High blue skies, bright sunlight, and almost 80 degree days are not “text book” times to catch lots of bass at Lake Lanier. Add to that the fact that most spotted bass seem to be scattered in less than 15 feet of water and are feeding on very small lures, and you have conditions that go against the thinking of most bass fishermen. The best part, however, is that these feisty bass will continue being aggressive in the same general areas until the morning surface temperature exceeds 80 degrees.
Spotted bass were not stocked in Lanier, but lived in the original river systems that feed the lake. They are a much hardier and faster spreading fish than the largemouth bass, and are more active than any of the black bass. In fact, here at Lanier, nearly eighty to ninety percent of the black bass catch is spotted bass.
Despite heavy fishing pressure and boat traffic, spotted bass grow quickly and in great numbers in Lake Lanier, which allows it to keep its title of the best spotted bass lake in the United States. Even when big weather changes such as major fronts occur, the spotted bass continue feeding, especially during spring and early summer.
The spawning ritual of the spotted bass is very similar to that of the largemouth, but they tend to do it later and at greater depths. In fact, spots prefer 5 to 20 feet, but can often be seen spawning with the largemouth bass in the 2 to 5 feet of water. Also, spotted bass usually seek out clay banks rather than the sand chosen by largemouth.
The most fun way to catch spotted bass during April and May is by casting 1/8th ounce Swirleybirds from the shoreline or from a boat near shallow stumps, rocks and other debris along red clay banks. These practically invisible structures can be seen by using polarized sunglasses and looking for darker shadows. After one is spotted, throw the Swirleybird several feet past the target and swim it slowly near the object. If a male spotted bass is nearby, he’ll nail it!
From now until all of the spawning activity is over can be the most productive time of year for spotted bass at Lake Lanier. A bad day for me and my clients during this period is less than 40 bass each day. All that is needed is a little knowledge of the lake, and a few Swirleybirds. These lures are deadly both during the spawn and in the tougher post-spawn period. Anyone who can cast will become an expert with this lure immediately. Since the tiny blade turns from the time it hits the water until it reaches the rod tip at the end of the retrieve, the action is extremely tantalizing to spotted bass and many other fish.
These lures can often be as effective from the shoreline as they are from a boat. From the bank, look for deeper rock or rip rap formations, blown down trees, docks or over brushy areas in many of the Corps of Engineers parks.
Fly fishing enthusiasts may also capitalize on this prime time of year for spotted bass by using the much smaller, flyrod-sized Swirleybird. Regardless of how one goes about it, by thinking small and slow and making plenty of casts, a day of fishing on Lake Lanier right now is guaranteed to leave every angler with wonderful memories!