Our first cooling trend has begun, and Lake Lanier’s fish have shown an instant reaction. Surface feeding activity has dramatically increased. In fact, large groups of bass and other predators have already been seen driving schools of shad to the surface in open water areas and devouring them with such intensity that spray is easily seen for hundreds of yards.
Catching these congregated bass normally requires using lures that run horizontally rather than ones that must be worked vertically or on the bottom. Smaller-sized crankbaits, spinnerbaits, grubs or even topwater lures can be very effective. This year, however, these predators seem to be feeding on shad minnows that are smaller than normal. Therefore, the greatest success has been experienced by using a tiny lure that was developed several years ago called the “Swirleybird”, which are available at The Dam Store or at Hammond’s Fishing Center.
This unique lure has always been very successful during the post-spawn period of early summer and is dynamite on rainbow trout in the “Hooch”, but fall had never been the prime time for this diminutive artificial bait. Nevertheless, due to the smaller size of this lure, the current baitfish crop, and the non-stop action of the tiny propeller-type blade, the Swirleybird has been reborn!
Though many fish can be observed attacking shad in the larger open areas of Lake Lanier, most of the good action lately has occurred about half to three-quarters of the way back into any creek that delivers fresh water into the lake. When found, fish in these smaller areas of the lake are much easier to catch. One only has to cruise slowly through these areas and scan the surface for breaks made by bass or fleeing baitfish.
When searching for these surface feeding bass, keep a spinning reel handy that’s filled to capacity with 8 pound test fishing line in a visible color so that strikes can be easily detected. If you don’t have a Swirleybird, choose a lure that is about the same size as the shad being eaten, but one streamlined enough to throw a long distance. Bucktail jigs, small Rat-L-Traps, jig and grub combos, or even jigging spoons fit this need nicely.
When surface fish are spotted, cast the lure past the feeding fish so that it can pass right through the thickest part of the action during the retrieve. If the hungry bass fail to break the surface for a few minutes, then cast at expanding angles to where the fish were last seen.
When feeding fish are not visible on the surface in any of the creeks, it is necessary to use a good graph recorder to find the schools of bass and other predators that are suspended in open water areas around concentrations of baitfish. When this happens, the answer is a vertically jigged, flat-sided structure spoon of 1/2 to 1 ounce in weight.
Use the graph to locate the baitfish suspended above the bottom. If these schools appear to be more vertical than horizontal, then predator fish like bass are nearby and can be caught. One only has to drop the spoon straight down into the approximate depth where the baitfish are shown on the fish finder and jig it upwards about twelve to twenty-four inches, allowing the spoon to flutter down slowly on a tight line. If the bass and other types of feeding fish are in or around the school of bait, the action should be fast and furious! In fact, several times lately, we have landed up to eight different species of fish from the same school, and these have varied in size from a 3-inch yellow perch to a 20 pound striper.
The approaching fall will bring plenty of change, but for some lucky reason, our first cool spell has given Lanier anglers an early taste of what is to come. The bass and their predator brothers are having a ball with their favorite fast food source of congregated shad. Catching these aggressive fish two and three at a time may prove to be quite hectic, but it’s definitely exciting!