With plenty of predatory fish like striped bass and spotted bass on the prowl, great summer fishing at Lake Lanier is in full swing. In fact, on most of my guide trips right now, we are easily hooking and releasing 20 to 50 fish during an eight hour outing.
The key to such fantastic success is to locate a place that has plenty of spottail minnows, and catch enough of these natural minnows for a day of fishing. This requires accurate throwing of a cast net, which is just part of the day’s work for fishing guides like myself. One also needs proper tanks and aeration to keep these fish alive until they can be used as bait.
The equipment used to catch greedy largemouth, spotted bass, white bass, or stripers is fairly simple. A medium spinning reel with 8 pound/test line attached to a 6 to 8 foot, medium action, soft-tipped rod is the perfect combination. The definition of a medium action rod may vary from one manufacturer to another, but basically what is needed is a rod with a soft tip and enough backbone to fight a big bass properly. Shakespeare “Ugly Stiks” are perfect for this type of fishing. The soft tip will result in a higher percentage of hooked fish with live bait, especially using smaller circle hooks. The advantage of the spinning outfit is its capacity for handling smaller diameter line, which allows the use of lighter sinkers to hold the bait at the proper depth.
Rod holders are a necessary item when fishing live bait for any of the bass species. Easily detachable rod holders with tiny flat bases can be 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.
The actual rig used when fishing a live spottail minnow on a down-line is about the same as a standard Carolina rig. A 3/16th ounce egg or bullet sinker is the first item to be placed on the line; this is followed by a plastic bead with a barrel swivel tied to the end of the line. About two feet of leader material is usually attached to the other side of the barrel swivel, and a #1 circle hook is tied to the end of that leader.
Hook spottails by pushing the point of the hook between one of the small creases on the underside of the jaw and up through their nostril. This seems to hold them on the hook very well, and they tend to stay alive for a longer period of time.
When my graph recorder shows concentrations of fish at a particular depth, I pull the line off of my spool in 1 foot increments until it reaches the exact depth of the fish seen on my sonar screen. If feeding fish are seen periodically driving shad to the surface, I usually 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 minnow approximately 50 feet behind the boat.
While these rigs are down at their respective depths, 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 underwater ridges or brush piles.
Though this method doesn’t include new gimmicks or name brand items for fishermen to rush out and buy, the results are plenty of scrappy fish. Successful fishing is never quite as complicated or exact as some would lead you to believe, so keep it simple and make the most out of each trip!