. Go around to the other side of the island, and fish the rocky point there. This is a good point to fish, especially later in the month. It is a little farther back from the main lake, so fish to move to this point a little later.

Pick apart this point with all your baits, fishing all the way around it. Bump the rocks with crankbaits and a jig. Jim likes a crawfish-colored River Bend Custom Baits jig by Richie Westfelt in 3/8- to 1/2-oz. His Castaway Tackle jerkbait is a 110-style medium diver that he paints in white or cold steel blue. Try different jerkbait cadences on each cast until the fish tell you what they want that day.

No. 7: N 34º 15.657 – W 83º 57.998 — Run up above Browns Bridge, and go into the first creek on your left on the downstream side of Chestatee Bay. Islands divide the mouth of this creek from the main bay. Go into this creek that runs parallel to Browns Bridge Road. The point on the right has a big house on it. The point has a marker on it on the upstream side of a ditch. This is where Jim caught the 5-lb., 12-oz. spot in the UGA tournament, and he caught a good keeper spot here the day we fished.

This point, which Jim calls “Big House Point,” drops off on both sides into the ditch and creek channel. Bass spawn in the back of the ditch and stage on the point. Fish around the point with all your baits, keeping your boat in about 40 feet of water and casting to the rocks.

No. 8: N 34º 16.711 – W 83º 57.130 – Go to the northwest side of Chestatee Bay—opposite and a little upstream of the islands on the south-east side as you’re heading back toward the Long Hollow ramp. There is a double point on your right with a small pocket between them. There are three small leaning pines grouped together on the downstream point. Start on the downstream side of the downstream point, and fish all the way around it.

Start about 100 feet from the point, and work around it to the big rocks on the upstream side. Fish stage and feed all along this bank and on the point. Try all your baits, but Jim says this is a good shaky-head point as it has some brushpiles and other wood cover on it.

Jim uses a 3/16- to 1/4-oz. Spotsticker Screwball jig head and puts a Mattingly Customs worm by Josh Mattingly on it. He says those worms come in some unique colors that give the heavily pressured Lanier spots a different look. Jim dips all his plastic baits in chartreuse JJ’s Magic to give them added color and smell that attracts spots. This point, like the others, gets a lot of sun, especially in the afternoon. Jim says that helps warm the water and make the fish more active. Work quickly with moving baits, and then slowly work the shaky head all around the point, probing for wood and rocks and shaking it as you move it along the bottom.

No. 9: N 34º 16.833 – W 83º 57.050 — After fishing around the big rocks on the upstream side of the point at hole No. 8, go across the cove to the other side where a line of blowdowns on the bank come toward the water. Fish from there out and around this point. It is flatter, with white rocks along a clay bank.

Fish all your baits, trying both faster-moving baits and slower ones. Remember, it is important to keep your crankbait in contact with the bottom, and make it dart, bump and rattle.

No. 10: N 34º 14.126 – W 84º 02.810 — Back down the lake, go up Six Mile Creek till you can see the bridge on your right. Go straight ahead into the small double creek, and stop on the point between the two arms. There is rip-rap around the point and a ridge of rocks coming out off the end of it.

Both arms of this creek are good spawning pockets, and a lot of big spots stage on the point and feed. There is chunk rock on a clay bottom all around the point, and those rocks are what you want to bump with your crankbait, jig pig and shaky head. Fish all the way around it with all your baits.

All these places are holding bass right now and will get better as the days get longer and the water warms a little. Give them a try with Jim’s baits or fish your favorites. You may catch the spot of a lifetime.

Follow Jim on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfarm44 to see his baits and the spots he catches.

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