Lanier’s Awesome Postspawn Spotted Bass

Pro angler Ryan Coleman has a May fishing plan that is guaranteed to get you bit.

Nathan Unger | May 6, 2016

As we cranked up the Yamaha 225, we started off across the lake just as the sun was peaking over the horizon. It was a cold, crisp morning, and the wind was just beginning to kick up. The sound of geese honking and other waterfowl filled the air with what was an otherwise quiet morning. We were on our way to the first location of the morning to catch one of Lake Lanier’s most aggressive fish—the spotted bass.

Lake Sidney Lanier covers nearly 59 square miles of water, which adds up to approximately 38,000 acres and spans parts of five different counties. The Chattahoochee River flows in and out of both ends of the lake. The Buford Dam was built in the mid-1950s, which led to the creation of Lake Lanier for hydroelectric purposes.

I had the unique opportunity to catch up with professional fishing guide Ryan Coleman. A Georgia native, Ryan has fished Lanier for more than 20 years and has been guiding anglers since 1999. He now owns and operates LanierSpots Pro Guide Service. Ryan won the 2006 B.A.S.S. Southern Open, which took place on his home lake. Ryan has won numerous other tournaments and has tournament fishing experience for nearly 30 years now.

Ryan posts weekly fishing reports in order to give anglers the most recent update on what lures are working and which locations the fish are biting best. Ryan specializes in catching spotted bass.

In 2007, B.A.S.S. Times said Ryan was “probably the best drop-shot angler in the country.”

Ryan owns S.O.B. Fishing Products and SpotSticker Baits. He has also filmed several shows for WFN on Lake Lanier teaching anglers how to catch giant elusive spots.

Unfortunately, the morning we set out to locate some fish the wind was between 15-20 miles per hour, which any seasoned angler knows that is not always the best for catching your limit. In other words, we really had to work to put fish in the boat. However, Ryan loves fishing in the wind, and it sure did not stop him from reeling in some nice fish.

Ryan explained to me that fishing on Lake Lanier is best when the sun is shining high in the sky.

“Fishing Lake Lanier is best when the sun is out and shining on the water,” said Ryan. “The fish feel pressure of being exposed and move to the brushpiles during the day for cover.”

What To Use

Ryan likes to use several different lures depending on the conditions for the day. Specifically on windy days he likes to use a 1-oz. Mini Me spinnerbait with painted blades on 15-lb. monofilament line. The painted blades reduce the amount of flash in the clear water and give the bait a more subtle appearance.

Another crucial tip that Ryan pointed out was to “always use a trailer hook when fishing a spinnerbait in open water.”

A lot of times the spots like to bite the tails of plastics and the skirts of jigs instead of inhaling the entire thing, and the success rate for catching these fish only increases when you have the trailer hook.

May is the main spawning time for spotted bass on Lanier. The water temperature increases from 58-59 degrees to 63 or 64 degrees. They usually spawn after largemouth and are even seen spawning into June on the main part of the lake. The reef poles, which we will discuss later, are huge spawning areas for large, main-lake fish. Anglers want to work a shaky-head worm combination up very shallow around the rocky reef poles for the big spawning fish. These fish will be in less than 5 feet of water, and they will be spooky, therefore it is pertinent to be stealthy in your approach. Long casts with a 3/16-oz. jig head and 8-lb. fluorocarbon line will work best for long casting.

Ryan will use a 3/16-oz. SpotSticker Screwball Shakyhead with a Zoom Finesse worm or Swamp Crawler. Any natural color, like a green-pumpkin pattern, is best in the clear water. He will take this technique and fish in 5 feet of water or less around reef poles and catch fish all day long. These late spawners will be extremely shallow and aggressive around the hard bottom reef locations.

As fish are transitioning into the postspawn, he likes to use a topwater lure. His bait of choice is the Reaction Innovations Vixen. He likes it because it is noisy and will grab the fish’s attention. He likes to throw this on 15-lb. monofilament.

When To Use It

Ryan couldn’t stress enough how important sunny days were for Lake Lanier. The fish head to cover, but they can be called up because they can see the baits from the depths.

“Spotted bass are sight feeders, so the increased visibility is critical,” Ryan said.

As the suns get higher in the sky, he likes to take out either a topwater lure or a jerkbait, and the fish will rise from 10 to 15 feet to come grab the baits. Using a topwater lure during the day seems counterintuitive, but Ryan said he’s had success on them all throughout the day before.

Ryan said not to run up close on these fish because they are spooky and will get run off easily. He reiterated that because the water can be so clear, you need to rig your reels with gear that you can cast far, which will enable you to have more success on those sunny days.

“This is pretty much a tip for any clear-water lake, not just Lanier,” Ryan added.

Where To Use Them

1) Reef Poles: One of Ryan’s favorite spots are the reef poles that sit on points and humps all throughout the lake. He likes these because they often sit with 15 to 25 feet of water off to their sides. The poles themselves are often only 5 to 10 feet deep. The fish will hang around these and rise to a topwater lure or jerkbait often, especially after they spawn and are transitioning to deeper water.

2) Brushpiles: Another deadly location to catch late-spring spots are brushpiles. Ryan said the key to fishing brushpiles is to wait until the late morning or early afternoon to let the sun come out. This is when the fish are forced to move to cover to keep from being exposed. When this daily transition occurs, the fish will move from the reef poles to these brushpiles in 7 to 10 feet of water. If you know where the brushpiles are, then you are sure to find the fish during the day.

Ryan pointed out that he actually prefers the lake to be lower rather than higher in order to group the fish up a little tighter. When we were fishing, the lake was pretty much at full pool. It was only 7 or 8 inches down.

“The upper end of the lake is always better than the lower in the morning,” Ryan said.

He added that the lower end usually needs a little sunlight before the fish start to move around, mostly due to the lower end being extremely clear and the fish keying on herring. The herring usually do not get going until there is some sun on the water.

3) Blow-throughs: A specific area that we targeted in the morning were areas that were shallow. Sometimes they would be between an island and a reef pole or two islands, etc. A blow-through is an area that the wind will blow the water over the shallow sediment, and the fish will be waiting on the other side where there is a drop off for bait that is blown over or ‘through’ the shallows. We used a jerkbait, spinnerbait and a shad-patterned, lipless crankbait for this location. Make sure to cast into the wind and reel your bait over the blow-through, and be ready for a strike. This is also a key area for the blueback herring to spawn. They will be spawning all through May, and the first few morning hours will be important to fish for these shallow areas.

4.) Bridge pilings: Even though these are few and far between on Lanier, we fished the bridge that leads to Lake Lanier Islands with a shaky head and finesse worm, or you can use a drop-shot, as well. One note that Ryan pointed out was that the fish move in waves to different locations during the day, and if they are not biting at the bridge pilings, then they are not there. If you do not get a bite in a few casts, it is probably time to move on to different water.

5) Sandy shoals: If you can find a shallow area of the lake, especially in May, you will probably be able to find bait balls, as well. Ryan explained that the fish will follow the shad to these shoals, as well as spawn in these areas, which makes this location a deadly target during the spawning months.

6) Points: Any type of point can be good for catching fish on either side where the drop-offs are located. Make sure to keep your distance in order not to alert the fish of your presence.

According to Ryan, the first three locations—reef markers, brushpiles and blow-throughs—are the most important.

This time of year it is hard to go wrong on Lake Lanier. What’s important is that you go out and have fun and catch lots of fish.

Be sure to check Ryan’s SpotSticker Baits and give them a try.

To contact Ryan Coleman about a guided fishing trip, visit, e-mail him at [email protected] or call him at (770) 356-4136.

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