Lanier Spawning Spots

It’s a fun time to fish Lake Lanier for spotted bass. Steve Pinkston marks a map and sets your April patterns.

Ronnie Garrison | April 3, 2021

Big Lanier spotted bass are up shallow for the spawn in April, and now is the best time of the year to catch them shallow around rocks, docks and wood. Some bass will be postspawn in April, but many will still be moving in during prespawn and bedding in April.

Lake Lanier is a 38,000-acre factory for growing big spotted bass located just north of Atlanta on the Chattahoochee River. Spots were put into the lake almost as soon as it was dammed, but they grew slowly, as they do almost everywhere they are introduced where they are not native. The introduction of blueback herring changed everything, though. Lanier is the perfect habitat for spots, with deep clear water, rocks and standing timber that are ideal for spotted bass. The spots fed on the herring and grew to amazing sizes. These perfect conditions do not exist on many lakes, but too many fishermen have illegally introduced spots and herring into others, hurting lakes that don’t have the right conditions for growing lots of big spots.

No matter why, Lanier is known for 3- and 4-lb. spotted bass now. And 6-pounders are caught every year. There is some good largemouth fishing, too, primarily way up creeks and rivers, but most Lanier fishermen concentrate on spots on the main lake. The area from Browns Bridge to the dam is spotted bass heaven.

Steve Pinkston grew up in Norcross and has lived in Sugar Hill since 1993. He roasts a variety of nuts and sells them through local businesses like Oakwoods Bait and Tackle and is known as “The Nut Man.” He also maintains the bait machine at Bass Pro Shop in Lawrenceville, putting him in contact with local fishermen daily.

Steve’s family had a houseboat on Lanier, and he spent many hours fishing Lanier while growing up. He got into bass fishing in his early teens and went to a BASS weigh-in on Lanier in 1993. That fired him up to tournament fish.

Steve Pinkston with a spotted bass caught as he showed the author 10 locations where anglers can find bass in April, including those magnum spots Lanier is known to produce.

Doug Youngblood invited Steve to join the Roswell Bass Club, and he has also been in the Lanier Bassmasters and fished the old Redman Trail. Steve got to fish as a co-angler with Jim Russell and finished third in a BFL, which encouraged him to go boater with his father entering as a co-angler. He earned a trip to the All American in the BFL He now fishes the BFLs on Lanier, as well as pot and charity tournaments.

In a BFL on Clarks Hill in 2014, Steve landed a 4-lb., 5-oz, spotted bass, which still holds the GON lake record there. He likes to fish for spots and April is the best month to catch them up shallow.

“Spots move out of deep water in April, working their way into and out of protected spawning areas,” Steve said. He looks for pockets and small creeks with good cover along the bank that the fish will use to hold and feed as they move. Rocks, docks and wood all hold fish this time of year.

Steve’s favorite bait for April is a Zoom Fluke, but he will have a crankbait, jig, shaky head, jerkbait, swimbait and stick bait ready for different conditions. He uses faster-moving baits to cover water until he locates groups of fish, and then he slows down and works them thoroughly.

We fished the following 10 places in late February, way too early for even prespawn fish. A couple of weeks later the warm weather started the movement to these places and they will be in full use right now.

No. 1: N 34º 15.066 – W 83º 54.451 — Go back in Balus Creek past the boat ramp into the narrow channel with a “No Skiing” buoy in its mouth. The creek makes a slight “S” turn, and at the end of the turn there’s a small pocket on your left. This pocket, or ditch as they’re known on Lanier, has a good channel coming out of it, a secondary rocky point, docks and wood cover along the bank, all the kinds of place Steve likes.

Start at the double-deck dock on the left side that has chairs on top. Fish the dock, the big blowdown just past it, and around the back. Hit the rocky point in the back, and then fish back out, hitting all cover. Late in the month go all the way back into the ditch, earlier stay on the outer two-thirds of this cove and others.

Steve will run a mid-range crankbait, like Jim Farmer’s custom shad-painted ones that run 8 to 10 feet deep. You can fish quickly with a crankbait and cover the water to find active fish. Steve says 8 to 12 feet deep seems to be a key depth for spots until they go on the bed, and some will bed almost that deep on Lanier.

At trees and docks, fish a jig or whacky-rigged stick bait around them. Let either bait fall to the bottom and work them slowly to bump every bit of cover, especially if you catch a fish on the crankbait. If there is one spot in a place like this, there are probably more.

Steve caught a small keeper male here, so fish were starting to think about moving in. Males will move in first and fan beds waiting on the females.

No. 2: N 34º 13.558 – W 83º 56.202 — Go down to Mud Creek past the Old Federal ramp on your right. Just past the ramp a narrow ditch runs off to the right, and it has good cover and docks to fish along the bank and protected spawning areas in it. There is good deep water running most of the way back and some standing timber in it to hold fish year-round.

Go back to the round flat point on your left just before you get to a small ditch on that side. Bass will spawn on the point, so try your jerkbait over it, and then drag a shaky head on the bottom. Steve rigs a Sugar Hill Bait Company Sweet Thang with a 1/8- to 3/16-oz. head with a Trick Worm or finesse worm on it. He uses the lightest head he can based on wind and depth.

Fish past the point, especially late in the month, and work the very back docks with your baits. Going back out, hit every dock and watch for rocks and wood between them. Some spots will spawn on steeper banks like this, too, so work them slowly enough to get them to hit even if you don’t see them.

No. 3: N 34º 13.611 – W 83º 51.814 — Go back into the main, narrow Mud Creek channel, and watch on your left for a ditch with a big white double dock on the downstream side and a smaller wooden dock on the upstream side. A good rocky point runs out near the dock to fish with crankbait, jerkbait, shaky head and jig. A point like this is the kind of place a cold front will make the bass back off and hold.

After fishing the point, work around the ditch hitting all the cover. Steve likes to skip a weightless pearl Fluke under docks. He nose-hooks the Fluke on a No. 1 hook like the ones Lanier Baits sells for drop-shotting. He says nose hooking the Fluke makes it dart better, and Steve said he hooks and lands more fish on this rig. Skip it under docks around floats, and let it sink a foot or so, and then twitch it out, pausing to let if fall some after each dart to the side. Steve says he seldom gets hung even with the exposed hook, and it seems to work a lot better for him.

No. 4: N 34º 14.040 – W 83º 56.260 — Sunrise Cove Marina sits off the main lake upstream point of Mud Creek. It has a long wooden seawall along the lake side of the docked sailboats. It is very deep under it, but blueback herring spawn on the seawall and bass feed up on them.

Steve says from the first of April to the middle of the month, check out this and other seawalls at first light. You may see spots hitting herring on top—if so, cast to them. If not, get in close to the seawall and parallel it with a swimbait.

Steve rigs a 3- to 3.5-inch shad-colored swimbait on a 1/8- to 1/4-oz. head and makes long casts down the seawall. The wood on the wall runs down about 6 feet under the water and spots will often hold right at the bottom of the wall, waiting on herring to come over them. So keep your bait 3 to 5 feet deep unless casting to surfacing fish.

No. 5: N 34º 11.987 – W 84º 00.501 — Run down to the downstream end of the big island between the river and Two Mile Creek. There are several small islands off the end of the big Three Sisters Island. Go between the first and second islands, and ahead of you a smaller island has rip-rap on it. Off the left end of that island is a danger marker on a shoal. This is a classic blow-through where herring spawn.

Stop a long cast out from the end of the island, and watch for schooling fish. If you see activity, cast your swimbait or fluke to them. If there is no surface activity, cast those baits up into the blow-through in a couple feet of water and work them back to the boat to draw bites.

The spawn bite is best just as it gets light in the morning and drops off fast when the sun rises. Watch for floating baitfish, and cast your shaky head around them if you see them—the fish may be holding deeper and still feeding. Spots will come up from brush and stumps to hit a fluke or swimbait worked over them, especially on sunny days that seem to draw the herring to the top. Steve says any shoal marker can produce fish during the herring spawn.

No. 6: N 34º 13.541 – W 84º 02.010 — Go into Six Mile Creek to marker 7SM just upstream of where the creek narrows way down. The creek to the left just above the channel marker is a good one for spawning fish—it has all the cover and structure that makes for a good place.

Go about two-thirds of the way to the back, and watch on your right for a small cove with one dock in the middle of it. There was a blue canoe on it when we were there. This is a good spawning pocket to fish and one of the few places Steve will look for beds.

Fish around the cove, working your fluke from the edge back to the boat in at least 10 feet of water. When you get to the dock, concentrate on it. Since it is the only dock in this cove, it is the only place fish wanting shade can hold here.

No. 7: N 34º 13.444 – W 84º 01.622 — Go across the creek and start fishing out. Watch for a small ditch running to the right with three docks in it. The right bank leading into this pocket is a rocky bluff type that drops fast. Steve says spots will move along the rocks on that bank to the docks, and some spawn along it, too.

Stop about 100 yards upstream of the first dock at the ditch where there’s a white metal boathouse. It had two big cruisers tied up to it when we fished here. Fish the rocks on the bluff bank slowly, running a crankbait parallel to them and working your fluke over them. Also bump the rocks with a jig and shaky head.

As you bump down the bluff rocks, feel for little flat ledges on it. Spots will spawn on them. You won’t be able to see them, but bass will hit your jig or shaky head if it gets near their bed. Steve likes a green-pumpkin 7/16-oz. Sugar Hill Jig, one from his Sugar Hill Bait Company, and he puts a green-pumpkin Speed Craw on it.

When you get to the dock, probe around it for brush. There is some brush in front of it, but it was hard for us to fish with the big boat tied up over it. Fish all the docks, and then look in the very back for bedding fish. Work around the back and fish the downstream point, too.

No. 8: N 34º 13.729 – W 83º 59.752 – Go out and up Two Mile Creek into the pocket with Two Mile Access on the left going in. It splits and the right-hand side is a three-fingered cove with good secondary points, protected pockets for spawning and docks.

Steve stopped out from the gray dock on the left side of the middle point—it has a deck up top on the flat middle part and sloping tops on either side. Start fishing on the point side of it, and drag a jig or shaky head on the flat point for bass bedding there that you can’t see.

Work to the right, watching for clay, rocks, stumps and other wood. Cast your jerkbait and fluke over cover like that and beside docks. Steve likes a Megabass 110 with a blue back. Work your jig and shaky head on any rocks and clay. As you fish around the coves, watch for bass on the beds.

No. 9: N 34º 14.201 – W 83º 59.346 — Go into Two Mile Creek past the Vanns Tavern ramp. On your left the last channel marker is 13TM where the creek narrows down. Upstream of it a little a ditch runs off to the left that has a steep left bank and a flatter right bank going in.

Stop at the first dock on the left side. There is a small gully just past it going in. Fish the dock with your fluke, jerkbait and crankbait, and then work into the creek, fishing all the cover along the steeper bank. Hit every dock, piece of wood, rock and little point on it.

Fish around the back end, looking for beds. Work the last dock on each side carefully, especially during the last half of April when bass are more likely to be bedding. Fish out to the mouth of the cove, working the cover along the shallower bank.

No. 10: N 34º 14.302 – W 83º 59.171 — Straight across Two Mile Creek is a smaller double cove. The point between the two arms is the kind of place Steve expects bass to hold going in and coming out, and it’s where they will move back to if a cold front disrupts their movement.

Fish the middle point and both arms, hitting docks, rocks and wood cover. When fishing is real tough, Steve will rig a 5-inch green-pumpkin Senko whacky style with no weight, and fish it very slowly, letting the bait fall and wiggle beside every piece of cover from dock floats to logs. This will often get bit when nothing else will.

Try these places for big April spotted bass on Lake Lanier, and then look for similar bedding and feeding areas. See if Steve’s preferred baits will work for you, or try your favorites. Now is the time to catch your personal best spot on Lanier.

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