Lake Lanier Spotted Bass On The Fall Feed

Guide Jeff Nail marks a map and sets a pattern for October bass at Lake Lanier.

Ronnie Garrison | September 29, 2023

Lake Lanier guide Jeff Nail with a fat spotted bass (right) and a Lanier unicorn—a largemouth. Jeff said the fishing is excellent in October, but be prepared to catch fish anywhere from 35 feet deep to right on the bank.

Big spotted bass are feeding from the surface down to 35 feet deep at Lake Lanier this month. You can catch October bass all month long on a variety of baits by fishing humps and points that have wood cover.

Lake Lanier’s 40,000 acres on the upper Chattahoochee River northeast of Atlanta is ranked in the top-20 bass fishing lakes in the Southeast by the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society. BASS says, “This may be the best spotted bass lake in the country.”

Local anglers would place it even higher. Lanier’s waters are deep and clear, with acres of deep standing timber, and endless rocky points, humps and banks that are ideal for spotted bass. Fishermen have planted hundreds of brushpiles that attract bass, too.

Most important, Lanier has a large population of blueback herring. This invasive baitfish has provided the spots—combined with the other characteristics of the lake—with ideal conditions that produce 4-lb. spots regularly. Threadfin shad are also an important part of the bass diet at Lake Lanier. Five-fish tournament limits weighing more than 20 pounds are not unusual, and it usually takes a better than 5-lb. spot to win big-fish pots.

After spending 20 years in the Army, Jeff Nail moved to Lanier mostly to be close to his family. He grew up fishing a 3-acre pond in his backyard and got hooked on bass fishing. Jeff now lives about a mile and a half from Tidwell Park, and he started guiding two years ago.

Jeff is well-known in the Lanier area. While we were getting ready to launch his boat, a striper fisherman walked up and said he really enjoyed Jeff’s online videos and reports. Jeff posts a short wrap-up of every trip he takes, with basic info bass fishermen want. And he’s a big fan of the excellent spotted bass fishery at Lake Lanier.

“If a lake produced largemouth the same ratio to the world record as Lanier produces spots, 35-lb.tournament limits would be common,” Jeff said.

And it would take 11- to 12-lb. bass to win the big-fish pot in most tournaments!

“The end of September, bass will still be mostly on their summer pattern, out on main-lake deep brushpiles,” Jeff said.

But by early October, they will be following bait into the creeks and coves and will be setting up a little shallower.  October is a month you can catch big spots anywhere in the water column from the top down to 35 feet deep.

Since the bass are feeding on both small shad and big blueback herring, Jeff will have a variety of rods for different depths and different size baits. For bass that are deeper and looking up, topwater works well. A Gunfish or OG 20 will draw bites when the bass want bigger baits.

To downsize on top, Jeff will go to a smaller Chug Bug or a Jackall Riser. If the bass won’t hit something on top, a soft jerkbait and a hard swimbait will often catch them a little lower in the water column. All those baits can be fished anywhere from brush that is 35 feet deep all the way up to rocks that are only a foot deep. Where you throw them can depend on the day and can change from day to day.

Baits rigged for fish looking down include a shaky head, jig ’n pig and drop shot. These baits will also catch bass from a couple feet deep out to 35 feet deep, depending on how they are rigged.

We fished the following 10 locations so Jeff could mark our map, and he caught fish on most of them. His best five went into double digits, even though it was early for this pattern and we were off the water by midday. These places will be even better now with shorter days and cooler water.

No. 1: N 34º 11.765 – W 84º 03.745 — The shoal at the mouth of Young Deer Creek is a great example of the kind of location, structure and cover Jeff wants to fish at Lanier in October.  It is in the mouth of a creek, so baitfish moving into the creek cross it. Very deep water is near shallow water. And there are rocks and brush to hold fish.

This spot is obvious and gets hit often, but it restocks quickly, and timing is everything. Jeff says you can fish here without a bite, come back an hour later and catch several good fish. That applies to all these holes, so don’t let others fishing them keep you from trying them when they are open. And Jeff says every fisherman is different, using different baits and techniques, so fishing behind others is not always a bad thing.

Start with your boat in 30-plus feet of water and cast up to 4 or 5 feet deep. Start with topwater, especially if you see feeding fish. Work all the way around the hump, fishing it at all angles. Watch for brush and mark it to hit later with a drop shot, shaky head and jig.

If the bass won’t come all the way up to the top to hit, work a soft or hard swimbait over the same areas. Concentrate on the brush and rockpiles with them. Remember, cloudy weather makes the spots roam, so they may hit anywhere on the structure.

No. 2: N 34º 10.138 – W 84º 02.802 — Run across the lake to the mouth of Shoal Creek, and watch for marker 1 SC on the tip of a small island on your left as you are going into the creek. This spot sets up right, with deep water near shallows, brush and rocks.

Stop out from the marker in 30 feet of water and fish into the ditch that comes out on the upstream side of the island. The water drops fast on this side and has rocks and brush to hit. This is another key in October—structure near a good ditch where the fish will head for the winter.

Start with topwater, working a chrome Gunfish 95 or OG 20. If fish will hit these bigger topwaters, stick with them. If you get short swirls or not many strikes, downsize to a Chug Bug or 007R Jackall Riser. Those smaller baits work better when the fish are feeding on threadfin shad or smaller bluebacks.

The day we fished, the spots wanted the smaller, subtle action of the Riser. And when bass spit up a couple of baitfish, the Riser matched them almost perfectly. So always try to match the hatch, using the size bait bass are eating.

The Jackall Riser Bait 007 is a good match for the small threadfin shad the Lanier bass were spitting up.

After fishing topwater, try your other baits, fishing deeper and deeper in the water column until you find the depth the fish want to feed. Keep your boat in 30 feet of water and cast to 10 feet deep. Topwater is the most fun way to catch fish, but don’t get stuck on it if the fish do not want it.

No. 3: N 34º 09.785 – W 84º 01.869 — Go up Shoal Creek to the big island on the right with SC 6 marker on the upstream side. Start at the marker, there are rocks on the bank and they run out deeper. Fish from them to the blowdown down the bank where the bottom changes to sand, then jump across to the rocky point on the upstream side of the ditch and fish it.

Both of these rocky areas have brush on them, the combination you want.  After trying topwater, work a soft jerkbait like a Lanier Baits Jerk Shad, a Fluke or a Trickster. Fish them from right on the surface down to where they start to disappear from sight. One of the biggest spots that Jeff caught hit a Jerk Shad.

The bass at Lanier are very aware of boats, and sonar definitely will alert them to stop feeding. Jeff usually turns off most of his units and makes long casts to overcome spooky fish. That is why you should mark brush you go over and fish it later. Sitting right on top of brush will often spook the fish.

There is a lot of controversy over Forward Facing Sonar like the Garmin Panoptix, but they really show you what is going on. You can see how fish react to your boat and bait, as well as find the fish. It reveals the habits of bass even better than side scan or down scan.

No. 4: N 34º 10.352 – W 83º 59.170 — Go under the Lanier Islands bridge into Big Creek. As a bonus location, Jeff says if the lake is full you can often catch fish around the bridge pilings. Try topwater, a soft swimbait and a shaky head around them.

In Big Creek, run up to the point with University Yacht Club and marker 7BC on it. Go to the left into the big coves and stop out on the danger marker across from the clubhouse at the Yacht Club. This marker is on a hump on the end of a big, long flat point that comes off from the club.

Jeff says this is a big-fish hole.  If shad are moving and there are big schools of them around this hump, it is a good place to catch your personal best spotted bass in October. A west wind will also push baitfish across this shallow hump, making it a great place for the bass to ambush them.

Here and at other places, a little wind rippling the water helps. Jeff stops out on the deep end of the hump and fishes topwater and hard swimbaits over it. He sticks with those two baits since he expects to catch a big fish here, not a lot of fish.

A 5-inch Sweet Baits hard swimbait is Jeff’s favorite, but he will also use a Sebile. Make long casts and work them back quickly, running the bait just under the surface to attract a big spot with a big bait.

No. 5: N 34º 13.105 – W 83º 57.356 — Run up to Chattahoochee Bay and to the first swimming area at Old Federal Park. A danger marker sits near the bank just upstream of the swimming beach. It is on the beginning of a rocky point that runs way out.

Start out on the end of it in 30 feet of water and try your topwater baits, then the jerkbait and swimbaits. Work your bottom-bumping baits all the way from 10 to 30 feet deep, marking any brush you find. Jeff likes a Trickster Custom Baits Sweet Baby Tamale on a 3/16-oz. Davis shaky head. He will sometimes add some color with JJ’s Magic to them, too.

Near the end of the month, be sure to go all the way in to the danger marker and fish your swimbait and jerkbait over the rocks between the marker and the bank. Often in late October, spots will get up right on the bank to feed, so always try the shallows later in the month.

No. 6: N 34º 12.568 – W 83º 56.921 ­— Chattahoochee Bay splits into four arms in the back. Go back to the two danger markers in the middle of the middle two arms. The outer marker is on a hump that is out from a long point. Stop out on the end of the hump and fish all the way around it.

There is some very deep brush out on the end of the hump, and the top of the hump has rocks and there is some shallow brush, too. Fish this entire area from 2 to 35 feet deep with all your baits.

With several ditches for the bass to winter in, this is a great place. Jeff says there are six different places to fish here—marked humps and points. Any of them can hold fish any day, so try them all.

No. 7: N 34º 16.267 – W 83º 58.026 — Run up under Brown’s Bridge and into Chestatee Bay. About halfway back to the Long Hollow ramp marker 1 SH sits on the end of a small island. The island is on the end of a long shallow blowthrough going to the bank, and a second rocky point runs out from the middle of the shallow area. There is a danger marker on the saddle, as well as a second one on the point, and the rocks on it are visible when the lake is 3 feet low.

The second point runs way out and has brush on it, as well as rocks. Fish it like the others, starting out on the end and covering it from top to bottom. Jeff caught our biggest fish of the day here, a fat spot pushing 4 pounds. It hit a Jackall Riser, a bait I had not seen before. He also caught a “Lanier Unicorn,” a keeper largemouth, on it.

“The Riser is a ‘topwater Spy Bait,’ a very subtle bait for when the bite is tough,” Jeff said.

It is thin and sinks, but an upturned metal bill makes it come to the surface and leave a wake when slowly reeled along. It looks just like an injured shad or herring.

No. 8: N 34º 13.070 – W 84º 00.054 — Run down to the Two Mile Access ramp. Straight out from the ramp, an old roadbed crosses a long point running out from the big island between the ramp and Six Mile Creek. Bait and bass moving into Two Mile Creek cross this point, making it a good ambush place.

The end of the point is a hump that tops out about 15 feet deep and has brush on it. Fish all around the hump with all your baits. A jig crawled on the bottom will often get bites from bigger spots feeding on bream and crawfish on these spots. Jeff ties on a green pumpkin or PBJ 3/8-oz. Davis jig and puts a twin-tail trailer on it. A Yamato or Zoom Creepy Crawler will work well.

Crawl and hop your jig on the bottom where there are rocks. Fish it from 5 to 30 feet deep. Sometimes a quick hop a foot off the bottom will get a spot’s attention, but be ready for a subtle bite as your bait falls back to the bottom.

No. 9: N 34 13.456 – W 84 01.444 – Go over to the mouth of Six Mile Creek and watch for a black-and-white obstruction marker on a metal pole near the left bank where the creek narrows down. It is just downstream of channel marker 7 SM and out from a blowdown on the bank. It marks a long, shallow point coming off the bank.

Stop out in 30 feet of water and cast up to 5 feet deep. Work your baits over water over all those depths. Probe brush with your bottom-bumping baits. One of the best is a drop shot.  Jeff puts a morning dawn Roboworm about a foot above a 3/16-oz. tungsten cylinder weight. That setup works well for him under most conditions.

Remember, the bass will pull up very shallow some days, especially early in the morning, so cover all the depths. Watch for a pattern, bass are likely to be in similar places and depths on other places.

No. 10: N 34º 14.029 – W 84º 02.277 — Go up Six Mile Creek until it makes a turn to the right and you can see the Browns Bridge Road bridge off to your right. Straight ahead a creek enters. Stop on the last point on your left before going into the creek, across from the 10 SM marker. There is a black-and-white marker on a metal pole on the end of the point.

This typical October location is a long, shallow point running out to deep water. It has rocks and brush to fish. Work all your baits over it, starting with any patterns for the bait or depth you have picked up on for that day.

All of these places were producing fish in early September, and they will be even better throughout October, especially for bigger spots. Give them a try to learn how to catch October Lanier spots. To see first-hand how Jeff catches Lanier bass, set up a guide trip with him. Call him at 770.715.9933 or email [email protected].

Become a GON subscriber and enjoy full access to ALL of our content.

New monthly payment option available!


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.