Lanier’s Magnum Spotted Bass

Call up big postspawn spots that will smash topwater.

Ronnie Garrison | May 28, 2014

Want to catch some magnum spots this month? Or maybe you prefer to catch lots of keeper-size spots, still with a chance of a big one. No matter which you prefer, head to Lanier right now. You can choose from a variety of patterns that can produce a huge spotted bass or great numbers of hard-fighting, fun bass to catch.

Lanier has always been a good spotted-bass lake. And since the introduction of blueback herring and a 14-inch minimum size limit on all bass, including spots, Lanier has become one of the best trophy spot lakes in the country. Five-pounders are weighed in during most tournaments, and 25-lb. five-fish limits are not unusual.

Lanier is close to Atlanta and lots of anglers, so it gets plenty of fishing pressure. Too, pleasure-boat traffic makes it tough to fish after about 10 a.m. on weekends during pretty weather. But even with those issues, Lanier is well worth a trip this month—the bass fishing is that good.

John Hill lives on Lanier and works at HD Marine as the service manager. He loves fishing Lanier and is on the water a couple of days most every week. His job puts him in contact with a lot of fishermen, so he keeps up with current fishing patterns.

For many years, John fished the HD Marine tournament trail and most pot tournaments on Lanier. Hip surgery has kept him out of tournaments for a while, but John is still on the lake on his days off. He has had some great catches over the past few years.

John took me to Lanier in mid-May, and we had a very good day, boating four spots between 3 and 3 1/2 pounds and one that weighed more than 4 pounds. Both of us would have had more than 13 pounds individually, and our best five together would have weighed at least 17 pounds. We could have kept catching bass, but soon after catching the 4-pounder and another 3-pounder, we left fish biting—we were just worn out.

“June is a great month on Lanier. The topwater bite gets right, and there are a lot of schooling fish,” John said.

The bite holds up all month, and you can catch a lot of fish, or you can concentrate on rolling a big one.

“If you want to win a tournament or just catch a wall-hanger spot, you really need only two baits tied on,” John said.

A big topwater bait like a Chug Bug, Spook, Sammy or Vixen will catch active fish and even call them up when they are not active. Then, a Fish Head Spin will catch big bass that won’t hit on top.

While those are the two primary big-bass baits for Lanier in June, some other baits are also good for big fish. Try a wake bait and a jerkbait. They are more subtle than a big topwater, and you can fish them shallower to find fish faster than slowly working the Fish Head Spin when bass aren’t hitting on top. The day we fished, we concentrated on bigger fish and landed only one short fish. We caught at least 15 keepers, and most were well over 2 pounds.

The lower lake below Browns Bridge is by far the best area to catch a big spot. That is simply where most of them live. But it does get very rough in that area during the day. You can go up the creeks and the river to catch more fish and have a little less rocking and rolling, but you are less likely to catch a bragging-size spot up there.

The herring spawn was late this year, and in early June it will still be worth it to be on the lake at first light to find some big bass looking for spawning herring. Blow-throughs—the shallow saddles between islands or between the bank and a nearby island—are the place to find spawning bluebacks and hungry bass. Early, look for fish hitting on top in shallow water. Throw a topwater bait, jerkbait or wake bait. Hit as many places as you can before the sun gets on the water.

After the sun gets up, concentrate on shoal markers and humps on the lower lake. Early in the month, the ones closer to the creek mouths and to the bank will be better. But as the water warms, move to the deeper humps near the river channel. Fish the main lake from Browns Bridge to the dam.

Unmarked humps that top out in at least 20 feet of water get a lot less fishing pressure than the marked shoals, so your chance of bigger spots is better on them. A good map or GPS with contour lines will help you find the unmarked humps.

“Bass school on top all during June, so always keep an eye out for surface activity,” John said.

If you see fish schooling, get to them as quickly as you can, and watch the way they are moving. Cast topwater, jerkbaits and wake baits ahead of the feeding bass.

John likes a big topwater like the Super Spook, Vixen and 128 Sammy, and he prefers chrome or bone colors. If the fish are not hitting on top, try calling them up. Often, a Chug Bug will make enough noise to pull the fish up from deep water better than a more subtle bait like the walking topwater plugs.

The Vision 110 is a good choice for a jerkbait, and John prefers colors that look like a blueback, like the GP Pro Blue. A Buckeye wake bait or a Deps Buzzjet in the bone-crackle color both work well when fished very slowly on top.

After the bass go down, or if you are not seeing surface activity when you pull up on a hump or shoal, keep your boat out in deep water—40 to 50 feet deep—and cast a Fish Head Spin and fish the water 20 to 35 feet deep. Bass will suspend over brush down to 40 feet deep and wait for schools of herring.

Watch your depthfinder for balls of bait. If bait is in the area, so much the better. Also watch for brushpiles. You can find brush on every hump and shoal in the lower lake.

Cast the Fish Head Spin to 20 feet of water, and let if fall to the depth you see fish suspended. Slowly reel it in, keeping it just over the bottom if you are not seeing suspended fish. If you see them, count it down, and reel it back to keep it just above the depth they are holding.

If you see or hit brush, make sure to run your bait just over the top of it. A Fish Head Spin will get hung in brush, so try to keep it above it. John likes a 1/2-oz. head with a white fluke on his Fish Head Spin.

With the Fish Head Spin, John says a steady, slow retrieve is best most of the time, especially for suspended fish. When you feel weight, just keep reeling until your rod loads up. You don’t need to set the hook.

Some wind breaking the surface helps a lot. Moving water turns the fish on, and the bite will be a lot better when they are releasing water at the dam. You can call (770) 945-1466 to find out when the corps will be generating. Fish the humps right on the Chattahoochee River channel during generation times.

Don’t expect to catch dozens of fish working this pattern. You may get only six or seven bites all day, but they are likely to be fish weighing more than 3 pounds. You have to work hard for the bigger fish.

The Numbers Game

A lot of baits will catch keeper-sized spots while still offering a chance for a big bass. Good choices for June at Lanier include a Senko, Scrounger Head, jig-head worm, jig ’n pig, drop-shot worm and crankbait. You can catch bass on the main lake on these baits, but they are better in more confined waters—out of the wind and heavy boat traffic—most of the time.

John has had good luck way up the river in the “S” bend above Clarks Bridge. He follows the bluff banks on the outside bends, working them with a big crankbait like a DD 22N or a 5XD or 6XD in lavender shad. Cast right to the bank to keep your bait near the sharply dropping bottom.

There are a lot of stumps along these banks. John knows where many are from fishing the area but also uses satellite maps to find others. When you find a group of stumps, try to bump the crankbait off as many as possible.

A 3/16-oz. green-pumpkin jig with a 4-inch green-pumpkin Yamamoto Double Tail grub on it works well around these stumps, too. If you prefer a jig-head worm, try a 1/8-oz. head with a green-pumpkin Trick Worm. Dye the tails of the worm and trailer chartreuse. Work both baits slowly around the stumps, and you will get bit.

You can find similar bluff banks in all the major creeks. Two Mile, Six Mile and Flat Creek have them, as does the Chestatee River.

Just like on the lower lake, there are brushpiles on every likely place up the river and in the creeks. When you find a brushpile in the creeks, fish it with a crankbait, jig ’n pig and jig-head worm. These baits will also work around the brushpiles on the lower lake as well as in the creeks. You can find a brushpile 20 to 35 feet deep and run the crankbait over them, and then work the other baits through the brush. The crankbait and jig are better for bigger bass, and the jig head is better for numbers.

A Scrounger Head with a Big Bite Baits Jerk Minnow in alewife or pearl is a good bait to work around brush and through suspended fish. Cast it out, and count it down to work right over suspended fish or over the tops of brushpiles.

If the bite is slow and tough, John will pull out a drop-shot rig and work it first around the brushpiles, and then he’ll fish it right in the middle of the brush. You can usually see the fish on the brushpiles on a good depthfinder, and that will tell you how the bass are positioned.

If the fish are on the sides of the brush near the bottom, or in it, John will drop the bait to the bottom and jiggle it close to the brush. Then he’ll do the same in the heart of the brushpile. If they are suspended over or beside the top of the brush, he will drop his bait to the depth they are holding and work his worm just above that depth.

The drop shot is usually best when the sun is high and the wind calm. That makes for a slower bite on other baits, but it helps with boat control, and a subtle bait like the drop shot will get inactive fish to hit.

Another good pattern in June is to rig a Senko weightless on a spinning rod and skip it under docks. Let it fall slowly under the dock, and fish holding in the shade can’t resist it. Sunny days that move the fish to shade are best. A Senko will also catch fish on the bluff banks up the river around stumps.

John likes a clear with black pepper flake or disco green 5-inch Senko rigged wacky style on a 1/0 Gamakatsu hook. He uses 10- to 12-lb. line unless the water is extremely clear, in which case he goes to 8-lb. test. He fishes all his baits on Trilene line.

The best docks have at least 15 feet of water under them and are near deeper water. Those docks on the main lake and in the creeks and rivers that are deep will hold good fish. A line of docks around a small cove on the river or up the creeks will often hold a group of fish on one and not on the others, so fish them until you find the fish.

All these patterns work this month and will catch fish. You have a lot of choices, so decide how you want to fish and try it. If it is not working, be adaptable and change to others, unless you are determined to catch a bragging-size spot. If that is your goal, work the pattern for big spots. Fish hard, and don’t give up. Your next cast may produce the one bite you are looking for.

The HD Marine Trail is a great tournament trail to fish. It has a $200 entry fee in the first event ($150 with a $50 membership in the HD Cup Fee)and then $150 per tournament paid in advance or $175 at the ramp.

There is a 100 percent payback with a $1,000 bonus for the top fisherman fishing out of a Phoenix Boat, plus other prizes. The tournaments are over this year except for the HD Cup Classic on June 1, but consider fishing this great trail next year.

There is one tournament left in the HD Couples and Kids trail on Sept. 14 on Lanier. That is a great trail to fish with your kid or significant other.

For more infomation on the HD Marine bass tournaments, visit

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