Beatin' the Bank: 2019 Lake Lanier BASS Elite

At nearly 40,000 surface acres, Lake Lanier is spacious and welcoming. Its beautifully sculpted shorelines feature countless points, pockets and coves — all comprised of rock, sand or clay.

The main body of the lake is deep and clear but to the north, the rivers feeding Lanier flow with a chalky stain.

An aerial view of Laurel Park, sight of official take-off and check-in.

An aerial view of Laurel Park, sight of official take-off and check-in.

Dozens of islands sprinkle the main lake. Some large, some small. There are countless boat docks, too, most of which hold fish throughout the year — including largemouth and spotted bass. However, since the introduction of blueback herring, the number and size of Lanier’s spots is ever increasing.

It had been years since I last visited Lanier, and I was looking forward to the week ahead.

Practice Begins

The first day of practice was cold and rainy. I started shallow, thinking the low pressure and dark skies might put some quality fish on the bank. However, with 47 degree water, that wasn’t the case … at least not where I was fishing.

After 10 hours of punishment and nothing to show for it, I trailered the boat and headed to the warmest meal I could find.

Day 2, I moved to the upper part of the reservoir, into the Chestatee River. That’s when things improved dramatically.

Working boat docks and laydowns in off-colored water, I managed to put together a decent, mixed bag of fish. My lure selection included a Rapala DT-6 crankbait in the Red Demon pattern, a herring pattern Shadow Rap deep-diving jerkbait, a Yamamoto Thin Senko rigged to a 1/8-ounce VMC DSH Shaky Head, and 1/2-ounce Craig Miller custom jig dressed with a Fat Baby Craw trailer. All of the soft-plastics were in variations of green.

Here's the lure selection that performed best for me. (L-R) Custom 3/8-ounce jig tipped with Yamamoto Fat Baby Craw, Rapala DT-6 in Red Demon pattern, and 1/8-ounce VMC Shaky Head with Yamamoto 5" Thin Senko in green pumpkin.

Here's the lure selection that performed best for me. (L-R) Custom 3/8-ounce jig tipped with Yamamoto Fat Baby Craw, Rapala DT-6 in Red Demon pattern, and 1/8-ounce VMC Shaky Head with Yamamoto 5" Thin Senko in green pumpkin.

Most of my bites came in less than seven feet of water on flatter banks. That, combined with a warming trend, gave me renewed confidence.

On Day 3, I returned to the main body of the lake to try some marinas — places that had proven productive years ago.

Concentrating on the larger docks in the backs of coves, I managed numerous bites from each of them — all of which came on the bottom in 12 to 20 feet of water using the worm setup. Because of countless submerged cables securing the docks, I opted for 10-pound Sufix 832 braid with 8-pound Sufix Advance leader.

By day’s end, I felt I had a solid game plan and couldn’t wait to get things started.

Competition Time

Weighing my options, I decided to start on the commercial docks down the lake — then, if things didn’t pan out, leave with enough time to try the Chestatee in the afternoon.

As it worked out, I never needed to make that move.

Beginning on the first marina dock, I had three fish in the box by 8am. A few docks later, I was culling. It was fun, and the strikes were aggressive. I fished clean and believed I had made a good first-day showing. But, when I got to weigh-in, I quickly realized I had more work to do.

I was by no means out of the race. My 12½ pounds was near the top-35 cut, and I felt like I had plenty to return to. But a change in the weather also changed my luck. 

Spotted bass are special fish, and Lake Lanier is loaded with them.

Spotted bass are special fish, and Lake Lanier is loaded with them.

When my boat number was called on day 2, I raced to the same marina where I started the day before, hoping to pick up where I left off. But after more than an hour of probing the first row of boat slips, it was clear things were different.

I pulled the MotorGuide and moved to the next marina, hoping it would jumpstart my day. While trolling toward the back, I made a cast to a lone boat ramp and boated my first fish of the day — a 2 pound spot.

Upon reaching my target dock, I resumed the normal skipping pattern — detailing each boat slip with the shaky rig.

Another hour passed and I had nothing to show for it. Evidently — because the skies were so dark and the lake so slick — the fish moved higher in the water column. I could see them clearly on my Garmin LiveScope, but they just wouldn’t cooperate. 

Again, I pulled the trolling motor and moved to the next marina, praying this time would be different. But another hour was wasted. I told my Marshal it was time to head upriver and do some pitching and cranking.

Thirty minutes later, we were well up the Chestatee, to the area I found in practice.

Finally, I got my second bite. Unfortunately, when I set the hook, I launched a two pounder over the bow and back into the water. Shortly after, I boated a keeper spot. Then the action died.

Having little time remaining, I moved to where the Chestatee merges with the Chattahoochee. There, I cranked shallow shoals with the DT-6. Before time ran out, I scratched out two more keepers.

Back at the scales, with barely more than six pounds, I plummeted in the standings.

Aggravated with myself, I trailered the boat, gathered my belongings, then headed south to Florida … all the way, reliving every step taken during the week.