Fishing live bait in cold weatherThough Lake Lanier is heavily populated with catchable fish during the late winter, several problems exist. The weather during this period is constantly changing, and one cold front after another will roll through, which generally has a detrimental effect on largemouth and spotted bass, but not stripers. Some of these fronts will be accompanied by rain, high winds, and bitter cold temperatures. Nevertheless, if one employs good common sense, there’s not a better fishin’ hole in the southeast than Lake Lanier!

Live bait becomes a productive choice during this colder period, however, bait size is an important factor. Usually smaller threadfin shad are the most prevalent during the late winter, but I have found that the type of minnow used is not important. In the past, most anglers thought that it was imperative to use only natural threadfin, gizzard shad, or blueback herring. This required hours of pre-dawn work with a cast net and expensive holding tanks with their accompanying chemicals. Now, it just takes a trip to the Dam Store to buy a couple of dozen, commercially raised, emerald shiners in the correct size. These minnows can be dumped into the lake water in a bass boat livewell and will survive for days in any clean water without chemical help.

Rod holders are a necessary item when fishing shiners for largemouth, spotted bass, or stripers at Lanier. Since I fish out of a bass boat and spend much of the year casting, my rod holders are easily detachable. The tiny flat bases are mounted permanently to locker lids or into the fiberglass. Each holder is incorporated into a threaded shaft that screws in or out of the base plate, and is held tight with a wing-nut. My boat has two holders near the back of the boat and an additional two near the middle section. This allows me to put two rods out next to the big outboard motor and one out each side of the boat.

When using spinning tackle, the emerald shiner should be attached directly on the hook portion on a #1, circle hook tied to the end of the line with two #4 or#5 split shot sinkers pinched on the line about 12 inches above the hook. Hook the emerald shiner by pushing the point of the hook between one of the small creases on the underside of the jaw and up through the meaty part of their upper lip. This seems to hold minnows on the hook very well, and they usually stay alive for a long period of time.

Regardless of the outfit used, the baited rigs are normally dropped to where the graph recorder has shown fish or bait at a particular depth, or when feeding fish can be seen periodically driving shad to the surface. When this occurs, bring one of the down-lines up, cut the rig off, tie a hook directly to the end of the unweighted line and free-line the shiner approximately 50 feet behind the boat.

While these rigs are down at their respective depths or trailing behind the boat, the electric trolling motor is used to ease the boat along a path where fish have been seen visually or on sonar. Most of these areas are adjacent to a defined creek channel. Channels of this type that consistently produce big bass on the south end of the lake can be found in Big Creek, Flowery Branch, Six-mile Creek, Four Mile Creek, Mud Creek, Two Mile Creek, Balus Creek and Flat Creek. On the north end of Lanier, Taylor Creek, Duckett’s Mill, Yellow Creek, Ada Creek, Gainesville Creek, Wahoo Creek and Little River are very productive.

A cold front tends to bunch the bass into a smaller area and usually at a certain depth. Though this may slow down their aggressive nature, when these bass are located, it often makes them easier to catch using this slow method with live shiners.

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