Lanier Bass Mapped For December
Scott Barnes lays out a wintertime pattern for Lake Lanier's awesome spotted bass.
Lake Lanier is known for its magnum spots and a great winter ditch bite. It’s true that in December lots of Lanier bass are moving into the ditches, but they can also be caught on rocky points near the coves, on boat docks, and there are many fish still on main-lake brushpiles.
There is a variety of options for catching bass on Lanier in December.
Lake Lanier 40,000 acres provide a combination of deep, clear water, standing timber and rocks that is great habitat for spotted bass to grow big. The introduction of blueback herring may be bad on some for lakes for other species, but on Lanier it made spots grow even fatter.
Scott Barnes grew up fishing farm ponds around Columbus and Ft. Benning with his cousin and grandmother. When he moved to Cumming in 1989 and started fishing Lanier, he hated the deep, gin-clear reservoir. It took him years to learn to catch Lanier spots, but Scott learned well and now fishes Lanier exclusively.
For several years he ran the Greater Atlanta Bass Club, and now he is the tournament director of The Pit Crew, which stands for Private Invite Tournament Crew, a club that consists of some of the best bass fishermen on Lanier.
Scott also takes some time off from his job as a mortgage banker for USA Mortgage in Cumming to run and fish charity tournaments on Lanier. This past October he helped organize and run a benefit tournament for the family of Officer Nicolas Blane Dixon. Officer Dixon, a Hall County Sheriff’s Deputy, was shot and killed in the line of duty.
“The way the fishing community came together was amazing,” Scott said.
With help from anglers and businesses like Ryan Coleman with SpotSticker baits, David Freeman at Boating Atlanta, Hammond’s Fishing, Oakwood Bait and Tackle and local bass fishermen, they put on an 82-boat tournament that raised a significant amount of money for the family.
A good example of the character of local fishermen, the top team and many others donated their tournament winnings back to the family’s fund. Most fishermen are good people, and the ones helping with this effort are some of the very best.
The Lake Lanier fishing community also homes some of the best bass anglers around, and fishermen like Scott can get put bass in the boat during the winter bite.
“In December, spots are following bait, and I don’t fish a place unless bait is present,” Scott said.
He depends on his electronics to find schools of blueback herring—a favorite food of Lanier spotted bass. He’s also looking of schools of shad.
Standing timber and brush hold the bass that are feeding on the baitfish.
Several baits will catch spots in the brush and ditches. A 1/2-oz. SpotSticker Football Swimbait head rigged with a blueback herring or albino SpotSticker 3.8 Soft Swimbait is his go-to ditch bait. Scott always has a lighter swimbait, spoon, shaky head, jig ’n pig and crankbait ready to cast.
“In early December, spots are following the bait into ditches. But they can be caught from 2 to 40 feet deep,” Scott said.
He always idles into the ditches looking for bait. If baitfish are present, Scott will fish rocky points in the ditches, as well as the shallow water back in the coves, concentrating on the depth the baitfish are holding. If the bait is deep, he will concentrate on the middle of the ditch where there is wood cover.
Scott took me out on a cloudy, cool day just before Halloween. Some bait and bass were already moving into the ditches in the following places, and the cold weather since then has concentrated them even more on these 10 December locations.
No. 1: N 34º 17.455 – W 85º 52.977 — Scott likes the mid-lake area since it gets less pressure this time of year. Going up the Chattahoochee River past River Forks Park, a big island with channel marker 41 on the downstream end sits in the middle of the river. Red channel marker 42 is on the upstream point of a long narrow cove with two small side coves. This cove forms a good ditch with timber and brush to fish right now.
Idle in while watching your electronics for bait. If bait is present, you should also see bass holding around it in the standing timber and brush. Scott says the key depth tends to be 20 to 40 feet deep, so concentrate your efforts in that range.
When you see bait and bass, make a long cast with the SpotSticker football jig rigged with the swimbait. Let it sink to the bottom and slow-roll it along, keeping in contact with the bottom. Every 4 feet or so, Scott will try a hard jerk, moving his rod from about 9 o’clock to 12, moving the bait up several feet, and then he lets it fall back on a tight line. This sudden fleeing motion will often trigger a strike.
Also fish the rocky points in this ditch with your boat in 20 feet of water, casting crankbait, jig ’n pig and shaky head up to about 2 feet deep and working them back to the boat. Fish the shaky head and jig down to 15 feet deep on them.
No. 2: N 34º 18.130 – W 83º 54.365 — Go back down the river to River Forks Park. Straight across the river from it, the first big cove downstream of Robinson Access starts out wide but narrows halfway back. This is another good ditch with standing timber and brush.
Stop and look for bait and fish where the cove narrows. If the bait is deep, fish the bottom with the football head swimbait. If bait is suspended in the upper part of the water column here and in other places, try a 1/4-oz. SpotSticker Screw Lock Swimbait Head with the same 3.8 Soft Swimbait as used on the football head.
Make a long cast past the baitfish ball, count your bait down to the depth at the bottom of the baitfish, and swim it back. Keep it at the depth the bass are holding, usually just under the baitfish. Scott will also drop a spoon straight down and jig it in front of bass he sees holding under the baitfish.
Try fishing the banks here, too. Scott says the red clay and rocks warm from the sun, pulling some good spotted bass shallow on sunny days, especially later in the month. Try crankbait, jig ’n pig and shaky head on the banks from 2 to 20 feet deep.
No. 3: N 34º 16.886 – W 83º 54.731 — Farther down the river on the left, behind the island with channel marker 36, a three-arm cove extends back. The upstream point of the left arm has a rocky hump with a live pine, as well as a dead pine on it.
This arm is short and very narrow so it is easier to fish. There is very little timber in it, but there is some brush to hold the bass. Start by fishing the rocky hump with a crankbait, shaky head and jig ’n pig. Scott says bass often feed on crawfish in the winter here and in similar places.
Scott starts with a Strike King 5XD crankbait in green-gizzard color. He bumps the rocks with it from 2 feet deep out to as deep as it will run. Then follow up with a jig, imitating a crawfish in the rocks. Scott often dips his jig trailer and shaky head worm in clear JJ’s Magic to give it a garlic scent bass seem to like.
Fish into the ditch, watching for bait and bass, and fish them like in similar places. If the baitfish are not present, do not waste time.
No. 4: N 34º 16.691 – W 83º 56.303 — Bass are still on main-lake brushpiles, too, especially those near creek and river mouths. A good one where they set up to ambush herring and shad moving into creeks and rivers is on the downstream end of the big island in the mouth of the Chestatee River. There is a narrow cut-through many boats use between it and the small island farther downstream, and the baitfish use the cut, too.
The brush sits on the edge of the river channel. Lanier was 7 feet low when we fished, and the brush was in 25 feet of water. Stop with your boat in 45 feet of water after locating the big brushpile with your electronics, and cast past it to 20 feet of water, bringing a jig ’n pig or shaky head through the brush.
Scott drags his shaky head on the bottom, shaking it some early in the month, but without much shaking action later when the water is colder. Make multiple casts to this brush—it is a very big pile.
Scott likes the water down like it is this year. He says it seems to concentrate the bass. Last year the water did not drop as much, and the bite was not as good as it should be this year.
No. 5: N 34º 16.131 – W 83º 57.102 — Farther downstream, a long narrow point comes off the left bank just upstream of Brown’s Bridge. The rocky end of the point has a danger marker on it, but it was a couple of feet above the water when we fished. Stop in 45 feet of water on the upstream side of it where the river channel swings in and turns.
The bottom drops very fast on this side, and it is covered with rocks and brush. Scott first casts his crankbait to 2 feet of water and bumps the rocks out to the deepest it will run. He then goes back over it with a jig ’n pig, crawling it over the rocks and through the brush in 15 to 25 feet deep.
Scott likes a 3/8-oz. SpotSticker Georgia Craw jig with a 5-inch SpotSticker twin-tail grub on it. He matches the jig with either a red or black flake/brown trailer. Drag it along just fast enough to make the tails wiggle, but slowly enough to keep in contact with the fast dropping bottom.
No. 6: N 34º 16.123 – W 83º 57.995 — Across the river a narrow cove goes back, and there are some small islands on the right going into it. On the left a steep, round, rocky point runs out from the bank toward the islands. Spots set up on this point to feed this month.
Stay out in 40 feet of water, and cast to the bank with crankbait first, and then work a jig or shaky head from 2 to 25 feet deep. Work both baits slowly, keeping in contact with the rocks and feeling for the brush.
Scott rigs a 6-inch green-pumpkin straight-tail worm on a SpotSticker 3/16- or 1/4-oz. head, depending on wind. He lets the bait sink to the bottom and then slowly moves it along, staying in contact with the cover. Fish the jig ’n pig the same way.
No. 7: N 34º 16.676 – W 83º 58.151 — Going back into Long Hollow toward the ramp, an island sits near the right bank. The point to the right of it runs out toward the island and drops off on the downstream side. Scott describes the rocks on it as a different color—they are lighter than most in the lake, and they attract bass.
Start with your boat in 35 feet of water about 50 yards off the point, and cast up to the shallows on it. There is some brush on the rocks on the point and downstream bank, and bass feed in these rocks. Work along the bank until it starts to shallow up.
Although he will start with a crankbait bumping the bottom, Scott says you can’t beat a jig ’n pig here. Follow up with it, making long casts to the bank and working your jig down the slope, crawling it over rocks and through brush.
A little wind blowing in on this bank helps a lot. It breaks up the light and makes it harder for spots to tell the difference between live bait like crawfish and your fake imitation. It also creates a little current, moving plankton the herring and shad eat.
No. 8: N 34º 17.237 – W 83º 58.329 — Docks with brush also hold bass in December, and a good one is back in Long Hollow. Go back past the ramp that’s on your left, and stay to the left where the cove forks. A double-deck dock with an orange swing on it is on the right, just upstream of a small pocket. The bank is rocky and there is a good brushpile on the downstream side of the dock.
Scott says he catches a good many largemouth here and in other dock brushpiles. Keep your boat out in 25 to 30 feet of water and cast to the end and side of the dock. Let your jig or shaky head sink on slack line so it falls straight down into the brush. Bump both through the limbs of the brush.
No. 9: N 34º 15.686 – W 83º 57.186 — Go under Browns Bridge and stop on the right bank just below it. There is a small clay point on the bank where some rip-rap starts, upstream of the first dock. The point does not look like much, but it runs way out and drops into the channel.
Stop out in 30 feet of water and fan cast toward the bank, working around the end of the point. The bottom is hard and there is brush on the point. Fish your football head swimbait, shaky head and jig ’n pig here.
Here and all other places, keep an eye on your electronics and drop a spoon down to any brush and fish you see under the boat. This will draw strikes from fish that won’t hit a moving bait, even a slow-moving jig or shaky head.
No. 10: N 34º 14.944 – W 83º 56.960 — The big island on the upstream point of the mouth of Flat Creek drops into the channel on the river side. Go past the short gap with a very small island in it between the island and the main bank. There are three rocky points in a row here along the island.
Fish all three points with crankbait, casting shallow and working it out with your boat in 30 feet of water. Then drag your jig over the rocks and through the brush on all three. There is a big brushpile in 24 feet of water, with the lake 7 feet low, on the first one. Be sure to fish it carefully.
Check out Scott’s places in the mid-lake area, and try his baits and methods to learn how to catch December Lanier spots, and a few good largemouth, too.
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